Big men take years to develop
It seems like a pretty obvious observation/assumption and its probably one of the most often used phrases (excuses?) here on this site but, it finally got me thinking, can anyone give me an example of a legitimate "star" big man who took years (3 or more years) to develop the abilities to become the star that he is? I'm just having trouble thinking of one. If you give me examples that aren't really stars but rather, simply role players, then why do we get hyped up with big men whom we consider as "projects" that would "take years to develop" when all they'll really become is that? Recent bigmen labeled as "projects": Deandre Jodran (never developed much. just got more playing time. tho he probably got more mature), Thabeet (well...). I'll list down the premier big men in this league and note how long i felt they needed to develop the skills they had. Feel free to (constructively) criticize or add.
Dwight Howard - He won Rookie of the Year so, yeah. Immediate impact, needed (and still does) to refine post game but by his 2nd or 3rd year, he was already a dominant big man.
Brook Lopez - Made his first all-star team on his 5th year but he's always been considered a legitimate scoring option in the post since his college days. Remember, people were saying that he was going to be around a 20-10 guy by his 3rd year (but then he got allergic to rebounds).
Andrew Bogut - #1 pick, always had some finesse moves and adept passing.
Al Jefferson - Always had post moves.
Marc Gasol/Pau Gasol - Both very polished coming in. Though Marc had significantly improved since playing his first NBA game, I feel like he would still be considered a solid big man had he stayed the same (plus the NBA experience that comes naturally to all NBA players). He wasn't really considered a "project"
Z-bo - Always was a great inside scorer. Just needed to be tamed and surrounded by the right cast.
Andrew Bynum - The only thing that's held him back are his injuries. We all knew he had great moves and a soft touch. The only thing that made some people call him a project was because he was 17 years old in his. But by his 3rd year, we all knew he was more than capable of being a low-post threat if not for his injuries. (I don't believe people had an issue with his personality until around 2 years ago)
Joakim Noah - Similar argument to the one I used for Marc Gasol. Developed surprisingly but he'd still probably be solid had he stayed the same. People didn't see that much potential in him and thus never really labeled him as a "project"
I'm too lazy to go on but you get my point. Feel free to add or to give a counterexample.
I completely agree with what you said. You could also throw in Greg Monroe and Demarcus Cousins. Cousins needs some counseling or something but the dude's talent level is crazy. Monroe is also a very skilled big guy who has put up around 16 and 9 the past couple years, but also who has never played with a true Pg and his team isnt very good either.
But I think the one exception to what you said is Andre Drummond. He had a great rookie year and exceeded nearly everyones expectations. There was also a link to an article on this site that was talking about how Drummond desires to be a great player and is working his ass off to be one. He is definitely a project now but based on that article Id bet that he becomes a top 5 center in the next couple years
Yeah. Actually, Drummond's name kept popping in my head while writing the post. Haha. However, don't you agree that, if Drummond merely sustains his level of production, granted that he gets the minutes he deserves, that he will be considered solid, maybe even very good? Then maybe we just simply mislabeled him as a "project" when he's really more of a "raw talent" guy? Just to clarify, I consider those called as projects as ones who need significant amount of work in several areas to be considered notable in the league while the raw talents are those who can get make waves just by improving in one or two areas (ex. Dwight Howard). Cause we were all really high on Drummond coming out of high school, saying he'd be the number 1 pick whenever he decides to declare for the draft, and I don't thin anyone would EVER consider a "project" player as a number 1 pick. But then he went to UConn and the wrong system and the wrong supporting cast and then everyone started calling him a "project"
Serge Ibaka- Had no jumpshot his rookie year. Now it is respectable.
Chris Bosh- Showed some 3 pt range for the first time in his career this year and he was a 20 pt scorer in Toronto.
Marc Gasol- was 23 when he entered the league, which is pretty old. Imagine how polished Anthony Davis with be if he waited until he was 23 to enter the draft.
Al Horford- Rookie year was 10 and 10, this year 17 and 10
Roy Hibbert- Has improved from 7 pts his rookie year to 12 pts this year, which as a point is just ehh, but what is really impressive is his rebounding numbers have gone up every year he has been in the league.
Tiago Splitter- 1st year was 5 and 3, this year was 10 and 6. Nice improvement, but the important state was games played: 1st yr he played 60 games, this year he played 81. His improvements obviously earned Pop's trust.
Larry Sanders- Rail thin coming out of college. Rookie year 4 and 3. This year 10 and 10.
David West- Rookie year 4 and 4. Third year in the league 17 and 7.
My point being that most big men have success by being bigger than most of their competition. This is a huge adjustment for rookies to make coming into the league playing people as big or bigger night after night. They are simply not used to it and need to refine their game (usually by developing a midrange game for pick and pops)
Also, interestingly enough, when I was looking up stats I noticed year 3 being a huge year in defining whether a big man was going to break out or not. Usually if they don't have at least a solid 3rd year (like 10 and 7ish) then they don't have quality years to follow.
Do you honestly think Chris Bosh was ever considered as a "project" player? David West already had the skills he uses now since the start. He simply got more accustomed to the league, but he was never considered a "project." Anthony Davis, the number 1 pick, was NEVER considered a "project." Splitter wasn't considered a "project" either. In fact, they thought he could be an instant impact guy, being a 25 year-old rookie. The closest one you got was Ibaka. I agree a lot of people were calling him a "project" but I don't think he's a star just yet. He's simply benefiting from playing alongside 2 top 10 NBA talents. (Not to take away his developments tho)
I believe you're misinterpreting my point simply with big men's development in terms of production.
