Thursday, May 21, 2015

The NBA's Most Valuable Position....The Swing-Man

  For NBA fans this is time of year is the culmination of a great season.  Conference Finals have just kicked off.  In the Western Conference You have the #2 seed the Houston Rockets Versus the #1 seed Golden State Warriors.  The Eastern Conference consists of the #1 seed Atlanta Hawks versus the #2 seed Cleveland Cavaliers.  These series will be exciting and a lot of fun to watch, but they play styles of this years conference finals will be different then those in recent history and those of the great 80's and 90's. 

  Back in the 80's and 90's playoffs were dominated by big men and post play.  Names like Mchale, Parish, Jabbar, Olajuwon, Thorpe, Robinson, Malone.  More Recently Garnett, Duncan, O'neal, Gasol, Nowitzki.

  But this year is different.  Of the four teams not one of them has a 2 way dominant big man.  Names like Howard, Bogut, Horford, Mozgof all more known for their defense.  The days of the dominant 2 way big man are history.

This season and this year's playoffs will be dominated by the 6'5" to 6'8" swing-man.  The NBA game has changed.  Speed, spacing and shooting are all a premium in today's NBA.  The days of pounding the ball into the posts are gone.

  In both series, all of these teams have a plethora of 6'5" to 6'8" swing-men.

  The Cleveland Cavaliers have Lebron James, JR Smith and Iman Shumpert. These three will all play major roles and will be vital to the Cavaliers success.  The Cavs also have Shawn Marion, James Jones and Mike Miller that all fit the category but will likely play a minimal role.

  The Atlanta Hawks have Kyle Korver, Demarre Carroll, Paul Millsap, Kent Bazemore.  Mike Scott is also in this class as well as Thabo Sefelosha.  Scott will likely play a lesser role and Sefelosha is injured.

  The Golden State Warriors have Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green, Shaun Livingston and Andre Igoudala.  These five will all have major roles in the Warriors success.  The Warriors also have Justin Holiday and Brandon Rush that also fit this category.

  The Houston Rockets have James Harden, Trevor Ariza, Corey Brewer.  The Rockets have the least amount of swing-men of all four teams in the Conference finals.  This may affect the rockets chances with their lack of depth at the swing positions.

  The value of players of this size is that they can both offensively and defensively can play multiple positions.  While the size and versatility of these players is a must, all these players must be very athletic as well.  We have seen Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green defend shooting guards, small forwards, power forwards and centers.  Houston's Trevor Ariza will likely be guarding shooting guards and small forwards. But if Houston goes small will likely play some power forward.  Cleveland's LeBron James will guard all positions on the floor.
  Being able to do this allows teams to be very flexible.  Teams are able to play a small and play in transition with pace.  This also allows teams to slow the pace and play in half court set, as players of that size with a post skill-set stay in the game.  Players like Paul Millsap, Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green as well as LeBron James all have a very good post skill set.  Being able to play both styles is a must in today's NBA.  The ability to go from transition to a post oriented game as the playoffs tighten up is a must.

  On defense, all of these teams have multiple players of this size and skill-set on the floor at the same time.  It allows them to switch everything whether that is in the pick and roll or chasing players on off-ball screens.  Defense maybe the most valuable part of this type of player.

  The Golden State Warriors and the Atlanta Hawks are the cream of the crop of this style of basketball.  It will be interesting to see if the Houston Rockets and the Cleveland Cavaliers have the horses to be able to compete with these two teams.  The lack of depth for both Houston and Cleveland could play a major factor in their series.
   So what does this mean for the future of the NBA and specifically for the Utah Jazz?  Currently the Utah Jazz have Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks, Joe Ingles, Dante Exum and Rodney Hood that are all legitimate NBA talents. The Jazz also have Chris Johnson and Elijah Millsap both considered to be fringe NBA talents that fit this category.

  With the NBA Draft just around the corner and the Utah Jazz would be wise to look at players in this size with this type of athleticism.  This year's draft is full of players of this type.  Stanley Johnson, Kelly Oubre, Justin Anderson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Sam Dekker, DeAngelo Russell, Emmanuel Mudiay, Mario Hezonja, Justise Winslow, Devin Booker, RJ Hunter. 

  This class of players ranges from point guards to post talented players as well as knock down shooters. There are elite athletes, great length and talented defenders.

  If you are the Utah Jazz, with the direction of the NBA, this is the type and pool of players you should be picking from for this year's draft.  Now it's time to pick your poison!

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