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Traditional big men like Cousins and Lopez will put up great stats, but they won't help you win

Remember back in the 2008 championship season and playoffs when the Celtics would put Eddie House at the point guard position, James Posey at the 4 and slide KG to the center spot? It was considered a gimmicky line-up by Doc at the time, but now if you're not playing similar line-ups you are in the NBA lottery. Centers like Kendrick Perkins are dinosaurs. Point guards like Rajon Rondo are as well. Trying to play a traditional pass first point guard and a traditional back to the basket center will only lead to losses.

Every year (actually every day) I hear fans complaining that the Celtics need a real center. The truth is they definitely don't. In fact the reason why they have been so successful the past year is because they haven't relied on traditional big men. When they have (like when David Lee was getting big minutes) they lost more than they won. David Lee is now putting up big numbers again (for the Mavs,) but guess what, the Mavs have been horrible since he got there. A big man in today's NBA can still put up big numbers, but it will likely way more often than not be in a losing effort.

Let's look at the bottom of the NBA standings via Tankathon:



The worst team in the NBA is a team who's two best players are centers. In today's NBA you can barely get away with playing one player on the court who can't shoot from the outside. Playing two is a death sentence. Next we have the Lakers with Roy Hibbert at center. He once was an All-Star.

Now he has no role in this league. The Lakers woes actually date back to when a very smart offensive coach in Mike D'Antoni was forced to play two big men at once in Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol. It was a disaster. You simply will not win with two traditional bigs on the court.

After the injured/tanking Suns who were expected to be better after adding a center this offseason, but have instead bottomed out we have teams with some of the best big men in the game:

Brook Lopez, Nets: 21ppg and 8rpg, but only a 19-49 record.
Karl Anthony Towns, Wolves: 18 ppg and 10rpg, but only a 22-46 record.
Anthony Davis, Pelicans: 24ppg and 10rpg, but only a 25-42 record.
DeMarcus Cousins, Kings: 27ppg and 10rpg, but only a 26-41 record.

And it goes on and on. The Bucks have regressed after adding a low post option in Monroe. Great stats, but the kind of numbers that lead to losses. The Pistons with Drummond are out of the playoffs and the Rockets with Howard are knocking on the lottery as well.

It took a few decades, but NBA coaches finally realized the Math that 3>2. Whereas back in the day coaches thought that the best way to win was to dump the ball inside and hope your big man would score close to half the time, now opposing coaches would love if you did that. If I'm playing the Kings, I will give Cousins his 27 points on 46.7% shooting every night. Those are losing numbers. That's 93.4 points in 100 possessions. Steph Curry shoots 46.2% on 3-pointers. That's 138.6 points in 100 possessions. And yes 138.6 is greater than 93.4. Klay Thompson shoots 41.6% from behind the 3-point line (124.8 points per 100 possessions). The Warriors best line-up is when they play Draymond Green at the 5. And guess what Draymond Green is a much better center in today's game than Boogie Cousins. Green shoots 37.9% on 3-pointers, which would be 113.7 points per 100 possessions.

You'd get benched for giving up the sure 2 and making this pass back in the day. Now it's routine:


If you are dumping the ball into the post you are coaching the losing team. Old school coaches like Byron Scott, Kurt Rambis, Alvin Gentry and Sam Mitchell have no idea why their teams suck so bad, while team's like Stevens' Celtics overachieve. Here's an example why, Kurt Rambis is thinking of playing Porzingis at the 3. What is this 1992? Porzingis should be a center in today's game. Gentry plays Davis at the 4 and Asik at the 5. No wonder they can't win. Get Asik off the court and play Davis at the 5. Mitchell plays Towns with another big man. Add in a point guard who can't shoot and no wonder they can't win. By now it is crystal clear. You CAN NOT play two traditional big men at the same time.  At least one of them needs to be able to hit 3 pointers at a strong clip. Preferably both.

So when people say the Celtics should trade for Cousins, I always ask well how much are you willing to give up. Because sure I'd trade a crappy mid first rounder for him, but he's not worth a KG package. He will put up numbers, but your team won't win. And when I hear ideas like pairing Cousins with Dwight Howard or Al Horford, my mind loses it. You pay and play two traditional big men and your team will implode. The Cavs can not play all their big men. Mozgov is an old school center that hurts your team and Tristan doesn't have enough range. Love is actually the best of the lot because he can hit the 3. Problem is with Kyrie, LeBron, and other chuckers like JR Smith there aren't enough shots for him.

