Basketball is always evolving, that’s why teams have to keep trying to improve if they want success. For over 40 years the NBA was the land of the giants, but something has changed over the past five years. Thanks to the success of the Golden State Warriors, players with craft and skill are sought after more than big dunkers. This is not the first change in play style for the NBA, and this is how the league’s players have evolved over time.
The Hand Check rule
Basketball is meant to be a non-contact sport, but some players were violating this too often. In 2004 the Hand Check Rule started, which prevented players from touching to block. This gave the smaller players the freedom to shine as it was no longer essential to be a giant to be a success in the NBA. Now those with the skill but not the size are finding a route to the NBA, and the game is more about all-around play than only driving straight to the basket.
The Steph Curry effect
Stephen Curry is one of the best players on the planet and has been the poster boy for the current change in style in the NBA. Crafty point guards are not a new thing, but his success rate from 3-point range is almost unbelievable. Due to his sniper-like accuracy, Golden State are now happy to take pot shots from range instead of driving to the paint on every play. Their continued success over the past half-decade is being emulated, and everyone is looking for their own Steph Curry.
More European players are making it to the NBA, and they are bringing a different vibe to their teams than perhaps their American counterparts do. Many players coming through the college system concentrate on individual development, where European players are focused more on team play. This has led to more team players in the league which is clearly something coaches are looking for. Over a quarter of the players in the NBA are coming from Europe now.
One of the best team players in the modern era is LeBron James. Even with his incredible scoring record, he will still look for a teammate in space if there is a better opportunity on the court elsewhere. In years gone by, heavy scorers like LeBron don’t look at anything other than the basket. James has over 2,000 more assists than Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, and Wilt Chamberlain, all of whom have scored a similar amount of career points. Basketball is much more of a team game than ever before.
It’s not okay to just ignore your teammates as you go seeking another two points anymore. Players now need to move the ball around faster, fighting for every inch of space to grab an opening. There will always be a need for big guys though and when the average height in the league shrinks big guys will be in high demand once again.