Are the Lakers and the Bucks for real, Palawan? Both ball clubs are showing the way with a 24-3 Win-Loss record as of this writing with a 4-5 win gap to their nearest challengers in the Western and Eastern conferences of the 2019-2020 National Basketball Association (NBA) season.
In an era where small ball dominated the decade, it seems both teams are going against the grain and bringing back big ball action in the league.
Both teams emphasized length in their rosters. The Lakers stockpiled on bigs in the off-season trading for Anthony Davis (6’10), renewing the contract of JaVale McGee (7’0), and gambling on controversial bigs Damarcus Cousins and Dwight Howard (both standing 6’10). Granted that Cousins is still inactive due to an injury, we are still talking about a twin tower combination every game considering that Davis will be playing 36-38 minutes a game, perhaps even more during the playoffs… don’t forget Lebron James, a fraction close to 6’9 can also log some power forward minutes for the team and Kostas Antetokounmpo, the Bucks’s franchise player’s kid brother, a project at best standing 6’9, waiting for spare minutes on the event of injuries.
The Bucks, meanwhile, have made an investment in length around 3 years ago and it is starting to pay off with the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo (The Greek Freak 6’11), the brothers Lopez, Brook, and Robin both standing 7’0, and Ersan Ilyasova at 6’10. This formidable foursome will also guarantee a rim protector in every single minute of a game. Jason Kidd, the head coach of the Bucks a few years back, even attempted to play the Greek Freak at the point to emphasize the “length” project he has built in Milwaukee. Alas, his stint with the Bucks didn’t bode well and now he is partnering with Frank Vogel in calling the shots for the Lakers as lead assistant.
I believe the Lakers built their roster to match two potential powerhouse opponents they could be facing in the East should they enter the finals this year: the Bucks and the Philadelphia 76ers (with twin towers Joel Embiid 7’1 and Al Horford 6’10). Did they trash the small-ball concept altogether? I believe they blended height and shooting as the great middle ground in forming their team this year.
The Lakers surrounded James and Davis with shooters like 3 and D specialists Avery Bradley and Danny Green, Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell- Pope, Alex Caruso, and Jared Dudley. Even Rajon Rondo improved his shooting under the tutelage of Kidd. The Lakers can still play spot minutes of the small ball if they play Rondo, Bradley or Kuzma, Green, LBJ, and Davis. Their roster is as flexible as it could get and can match with any team, whether the opponents play small or big.
The same is true for the Bucks as they can log a few minutes of small ball with a combination of Eric Bledsoe, Wes Matthews, George Hill, Kris Middleton with the Greek Freak at the middle although I don’t think the Bucks will log small ball beyond 5 minutes a game. Why do that when the Greek Freak can spread the floor now?
Will the Lakers and the Bucks face each other in the NBA Finals in June next year? Early indicators look like it’s a yes but fans should not celebrate just yet as we are not yet at the midpoint of the regular season and the Sixers and the Heat can still pose a threat to the Bucks while the Lakers would have to be cautious in the wild west especially with the Clippers’ pair of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George eager to advance and give their same town rivals a huge run for the western conference title… did I mention the Nuggets are also on a roll this early?
If either the Bucks or the Lakers win em all this season, expect an off-season push from teams to add height and heft into their rosters. I expect a major shift from a small ball into a fusion of length and shooting with tall power forwards heaving threes and posting up a little bit more. Bigs that can run, set plays, post up and shoot threes. That’s gonna be the norm. Perhaps we will see more 6’10s logging major minutes at the 3 spot too.
I believe the New York Knicks was a bit too early to bring back the big ball concept with the signings of Marcus Morris, Julius Randle, and Taj Gibson, players whom all play the same position. They had the right concept in mind but I think it was a tad too early to do that which caused the firing of head coach David Fizdale for his inability to make good with the roster given to him. It’s not like he isn’t a good coach at all. I think the Knicks should have been more patient with him considering that it’s a totally new roster handed over to him in the off-season.
Are the bigs back in the game in the NBA? I sure feel so and it’s not too far before we see powerful match-ups at the post when that happens, Palawan. The small ball 3’s have started to somewhat become predictable and it’s now time to experiment and evolve the game yet again to a whole new level.
December 15 marked the date that free agents signed up for the 2019-2020 NBA season can be traded. No trades have materialized as of this writing but will the Bucks or Lakers benefit from it to boost their playoff roster a little bit more? I believe both teams can upgrade their shooting wings and with this said, it seems like JJ Redick of the New Orleans Pelicans could be a prime target.
Having Redick on a playoff roster guarantees a constant 3 point threat that can destabilize any defensive structure in the NBA today. Add him to a roster like the Bucks and the Lakers for perhaps Wes Matthews (Milwaukee) or Kentavious Caldwell Pope (LA. … along with a fringe player) would be a good gamble to take.
Other options are Joe Harris of the Brooklyn Nets or Luke Kennard of the Detroit Pistons although both aren’t of the same caliber as Redick. Let’s see how things shape up now that the trading season is on, Palawan.
(The writer is a senior leader in the Business Process Outsourcing industry managing Philippine countryside operations)