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By Jim Brighters, NBA Editor - Archive - Email
A revival is happening
Anthony Davis Anthony Davis is just one of the NBA's top big men.
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - We love when the past is rehashed.

We weren't far from a "Murder, She Wrote" reboot.

The "Dukes of Hazzard" are shilling a car insurance app.

Revivals aren't just for crazy, tented religions, or Broadway musicals. Early in the 2014-15 NBA campaign, there is a big-man revival, led by some impressive, albeit tall, young men.

For years, the NBA has been dominated by wings, namely LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony. If it wasn't the wings, it was point guards like Tony Parker, Steve Nash, Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, or Russell Westbrook.

The big men have fallen behind. Dwight Howard carried the torch admirably, but singularly, for quite a few seasons. Excluding Howard, the only big men who have finished in the top five in MVP voting the last seven seasons were Kevin Garnett, Blake Griffin and Joakim Noah.

Garnett did it following the 2007-08 season when he revitalized the Boston Celtics. Griffin and Noah were third and fourth last season.

During that same time frame, the All-NBA center spots on the three teams have been populated by the likes of Andrew Bogut, Tyson Chandler and Al Horford. All capable men, but not quite the bigs we were accustomed to in the history of this great sport.

The list of extraordinary big men is too long to list. Some smart pundits won't engage in a discussion about the game's all-time greats unless the conversation is separated into big men versus all others.

Yet, in recent seasons, the big man hasn't become totally obsolete, but it has been in a bit of a downward spiral. Perhaps the emergence of James, Durant, Paul, et al has been to blame. That's a logical conclusion because the game has emerged into athletes making athletic plays and big men can't get into the flow of the game to instigate plays without assistance.

The NBA can be an offensive league. The San Antonio Spurs showed the world what crisp offense looks like this past summer. Defense may still be the most important thing in coach's minds, but offense has surpassed defense and the little guys have done the heavy lifting offensively.

The bigs still dominate defensively. Metta World Peace was the last non-big to win Defensive Player of the Year and that came so long ago, he was known as Ron Artest. Prior to Artest's victory following the 2003-04 season, Gary Payton was the last shortish (by NBA standards) man to win back in 1996.

But, offensively, there has been a surge in the play of the post dwellers. Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge are all in the top 10 in scoring. Extrapolate it further and Chris Bosh and Al Jefferson rank in the top 20.

Is there an explanation for this? Each case offers one.

Davis and Cousins have matured into the players we thought they'd be. Griffin is a top-five talent. Bosh is the only reliable offensive weapon in Miami, and Jefferson has always put up numbers, but because the Charlotte Hornets made the playoffs last season, it became highlighted.

Howard is playing at a high level once again, or still, technically. Noah has struggled some offensively, but that might have to do with how well, and gifted, Pau Gasol is. Pau's kid brother Marc scores 18.0 ppg. Dirk Nowitzki remains a threat on that side of the ball and Nikola Vucevic has emerged as another big who can score at high levels.

Tim Duncan is still the dean of the group, but his numbers have tailed.

Why are big men suddenly relevant once again? Could be do to the fact that most of the reliable names who've dominated offensively are either finding their way in new schemes, hurt, or older. (And don't be confused, this revival is not completely spreading through the league. Bryant, James and Anthony still score plenty.)

However, these big men offer a variety of scoring options, on top of playing with their back to the basket. It almost seemed like a waiting game for the bigs to catch up. A wide skill set is needed to compete in today's league. You're nobody if you can't shoot from the perimeter.

Davis is leading this new wave and can do a little bit of everything offensively. He runs the floor like a puma, can shoot a mid-range jumper and beat other bigs off the dribble.

Nowitzki is one of the game's best long-range shooters. The 7-footer's hands are so high at release point, you'd need a ladder to truly contest his jumper. Bosh has legitimate 3-point range.

Griffin has developed into a reliable jump-shooter. Same goes for Aldridge.

Noah and Marc Gasol are the best passing big men in a long time. Duncan isn't shabby, either.

The best true back-to-basket guy may be Jefferson. Cousins has range and Vucevic can knock down an open jumper.

So perhaps this big-man revival isn't about the traditional low-post scorers, like Hakeem Olajuwon, or Shaquille O'Neal. It's more or less a change in how the centers and power guys had to adapt to fit in. Maybe revival isn't right. It's an adaptation on our hands.

This present incarnation of pivot men and big forwards can just do more than previous groups. For the purists, that may not be a good thing, but it's reality. In an effort to keep up with the athletes, the big men have joined the mix.

When playoff basketball slows down, low-post players become more relevant. For now, they are embracing the way the NBA has evolved.

Davis is the flavor of the month in the NBA. He's earned it and we all saw it coming. The Unibrow made the All-Star team last season, then became the best player for USA Basketball in the FIBA World Cup. Everyone just saw the leap coming.

He's delivered. Davis is scoring 25.5 ppg (3rd), grabbing 11.4 rpg (5th) and blocking 3.9 shots per night (1st). Most importantly, Davis' New Orleans Pelicans are winning. That's the ultimate kick-start to the renaissance.

Same goes for Cousins. He's high in scoring and rebounding and made the Sacramento Kings a fringe playoff contender. The Kings!

Everything is cyclical. The traditional low-post scorers like Moses Malone and Kevin McHale might not occupy as big a place in the game with high-motion, or fast-breaking offenses, but they are finding new ways.

And the game will come back. These low-post giants can still score a bucket if needed. Isolation still has a large role in the NBA. These bigs have expanded their games to include skills. Not saying other generations of big men didn't have all-around basketball skills. Wilt Chamberlain led the league in assists.

But this current crop has made the big man important again through combining the famous attributes of the giants, mixed with the blessings that made smaller folks millions.

Think of that the next time you're being chased in the General Lee and need to know what company offers the best insurance premiums.

RANDOM THOUGHTS

- I have never in my life believed the best college team could beat the worst NBA team. And, the Philadelphia 76ers may go down historically as one of the worst NBA teams this season. But, the Kentucky mens' basketball team couldn't beat them. (Yes, anyone can win one game.) The speed and strength of the pros would be too much for the kids to handle. Plus, in this particular instance, the Kentucky kids have played together for a month.

- Jeffrey Taylor's suspension for 24 games could become a fascinating legal case. He pled guilty to a misdemeanor, not a violent felony. Commissioner Adam Silver has the authority to suspend for that kind of length for a felony. And, the NBA has never suspended someone that long for an incident outside an NBA arena. In 2007, Artest was popped for seven games when he pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor domestic violence charge, exactly as Taylor did. Then again, no one has committed a reported domestic violence incident since Ray Rice, either, so it seems pretty clear what's going on here.

- If you would have told me one year ago that Jason Kidd would be the front- runner for Coach of the Year 12 months later, I'd have laughed.

- This seven-game roadie for the LA Clippers was perfect timing. Long road trips are a good thing, other than missing your family and what not. They allow for teams to bond. It's just you, your team, your coaches and the staff. LA will come out of this sojourn better.

- Movie moment - One of the many movies I don't terribly like, but won't turn off is "Funny Farm." The only real laugh in the movie is what Chevy's eating at the diner, but I don't turn it off. Madolyn Smith played his wife. She's a knock-out, but disappeared from acting. Our loss.

- TV moment - First "Franklin & Bash," now "Sullivan & Son." It's a shame what's happening to these television shows just for having the bravery to put an ampersand in the title. Watch your back, "Rizzoli & Iles."

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