Going small in basketball has been en vogue for a few years now. It started with the stretch 4 in places like Phoenix and Orlando, and evolved as time went on to include stars like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Carmelo Anthony moving from their natural small forward spot to the power forward position. Not everyone could be so lucky to have those players, and if you haven’t noticed, it seems we might be ready to trend back to more traditional front lines.
The Memphis Grizzlies prefer to line up with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph and bully teams in the halfcourt.
The Indiana Pacers are tough up front with Roy Hibbert and David West.
Those two teams are the top two defensive teams in the league this year, and still playing in the playoffs.
Throw in the Spurs who prefer Tim Duncan at power forward lined up next to a traditional center, and the young Warriors who are playing better now that they have a traditional center in Andrew Bogut on the floor next to a power forward.
Chicago, even through their travails still is at it’s toughest because of their front line of Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, and Taj Gibson subbing off the bench.
The Lakers never seemed comfortable with the big mentality under Mike D’Antoni with Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol, but they’ve had great success with Gasol partnered with Andrew Bynum.
To be fair, the other playoff teams this year seem to like playing both big and small, matching up with their opponents.
I think what we’ve come to recognize together as a basketball community that getting a “big 3″ to lineup up as a power forward works if they are supremely talented. Generally speaking it allows for another talented offensive player/ball handler/shooter to see the floor without giving up too much in regards to size/rebounding. But if you don’t have a LeBron/Carmelo/Durant, you probably will be a better team to just play traditional with a true 4 and 5. Those teams have found success in the playoffs this season.
Variations of “small 4″ have worked through the years with unique talents, but underlining which works best probably has a lot to do with the other players on the floor. Players like Shawn Marion, Rashard Lewis, Lamar Odom, and Josh Smith all have yielded many victories, but the extent of their successes has much to do with the players surrounding them.
There are a lot of ways to build a team, and playing with a smaller lineup can have it’s moments. But it is clear this postseason that the traditional lineup is producing BIG results in the NBA playoffs.