During the NBA Finals, a similar change up was seen in both the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers lineups. The two-rookie head coaches, Steve Kerr and David Blatt took out their centres, and ran their offense through their perimeter sharp shooting stars.
While the roles of guards and wing players is expanding, big men are starting to have a lesser role in the modern NBA. In Game 5 of the Finals, Andrew Bogut played under three minutes while Timofey Mozgov came off the bench for nine minutes. It's a theory that's taking the league by storm, as other teams such as the Houston Rockets and Miami Heat have found success sacrificing the big man role.
Another team committed to this type of play is none other than Raptors coach Dwane Casey. Speaking to the Toronto Star for a charity event, Casey said the league is evolving in how it deploys wing players and who guards them.
"I would love to be stubborn and just try to have (Valanciunas) guard a smaller, quicker centre when a team goes small, but it’s difficult to do now in this stage of his career. Maybe someday he’ll get there, but he’s not there yet," Casey said. "The day of the centres has gone by."
While Casey is on board to adapting to new concepts, he's been getting scrutinized for sticking to his older principles; namely, sitting James Johnson entire games or sitting Jonas Valanciunas during late fourth quarters. It was ever-so evident when the Toronto Raptors played the Warriors slightly after New Year's Day. During the game, Valanciunas played only 11 minutes. The only time he played fewer minutes - besides when he fouled out in a game against the Heat later in the season - was during his rookie campaign.
After that game, Casey said his hands were tied and he was forced to go small.
"(Warriors forward Marreese) Speights was shooting the ball so well on the perimeter we had to go small," Casey said."Like I told Jonas, it was nothing he did wrong; either he's going to have to dominate in that situation or we have to make a decision to go small with Pat (Patterson). That's what we did."
While the Raptors and other teams definitely emphasize guard play, Casey said teams require a talented big man to win during the season and go deep in the playoffs.
"I still believe in the old school. I still believe you need to have a solid centre to get you there, to get you in a winning situation, because size does matter in a lot of situations," he said.
It's a statement that feels only half true. The Cavs and Warriors did rely on Bogut and Mozgov a lot during the regular season and some of the Finals, even if they ended up sitting for long stretches once they got there.
However as the game gets faster (and smaller), big men who want to stay effective in the league will need to change their game and add offensive weapons to their arsenal. Staying in the low post won't cut it in the NBA anymore.
What do you guys think?