The NBA landscape has shifted so quickly and so dramatically in the last few years that a number of once-impactful players have fallen through the cracks. The pace-and-space, three-point revolution has been particularly brutal on the big men who have failed to adapt along the way.
Full-time, back-to-the-basket centers are exceedingly rare, and the ones who have survived have largely been forced to drastically alter their game to fit the modern style of play, namely by stretching their range all the way out to the three-point line. That’s a tough ask for someone who’s spent most of life inside the paint.
Yet, there have been a handful of stories of traditional centers who’ve seen the writing on the wall and been able to effectively expand their repertoire to not only survive, but thrive in the league today. DeMarcus Cousins and Marc Gasol are two names that immediately come to mind as guys who increased their volume of three-point shooting dramatically in recent years while shooting a more-than-respectable percentage.
But perhaps the most inspiring example is Brook Lopez, who has completely transformed from a low-post player to the hot-shooting seven-footer we see today for Milwaukee. He’s been so effective that head coach Mike Budenzholer recently likened him to another sharpshooting big man he coached in San Antonio way back when.
Via Marc Stein of The New York Times:
“I’m a huge Robert Horry fan,” Budenholzer said, referring to the decorated role player he worked with in San Antonio. Horry was part of seven title teams with the Spurs, Lakers and Houston Rockets.
“There’s a reason why Robert won so many championships,” Budenholzer continued. “To have a 6-10, 6-11 guy be able to shoot 3s and space the court, it’s something the Spurs always prioritized and now it’s just kind of evolved.
“If you can have a center or both bigs out there able to create space for other players, it just makes you harder to guard. This is kind of the next step.”
The Bucks currently have the No. 2 seed in the East, and Lopez’s ability to space the floor has been a major factor in allowing Giannis to operate on opposing defenses. A recent 0-for-12 outing notwithstanding, Lopez is shooting 36.4 percent from behind the arc so far this season on nearly seven attempts per game.
Despite his evolution, Lopez found himself the odd man out in Los Angeles last season, somewhat understandably as the team wanted to develop its young core. But with Bud and the Bucks, it appears the sharpshooting seven-footer may have just found his forever home.
(Via The New York Times)