Smallball is the norm, not the latest trend
The Golden State Warriors are just the tip of the iceberg.
The Warriors used sublime shooting and a suffocating defense to capture the Larry O'Brien trophy. Granted, they had a historically prolific shooter in Stephen Curry leading the charge, but that hasn't stopped a slew of imitators.
In truth, playing small - either by putting a wing at the four, or by stretching a big out to the 3-point line - is not new, nor is it some gimmicky strategy. Most teams are already playing smallball, or are gravitating towards it.
Teams that ranked in the top-20 in 3-point attempts and regularly played a stretch frontcourt player.
There's no denying any of the names on the list, as six of the aforementioned teams ranked in the top-10 in 3-point attempts.
Teams ranked in the top-15 in 3-point attempts, but lacked a frontcourt player who averaged more than three attempts per game.
These teams clearly wanted to play smallball in earnest, but lacked the proper personnel.
That's especially the case for the Houston Rockets, who ranked first in 3-point attempts, despite not employing a true stretch-four. They found ways around that by sneaking time for James Harden at the four, while encouraging players like Motiejunas and Smith to step out to the perimeter.
The Los Angeles Clippers are much like the Rockets: they want a shooter in the frontcourt, but lacked the personnel. Last summer's prized addition Spencer Hawes didn't work out, so they acquired Smith and Paul Pierce.
The San Antonio Spurs added a premium shooter in LaMarcus Aldridge this summer. Aldridge is a master of the midrange, but he posted a career high in 3-pointers attempted last season, a trend that will likely continue.
Most of the league has already embraced smallball. These teams are desperately trying to catch up.
|Team||Player||Frontcourt time (*)|
|Hornets||Frank Kaminsky||Incoming rookie|
*Basketball-Reference's play-by-play estimate for percentage of minutes at center or power forward
The Milwaukee Bucks prefer to play lineups with three wings on the court at once. That plan was sidetracked with Parker's injury, but Jared Dudley filled in admirably. With Dudley gone and Parker returning, look for Jason Kidd to continue trotting out three-wing lineups.
As for the Sacramento Kings, head coach George Karl is on the record regarding his intentions to play Gay at power forward. The same applies to the Indiana Pacers and George, despite the challenges of changing positions.
Teams that don't have a capable smallball player, or don't want one.
It's unfair to put the Portland Trail Blazers on this list because they clearly value spacing and shooting, but they lost so much talent in free agency. As it stands, they have no stretch option unless Noah Vonleh develops, or if Meyers Leonard maintains his hot shooting from last season.
The Washington Wizards are a strange case. They stubbornly eschewed shooting and spacing in the regular season, attempting just 16.8 3-pointers per game, but launched 23.3 threes in the playoffs, while shifting two wings in Pierce and Otto Porter to the four. Perhaps during the playoffs, Randy Wittman was just playing it coy.
The remaining teams are set in their ways. The Memphis Grizzlies make it work because they have a dominant defense and a monstrous frontcourt, but there's no excuse for the rest.