The NBA is a constantly evolving league.
20 years ago, teams frequently played slow, post-up-heavy offence, with fewer three-pointers, and more physical defence. Now, many teams play small, fast, spaced out offenses, focusing on pick-and-rolls and three-pointers.
In ten years, however, the NBA could look completely different, at least according to Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens. Stevens, who runs a forward-thinking, modern-style Celtics team, was on “The Ringer NBA Show” with Bill Simmons and asked what the league may look like down the road. Stevens explained that he believes the NBA is dictated by its best players and their skills, meaning teams have to adjust to their toughest competition.
“I think the game will always be dependent on the players that are at its most elite level at that time,” Stevens said. He continued:
“If you have an era where you have a [Wilt] Chamberlain and [Bill] Russell and people like that, then everybody’s going to have to scheme or find people to account for those guys. And when you have this current focus on skill and spacing and speed and everything else, it’s gonna take a pretty special group of players to change the way the game is played.”
Stevens did note that he finds speed wins over the course of a game and that the maths behind taking more three-pointers is difficult to dispute.
However, as he and Simmons discussed, the league is currently at a point where there are so many skilled ball-handlers and shooters that teams frequently have to adjust to this style in order to keep up. In comparison to the ’90s, when the league was dominated by big men like Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing, and Shaquille O’Neal, teams now must employ players who can spread the floor, handle the ball, and defend multiple positions.
“Inevitably, everybody will be forced to play a little bit differently if multiple great low-post players are back in the game,” Stevens said before noting that many kids don’t grow up learning to play in the post much anymore.
Much in the same way that Stephen Curry has become a game-changing force, it may only take one or two great big men to make the NBA reverse course.