Thursday, September 10, 2015

Versatility A Weapon For The Current-Day Bigs

Perusing this year's NBA draft picks, one can't help but notice the inevitable transformation of the pro game.

The entertainment value and intensified playoff action is suddenly mirroring the roaring 90s.

This is a vast improvement from about 6-7 years ago, when the league was deteriorating.
Analyzing and assessing the recent NBA draft, it's clear the game is evolving.

Athletes are moving faster. Versatility is honed and sought after like never before.

The desire for a one-trick pony, a specialist, a master, is steadily vanishing.

 Lebron James has become such a transcendent talent of our time an account a multi-faceted arsenal.

 It's been influential for the younger generation.

Take Willie McCauley Stein, for a concrete sample.

The newly-minted Sacramento King was on constant UFO watch at Kentucky this past season.

Yet with the wealth of options, size, and athleticism, it was easy for the big man to get lost in the shuffle.

 It seemed so simple as he launched his 7-foot-1 body in the air, effortlessly plucked a lob  and crunched down a ferocious sledgehammer.

 Yet the mobility of his game, the blurring quickness, the relative ease with which he all seems unprecedented.

For this era, however, it's become standard. The NY Post touched on McCauley-Stein's noteworthy athletic aptitude in run-and-game sequences, likening him to John Wall.

Grasp that for a second.

Few could have envisioned such reality a decade ago, when Shaq was still gripping the rock like a ping pong ball, lofting it at the free throw line.

 Or When Ben Wallace was piling up a barrage of bricks from 15-18 feet, his jumbo hands proving more useful cleaning up the boards and altering shots.

The number of big, rim-protecting bigs is whittling.

 As the game grows younger, it increases in athleticism yet decreases in polish.

And so it's hard to argue the necessity of a multi-dimensional asset.

One pre-draft workout showcased a deft shooting touch McCauley-Stein had simply never unveiled. The restraints and limitations that once smothered 90 percent of bigs are gone.

 Few draft picks were as polarizing as Kristaps Porzingis. The talking heads, self-proclaimed gurus, analysts, naysayers, and talent evaluators could not be more split on this kid.

 It's easy to see where the trepidation emanates from.

Though the pick did not warrant such a hailstorm of boos, the volume of which mirrored the Renaldo Balkman and Mardy "AIRBALL" Collins draft selections of 2006, areas of concern exist.

There's the unshedded tag of work-in-progress, a young project in need of tweaking.

There's the notion of being underdeveloped and undersized, physically, in the world's toughest and most pressurized media market.

New York is a true hothouse, a pressure cooker few can sidestep.

It's a tough city to lose in. It's an even tougher city on which to gain friends following a horrid performance.

Yet winning over the fan base in NYC, even during the depths of a left-for-dead season, can make a career.

 For every Eddie Curry and Stephon Marbury there is a David Lee and a Nate Robinson and even the short-lived lovefest that followed Jeremy Lin's masterful month.

Thrive on the world's biggest, most heavily scrutinized stage, no challenge seems too daunting.

The animosity which tabloid backpage fodder generates can send most packing. Especially a 19-year-old import.

This summer, the kid they call "Zinger" has helped sway the perspective of doubters. He averaged 18.4 points in the summer league, jolting heads out of sleep with athleticism and feel for the game.

Putting a Shawn Bradley warning label on him seems assanine, though the Dirk Nowitzki and Gasol comparisons are too much too soon.

Again, the soft shooting touch--along with a unique adeptness for getting to the rim--mirrors that of the new era.

Look alive, this could get interesting.