Friday, December 31, 2010

Sneaker Prophets: Fast Don't Lie and Quick Can't Be Caught

I got some great comments from E.J. regarding statements I made in the last post about the Heat's speed advantage.

Here are a few of E.J.'s comments that I want to talk about:

I was thrown off from understanding you in the post by this line, I think: "The last three titles were decided by size. Those days are over. The NBA is about speed now." Which seems to imply that size teams can't be effective anymore. It still can, teams just have to have as much size talent as the Lakers or Celtics to do it.

It occurs to me that this is Berri's "short supply of tall people" effect being exacerbated by hoarding, to the extent that teams are now trying to find game plans that just do without the tall people.
And I don't think it's too surprising that Boston chose to go the size route; size is the very deeply established wisdom in the NBA.

I actually don't think another team will win the NBA title in the next five years with size because there aren't any dominant big men in the league right now but there are dominant speed players like LeBron, Wade and Bosh.'s David Thorpe made this point in an interview this summer with TrueHoop's Henry Abbott when he said:

"Wade, LeBron and Bosh may be the fastest at their positions in the NBA. Certainly the three fastest really skilled players. You can create a tempo game. You can aggressively trap. You can make it a game about aggressiveness, and those three will all have a great feel for that."

Sebastian Pruiti provided a great example of Miami using this speed against the Suns in a post on the NBA Playbook blog.

Pau Gasol can be an efficient and productive player, but he's far from being a dominant big man and the same goes for Dwight Howard.

The Lakers' size is flawed because Bynum can't stay healthy and no team's scared of a frontline with just Gasol and Odom because it's just the equivalent of Al Horford & Josh Smith. It's nice to have, but you're not winning titles with it.

Boston's size is flawed because their big men stink (except for KG). That's why I don't understand why they chose to go the size route in the off-season. They were able to advance in the playoffs by exploiting matchups against the washed up big men they signed! Jermaine O'Neal played terrible against the Celtics in the 1st round of last year's playoffs. Shaq was terrible in the next round. The decisions to sign those players could have only been determined by one of two things - arrogance or misguided desperation. I think it's the latter.

Either way, it was a mistake.

The Celtics were able to beat the Heat in both games with their perimeter players - Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. It was covered in an earlier article -

As for the Magic, they have Dwight Howard, but aren't really a big team. In fact, without Rashard Lewis, they're smaller than the Heat (if you go by average lbs/in).

To summarize a lengthy comment, no - I don't think a size team can be effective right now because there just is not enough quality size to beat teams that only have average size but quality speed. This is the reality of The Short Supply of Tall People. There are a lot of stiffs in the NBA. Hoarding stiffs won't get the job done (*cough* Boston, *cough* Bynum). Teams would be better off spending that money on speed until the dominant big men return.

I think this is all cyclical. The Lakers and Celtics had tremendous size in the 80s. Then the Pistons and Bulls came along with tremendous speed on the perimeter in the 90s. Shaq and Duncan dominated with their size in the 2000s and the Lakers and Celtics responded to that with their own size. In this new decade, speed is back. The marketing people at Adidas and Nike were prophets - "fast don't lie" and "quick can't be caught".

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