McHale couldn't win with Asik/Howard on the floor together, but went to the WCF when he just played Howard. Pelicans won't win until Davis is moved to the center position. The best teams have 5 guys on the court who can shoot from deep. Playing 2 traditional bigs is a death sentence. 

The Cavs play their best with LeBron at the 4. The Thunder their best with Kevin Durant at the 4. The Knicks their best with Melo at the 4 and Porzingis at the 5. The Pacers play their best with Paul George at the 4. The Celtics play their best with Crowder at the 4. And on and on. Big men like Kanter, Adams, Lopez, Lee, Zeller, Hibbert and Mozgov only hurt teams. If the Celtics were lucky enough to sign Durant as a free agent, no Crowder would not move to the 2 and Durant would not play in a front court with two bigs. Durant and Crowder would be the forwards.

So don't be fooled by the traditional stats of players like Cousins or Brook Lopez. Don't be fooled by Rajon Rondo's triple doubles. You play a point guard that can't shoot 3's and you will lose (Also see the Bucks with MCW and the Wolves with Rubio). If your best offensive play is throwing the ball into Lopez or Cousins you will lose. And when they aren't getting the ball they are clogging the paint and your guards can't drive or drive and dish. Then on defense they can't handle stretch 5's. The post-up player no longer has the advantage over the shooter. The shooter has the advantage. Steph Curry is way more valuable in today's NBA than Shaq would be. I mean WAY more valuable. It wouldn't even be close.

Half the big men from the 1990's wouldn't even play in today's game. No slight against them. They were taught to play a different game. A game where you were told to get your big butt in the paint. Now that same butt is a hindrance. Other players like Raef Lafrentz who were considered a bit soft back in the day now would thrive. It's like two different games. Go to a live NBA game between two winning teams and you will see minimal post play. The big men will either be out on the perimeter stretching the floor or setting picks outside for guards and wings. It's pick and rolls, drives to the hoop with an open lane because you have stretch big men on the wings, drives and dishes, pull-up 3's, etc. If you are saying the Celtics need a center like Cousins or Howard or Lopez, you haven't noticed the change in the game. You're better off with Jonas Jerebko at the 4 and your 4 at the 5 than playing a traditional two big man set.

Believe it or not a 3-point shooter/shot blocker like Raef Lafrentz would be very valuable in today's NBA

So besides the fact that DeMarcus Cousins has a horrible attitude, even if he didn't he is not worth trading many assets for. Yes he would be an upgrade over Amir Johnson, but for every 93 points your team scores with him beasting down low you could have scored 113 or 125 or 139 if you played a different style and let your shooters shoot. And again I'm not evening mentioning his attitude that just kills a locker room. Even if you believe that after 7 years in the NBA he will finally turn it around in Boston character wise, he would still not help you win on the floor.

Draymond Green came into the league as an undersized 4, but is now a much more valuable 5 than traditional centers

So no the Celtics won't win an NBA championship if they get a "real center." And no Danny doesn't draft too many guards. Hopefully he has learned his lesson and won't ever waste 1st round picks on dead weight big men like JaJuan Johnson or Fab Melo. If a big man can't hit 3 pointers, then honestly he shouldn't be pursued. You can hate the new NBA. You can say they need to move the 3 point line back to bring back the post game, but until they do, this is the way it's now played. A new era of young players have grown up shooting 100's of 3's a day. It actually started in the 90's with big men like Chris Webber and KG not wanting to play down low and not wanting to be centers. It just then expanded. If Webber and KG came into the league today they's both play center , but with 3 point range. The long 2 is one of the worst shots in the game percentage wise. NBA players shoot higher percentages on 3-pointers now and the Math says the game is now for guards and wings.

Let some other sucker overpay with their assets for DeMarcus Cousins. You're better off signing James Posey.

Related: They Just Don't Grow Them Like They Used To

JR 3/18/2016 08:11:00 PM Edit
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