In a league that continues to get smaller and caters towards the golden age of point guards we are currently experiencing, it has become increasingly more difficult to find productive big men. Not only do we notice this by watching the NBA consistently, but the numbers are also backing this up, as only five frontcourt rookies in the past 15 seasons have averaged over 15 points per game according to Basketball Reference.
These numbers are bizarre especially when considering that not too long ago, the league was dominated from the inside out by the likes of Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Hakeem Olajuwon and even a prime Dwight Howard just to name a few in recent times.
Nowadays, the traditional big man is left behind if they can stretch the floor and make an outside shot. Most of the truly talented frontcourt players will now even have three-point range, as Karl Anthony Towns, Lauri Markkanen and Joel Embiid from that graphic predicate their game from dominating beyond the arc even more so than in the paint a lot of the time.
The game has definitely changed, and the big man has evolved with it. Towns is now an established young star in the league with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Joel Embiid is the re-incarnated modern version of Olajuwon for the Philadelphia 76ers, and Lauri Markkanen had an impressive rookie season for the struggling Chicago Bulls last season.
Emeka Okafor is on the New Orleans Pelicans’ books, and as for Jahlil Okafor, despite having a solid low-post game, he has struggled for consistent production and playing time as he can’t step away from the basket to score and continues to be a poor defender. After being let go by the 76ers who drafted him with the third overall pick in 2015, he received an opportunity with the Brooklyn Nets but underwhelmed again last campaign. He has now been given a lifeline by the Pelicans after signing there this off-season in the hopes to rejuvenate his career.
All in all the productive modern age big man is becoming harder and harder to unearth with each passing season. The Phoenix Suns recently drafted promising Center Deandre Ayton with the first overall pick just a couple of months ago, and perhaps he can join the list and average at least 15 points per game for the franchise in his rookie year.