Put Out An APB: 5 Reasons The NBA Big Man Has Gone Missing

Interestingly enough, there are so many teams that covet the services of Dwight Howard since he is a rarity in the NBA right now. When you take a long, hard look around the league right now, there are only two legitimate big men in the league. Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum are the cream of the crop, and both have contracts that expire next year.

The NBA hasn’t had a truly dominant big man since Shaquille O’Neal. Don’t get it twisted; I am talking about the Shaquille of the late 90’s and early turn of the century and not the old fat guy who just plodded late in his career. It seems like there were several big men in the league before the presence of Shaq, and quite frankly we took their services for granted.

There are still a few big men in the NBA but none that are game changers. We get guys who come and go, but gone are the days of centers that you can build a team around with confidence.

I thought Yao Ming would be that guy, but injuries killed any chance of that happening. Even though Yao was a fan favorite, he always played second fiddle to Shaq most of his career. I also thought that Greg Oden would be the guy who would challenge Howard and Bynum as a legitimate big man in the league, but injuries did away with his career to this point as well.

Even Bynum started his career as an injury liability. Bynum appeared to have knees that were made of glass for most of his career. Then a couple of years ago his body took form, and he became coveted as a player that could change the game. Thing is he was getting on-the-job training and allowing his body to grow in the process. Now there aren't many guys in the league who can do what Bynum does offensively at his size.

Bynum is polished offensively and has an array of go-to moves to get his shot and produce in the paint. He has pretty good range, and he has the ability to score with his back to the basket. Sounds simple, right, but believe me there aren't many guys that can play at a high level at his size in the league with the ball in their hands.

Defensively, Howard is the cream of the crop. Dwight is an eraser and does a lot of good things that make him notably the best complete big man on the board most nights. Howard's offensive game has come a long way, and he has extended his range and added a bank shot around the box that makes him more dangerous as he starts to evolve as a complete player. But Dwight and Bynum seem to be the exceptions, the only true, talented centers in the game.

Gone are the days of guys like Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon, Rik Smits, David Robinson and other bigs who always seemed to lead their teams deep into the playoffs year after year.

So why did that happen?

1. NBA teams started winning championships without big men so attention went away from developing big men.

Maybe we should blame Michael Jordan, as he was the first player to win a championship without a big man that would be Hall of Fame worthy. In fact, he won six titles that way. Maybe that’s why so many people look at his accomplishments with such envy and admiration.

2. Today’s big men are more inclined to play on the perimeter and not the post.

The evolution of the big man started to change even in the early 90's. It started with the power forward moving outside as Tim Duncan, Chris Webber and Kevin Garnett took their games to the perimeter. You can even take it back further as Patrick Ewing and Hakeem Olajuwon started showing range and changed perceptions of big man dominance. The difference is that all the guys aforementioned had post games to compliment their outside game.

3. The international game has changed the big man’s role in basketball.

Look at all the near seven footers in the NBA who play on the perimeter now. Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Durant and other guys of considerable size and length are now jump shooters or ball handlers. The game has evolved, and the big man is now more of a facilitator than a go-to guy.

Even guys like Bynum who can play in the post want to be three-point threats even if it means taking shots that piss off the head coach.

4. Big men just break down earlier, often due to their size. 

Look at some of the promising big men and their college careers. Usually by the time they are physically strong enough to be great, they start to get hurt or their knees go bad. Gravity takes its toll on big bodies.

5. Lack of development destroyed a generation of big men.

A whole generation of big men fell victim to the need for big men in the NBA. Many guys went straight from high school to the NBA, and they really didn't know how to play the game or take care of their bodies. Guys like Eddie Curry, Kwame Brown, James Lang, Robert Swift and DeSagana Diop all could have used some college tutoring, and almost all of them needed time to grow as players. They may have looked the part out of high school physically, but the reality is that they were kids trapped in the bodies of grown men.

There are several success stories that go against the grain on these five reasons, but for the most part you can name a big man and these theories will hold true.

Sure there are others like Tyson Chandler and the Lopez brothers, but let’s keep it one hunnit … There is Howard, Bynum and then everyone else when you look at the big men in the league. The degree of separation from those guys to the rest of the league is noticeable, and that is why they are being pursued as game changers.

It’s funny how things go full circle. Eventually the big man will come back to dominance in a league that needs it. As for now, we will have to watch a bunch of teams chase two guys. It sucks for the fans, but it’s good for the big men as they can name their price and get treated like royalty.

Stay Breezy ~ I’m Out!

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