Battle of the "traditional" bigs - Celtics vs. Pelicans

Tonight's contest between the Boston Celtics and New Orleans Pelicans focuses on four players who many see as traditional big men. In fact, only one, the Celtics Aron Baynes, is truly a traditional big. He hearkens back to the earlier days of the NBA where tall, strong centers manned the middle, rebounding, blocking shots and intimidating any opponent daring to drive to the hoop. Traditional centers usually played offense with their backs to the basket and either bulled (or sometimes finessed) their way to the hoop or passed the ball back out to a teammate. Shooting from any distance was out of the question, and free-throw shooting often was somewhat reliable at best.

Al Horford is traditional only in the fact he is big. The same can be said for Pelicans, DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis. Both have size, but Al, Boogie and AD all are multi-skilled. They do all of the usual big-man duties of rebounding, scoring in a close and intimidating shots, but they all can shoot from beyond the arc, switch quickly on defense and avoid traps on offense. All three are mobile and quick. Here is the NBA's Marc D'Amico on the Pelicans' twin towers:

Some, in correlation to the league’s small-ball movement, wondered about whether Davis and Cousins would be able to coincide when New Orleans acquired Cousins during last year’s All-Star break. Less than a year later, here the Pelicans are, sitting in the sixth seed in the Western Conference with each big man averaging at least 25.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game.

Small-ball lineups often work very well, but not always. In days past, portions of Celtics practices consisted of big-guys-versus-little- guys scrimmages, and the short players usually won. But there is still room in the NBA for the twin-tower tandems. Boogie and The Brow (sounds like a movie title) combine for 52.2 points/game, almost half of the Pelicans' total. They also account for 23 rebounds per game, more than half of the teams total. The Pelicans are currently sitting in the sixth spot in the Western Conference with a 22-20 record.

No one ever knows for sure what lineup Coach Brad Stevens will throw out there. The Baynes/Horford duo would seem the most logical move, but a starting small-ball five would not surprise anyone. Should be an interesting game.

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Photo via Tom Lynn/AP Photo