In the shortened post-lockout offseason, two things were the prevailing talk of the town.
Eight games into the Spurs season and only 2 was "addressed". Who knew Jefferson would return and look like a new man? And while yes, he did start strong last year only to fade, he was nowhere near this good. His technique and fundamentals are worlds apart this year compared to last.
Meanwhile, Issue 1 was left practically untouched. Scrubs were brought in only to be cut in preseason. How could the Spurs hope to compete with the group of Tim Duncan, DeJuan Blair, Tiago Splitter, and Matt Bonner? Well as it turns out, they're right on the championship schedule. Perhaps even more so than most. What in the world am I getting at?
Look, no one loves big men (TWSS) more than I. No one will proclaim from the mountains that great bigs and big depth are fundamental to a great basketball team louder than I. I'll admit it, I was petitioning strongly for a big man. I wanted, not some depth guy, but a mid-level starter. I've been
saying screaming it for the past couple years. To the point I was throwing wacky trades all around.
Yet, this is not the NBA I'm used to. This isn't the NBA I've known. This is a whole new game. Welcome to the brand-new ABA. Not the old league the Spurs were once a part of. I'm talking about the Athletic Basketball Association. Where Stern's the name, and speed is his game.
In this newer age where athleticism and up-tempo schemes are starting to become more the rule than the exception, frontcourts are quite frankly, more icing than cake. It's nice to have it, but it's not the foundation. The cake is now the perimeter players. The better your players at PG, SG, and SF, the better your championship chances. What am I basing this off of? Well let's take a gander at the championship "favorites".
The Miami Heat are the model of all aspiring super teams. Three superstars and some good mid-level talent. But a team with a good frontcourt they are not. Wade at SG and James at SF make for a heck of a backcourt no matter who your point guard is. "But what about Chris Bosh?" you may ask. Ask yourself this, "Is Chris Bosh your traditional big man?" No. Not at all.
Bosh is disgusting to watch trying to defend a big muscling in the paint, and it's even worse to watch him attempt to body up on one offensively. Chris Bosh does better at defending shooter bigs, and is best at shooting mid-ranges himself. If anything, Bosh is more or less a big SF.
The Heat succeed through the backcourt, not their frontcourt. Their frontcourt is just good enough that it doesn't lose them any games. Though sometimes it seems like they're trying to.
Let's now peek at the Oklahoma City Thunder. A backcourt of Westbrook, Harden, and Durant (though Durant will play PF quite a bit, he's more natural at, and is the true, SF). What a great group that is. Frontcourt? Ibaka the athlete and an underrated though not-what-he-used-to-be Kendrick Perkins. Nothing inspiring anywhere on that frontcourt, but the backcourt might be the best in the league as a group.
Now this isn't to say that a great frontcourt is useless, but 7 footers have quickly gone from major help to hindrance. They're big, slow, and unathletic. In the age of up-tempo, fast break basketball, players like DeJuan Blair have become major assets. Bigs that can run up-and-down the court quickly and match the speed of the freakish athletes that NBA backcourts bring are more vital than your traditional big.
In fact, that's the only way bigs maintain relevance in most cases. A great backcourt has come to mean a great team, frontcourt be damned. Our San Antonio Spurs are following the blueprint perfectly.
Even without Manu, this backcourt is one of the deepest and most effective in basketball. Danny Green showed it last night against Denver. RJamnesty has shown it all year. James Anderson and Gary Neal are still making something happen in their limutes and we all know what they're capable of when given extended minutes. The additions of Leonard and Ford reinforce the idea. And Parker makes the most of it.
It's why Duncan's inconsistencies haven't been crippling. It's why Bonner is necessary (as he's basically an extra backcourt player on offense...well he actually is defensively too, he's basically a SG on a C/PF in most cases). It's why Blair's impact could be potentially monumental (his athleticism doesn't make him a hindrance in up-tempo situations).
Thus I submit to this most strict of basketball courts, to my jury of fellow Pounders, that the "need" for a big man is illusion. If someone goes down, it becomes paramount of course. Would it be nice for the purpose of rest and rotation, of course. Is it necessary, absolutely not.
Some would say that the moves made in the offseason, or lack thereof in terms of acquiring a big, wrecked any hope of a championship. When in reality, it's only got us on the path of a champion in today's NBA.
In this crazy season, it's a game of attrition. Athleticism and endurance are king, two things bigs typically lack. Where those who can run the court, and gun the jump shot has become the template. It's why Dallas has practically no shot, and why the Nuggets are a true title contender (though don't get me wrong, that front court is nothing to sneeze at).
The youth, athleticism, well-roundedness, and talent of the Spurs frontcourt is paralleled only by Oklahoma and overshadowed only by two top-5 players in Miami. It is here where your level of frontcourt talent becomes the key. Let me tell you Spurs fans, we have nothing to fear. These bigs might not be the best group by any stretch of the imagination, but they're good enough to win when such backcourts collide.