Home / World News / Traditional big males, nearly extinct in the NBA, nevertheless pack the 2018 draft class – The Denver Post

Traditional big males, nearly extinct in the NBA, nevertheless pack the 2018 draft class – The Denver Post

The need for speed and threes has left the NBA and its 2018 draft class in a peculiar position. Seven of the class of 2018’s top prospects are traditional back-to-basket power forwards and centers auditioning for a league that has mostly chosen not to cast that part in recent years.

The Golden State Warriors’ “death lineup” places 6-foot-7 Draymond Green, a career 33-percent three-point shooter, at center. The Cleveland Cavaliers roll with 6-10 Kevin Love, 36 percent all-time from three-point range, in the middle.

And with defenses happy to hack the likes of DeAndre Jordan and Andre Drummond — both traditional, on-the-block bigs — the nature of power forwards and centers is entirely different than even five years ago, when the plodding Roy Hibbert led the Indiana Pacers to a division crown, as did Jordan for the Los Angeles Clippers. Hibbert, an all-star as recently as 2014, is now out of the league.

Now the changes in the key tasks of pure post-up players have come into focus the same year the coming draft class features a glut of those players.

Arizona freshman DeAndre Ayton is a freakish athlete, but has repeatedly declared he belongs below the rim. Duke’s Marvin Bagley III has been dominant in the post, but scouts are wary of his jump-shooting game. Texas’ Mohamed Bamba has a 7-foot-9 wingspan and averages nearly four blocked shots per game, but barely scores in double-digits.

Further complicating matters: This year’s crop of bigs is markedly better than what NBA teams had to choose from last season, when 15 still went in the first round.

On average, the 2018 bigs are much better range shooters. Four of the seven average more assists than the class of 2017’s average.

Arizona has used Ayton all over the floor in pick-and-roll sets and as a primary option on the break. It will throw the ball into him on the post and run its offense using him as a primary passer. His jumper is good around 17 feet from the rim with an occasional three-pointer, something that will improve as he gets to the NBA, Wildcats Coach Sean Miller has said.

Bagley has a bag of tricks for post moves and has spent his freshman year facing off against undersized opponents. But he’s struggled against those same smaller forwards when guarding the perimeter. And though he’s excelling in Duke’s classical three-guard, two-forward set, his frame translates as a huge small forward or a developing center. In short, the guy with the 7-foot wingspan is somehow stuck between positions.

With Bamba’s supreme length, he’s dominant all over the court defensively — averaging 4.27 blocks per game — and an NBA-ready rebounder. If he makes a mistake defending on the perimeter, he’s able to make up for it with those long arms and quick feet.

So what are teams to do with all these awesome-yet-awkward-fitting power forwards and centers?

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