There are some in NBA circles who believe you need to have a big team in order to be successful in the playoffs. Charles Barkley was one of the biggest supporters of that particular idea last season and was quick to dismiss the idea of the Golden State Warriors being contenders from the very start to the bitter end.
Of course, we all know what happened with that story.
Really, though, it’s circumstantial. Some teams are equipped to handle the ability to go small and still be consistently successful. The Warriors last season were the prime example: they had the offensive weapons to be super effective (that is to say, most of them could really shoot the ball and spread the floor) when going small and more importantly, they had defenders who could guard multiple positions effectively all over the floor. The whole thing worked especially because Draymond Green was able to hold his own at the center position against players much bigger than him. Without him, the whole thing was more than likely to fall apart because it all starts with being able to get stops.
If you have the right pieces to play a certain style very successfully, then there is no reason to go away from it. The Memphis Grizzlies, for example, were an exceptional bunch last season before going down against the Warriors in the second round of the playoffs. The Grizzlies played a style offensively – mostly through Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph – that was a complete contrast to the Warriors (not surprisingly, they were one of Barkley’s favorite teams), but they were a fearful bunch and was quite possibly one solid shooter away from being a tad better than the Warriors.
There are different systems capable of being highly successful in the NBA, small or big. The fact that the Warriors won it all doesn’t necessarily mean small ball is the new way or the only way to go (again, you have to have some unique personnel to make it all work), but they are literally walking proof that you very well can go all the way with that style of play.
Does it only work if circumstances are ideal, though? Although the Warriors more or less proved that’s not the case by beating teams of all sizes in the playoffs, Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside believes small ball only works if the opposing team’s center is unable to score:
— Hassan Whiteside (@youngwhiteside) August 26, 2015
Always one to have a chip on his shoulder, Green perhaps took this one personally (there aren’t many centers in the league that are 6’6″) took a minute to respond to Whiteside’s claim:
Can you score doe? ???????????? Bigs becoming dinosaurs ????????????????????
— Draymond Green (@Money23Green) August 26, 2015
It’s unclear if that’s a direct question to Whiteside but if it is, the center proved last season that he is more than capable of scoring in a variety of ways. Both players appear to be a bit off in the exchange of arguments, but it never hurts to have a healthy discussion going about a debatable topic.
Jim Park is a blogger and editor of Sheridan Hoops. Follow him on twitter @SheridanBlog.