Big Man: Is the Position in the NBA really fading?


For as long as any NBA fan could remember, a great big man was the key to winning a championship.

Players such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell, Shaquille O’Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon and others were players that every team wanted on playing for them. Without a key big man, it was pretty difficult to win a championship. Historic teams like the Lakers and Celtics became the powerhouses they became to be by having a key presence on the low block, able to make shots from near the rim.

That was then. The modern NBA has shifted away from that and relied on the three point shot leading many fans to believe that the big man position in the NBA is fading away.

However, is that really the case? Is the big man position in the NBA really fading away? The play of big men in the modern NBA says otherwise. While the big man position is now seen differently, a key big man is still a KEY part to a team’s success. 

Lets take a look at why some people believe that the position is “fading.” Many believe that the talent pool in the big man position is subpar thus leading them to think that the position is fading away. That is definitely not true, in my opinion. Current list of “high level” big men include,

  • Anthony Davis
    • Current Statistics: 30.6 PPG, 11.4 rebounds per game, 2.7 BPG
  • Andre Drummond
    • Current Statistics: 14.9 PPG, 13.6 rebounds per game, 1.2 BPG
  • Al Horford
    • Current Statistics: 15.6 PPG, 6.3 rebounds per game, 2.4 BPG, 36.7 3PT%
  • DeMarcus Cousins
    • Current Statistics: 28.3 PPG, 10.9 rebounds per game, 1.5 BPG, 36.9 3PT%
  • Karl-Anthony Towns
    • Current Statistics: 21.6 PPG, 10.8 rebounds per game, 1.4 BPG, 36.3 3PT%
  • Joel Embiid
    • Current Statistics: 18.2 PPG, 7.6 rebounds per game, 2.5 BPG, 44.2 3PT%
  • Kristaps Porzingis
    • Current Statistics: 20 PPG, 7.7 rebounds per game, 1.9 BPG, 38.1 3PT%

Is this the talent pool that some people are calling below average? Sure, they’re not Kareem or Shaquille, but who is? They’re one of a kind players for a reason. It is unfair to compare current stars to legends and determine skill level based off of that. The talent in the big man position is clearly there, and that isn’t up for debate.

Fans also believe that since the pace and style of play has changed from paint-oriented to perimeter-oriented, the big man just has no use for a team. Again, not the case. While the traditional slow paced game isn’t as useful as it once was, that doesn’t mean that big men have no other ways to contribute.

While the style of play has changed, so too has the style of bigs.

The role of big men has surely changed from before, but what they do might be more important than ever. Players such as Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Davis are great examples of being a great modern NBA big, being adept at protecting the rim and as well as hitting outside shots and running the floor for easy baskets. A player like that would surely be welcomed by any title hopeful.

Let’s take a look at the most recent NBA Finals, where the Golden State Warriors infamously blew a 3-1 lead against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Of course there were many reasons why Golden State blew such a lead, including subpar play from the Warriors, LeBron and Kyrie taking over, and so on and so forth. One reason that seems to be overlooked, however, is the the fact that the Warriors did not have their starting big man, Andrew Bogut for games 6 and 7. While Bogut was not much of a contributor on the offensive side of the ball, his defensive presence certainly made a difference, blocking and altering Cleveland’s shot attempts at the rim. This is another case of an NBA big man making or breaking a team’s success. Who knows, if Andrew Bogut was able to play the games, we might be seeing the Warriors repeat and not get Kevin Durant. Sorry, OKC Fans.

So to all my fellow NBA fans, let me ask you again, is the big man position in the NBA really losing its importance?


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