I was/ am looking at how all big men develop rather than ones that have been specifically labeled as a "project" because when people on this site say that it takes times for big men to develop, they aren't only referencing so called project big men.
Ah ok. While I agree to the point you're making, I believe that I made my point clear to emphasize on those labeled as "projects" who became stars as I can't really think of any. I listed down the notable big men in the league today to show that none of them were ever labeled projects. And this led me to asking why we're all hyped for some big men prospects labeled as "projects" when they hardly ever pan out to be what we expect them to be.
more on my "3rd Year" Big Man Theory....
Zach Randolph- Rookie yr was 3 and 2. Soph yr was 8 and 4. Third year was 20 and 10.
Al Jefferson- Rookie yr was 6 and 4. Soph yr was 8 and 5. Third year was 16 and 11.
Joakim Noah- Rookie yr was 7 and 6. Soph yr was 7 and 8. Third year was 10 and 11.
Kevin Love- Rookie yr was 11 and 9. Soph yr was 14 and 11. Third year was 20 and 15.
Some high profile draft picks in their third year...
Thabeet- 1 and 1 lol
Olawakandi- 8 and 5
Brandon Wright- 4 and 2
Patrick O'Bryant- 3 and 2
I think one thing we can say is before injuries Greg Oden was the most complete big man to enter the draft in almost a decade. He was a great shot blocker, a solid defender, had post moves, could score with ether hand, and was a 66% free throw shooter, that doesn't even include his physical gifts. He'd be the best center in the league today....
Man what could have been.. I hope he can come and give some team 20-25 productive minutes a night in the future, 9 points, 7 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks in 22 minutes a game in the 82 games he played in.
His development would have made every skill he already had better, and he probably would have added a 15 foot jumper off the glass or something. He was very developed early.
uh..... Dwight Howard didn't win ROY... It was Emeka Okafor.. But Dwight showed how good he can be avg 12ppg and almost 10rpg during his 1st year..
I agree with your point for the most part. I really like the 3 year theory though. People saying it takes "years" for bigs to develop as in more than 3 I would disagree with, but a lot of bigs do take 2 years of playing limited minutes and becoming accustomed to the NBA to really develop into the player they will be. Of the players you mentioned in your original post Al Jeff, ZBo, and Joakim all spent their first two years playing limited minutes (around 20 per game) before fully being inserted into a rotation. I would disagree that Jefferson always had post moves, he was pretty raw coming in out of high school and really developed alot in his first two years. ZBo being a one and done needed a few years of limited minutes to become comfortable with the NBA game. I think by a bigs third year if they are getting full time minutes you'll have a good idea of how productive of a player they'll be. That's why I don't really like how Utah has handled Favors, because I think if they would've gotten rid of either big Al or milsap he would've really had a breakout year and I think he will have one next year. Expecting a big to have a big increase in production after three years in the league (playing full minutes by the third year) I would say is pretty unlikely, which I think was the point of this post and I agree with that.
He took years to develop. He was stuck at the end of Portland's bench averaging like 2ppg for ages. Once he got consistent playing time he was able to develop his game to an all star level.
Only spent 3 years in Portland. He went to Indiana, became a solid player immediately.
It depends on how old they were when they entered the draft. I know that Tim Duncan took four years of college to be the star that he was right away, his freshman numbers weren't very impressive, but he worked very hard and became a star after four years of college, even if it wasn't necessarily in the NBA.
I think the problem I have with project big men in general is that they aren't given opportunities to develop an offensive game once they make the jump to the NBA.
Outside of Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum, every low-post player worth his salt was the first option beyond the high school level before they entered the NBA and already had an understanding of how to carry a team from the block.
Big men will only develop a proper understanding of post-play through live game practice, not 1v1 drills on footwork, because the best big men will get doubled, and they need to learn how to overcome that, they also need to learn how to play against people their own size.
But no coach is going to continue to feed a raw young big guy in low post for the sake of developing him at the expense of winning games because there's almost always a better option on the perimeter when you're looking for a bucket.
This comes back to the trend of raw big men leaving college early because their draft stock is so high. They are in such a rush to get to the league and get that first contract, that they miss out on that second contract, because they haven't been given the opportunity to develop. The secondary effect of the one and done is that coaches are less prepared to use a system which is dependent on a 7-footer, because he knows there's a big chance he'll just bolt for the NBA when he gets a chance, so even in college you see coaches not feeding big men offensively and relying on guards who are more game-ready out of high school (as a direct result of touches) unless their system specifically caters to big men (Georgetown, North Carolina come to mind).
The only circumstances in which a raw big man will develop in the NBA are as follows;
1) He's the #1 pick (or thereabouts) on a rebuilding franchise and the team has invested so much in him and will suck so bad that he won't be short of touches in the post, or despite not being the #1 pick, is given those opportunities regardless due to the state of team.
2) Is drafted by the right team at the right time and is given an opportunity to prove himself immediately, despite not being a top-3 pick.
I literally cannot think of an example of a big guy who has developed in the NBA unless he was give a lot of touches early in his career.
Looking at your list of successful big men and noting their situations (plus adding a few more):
Dwight Howard - Was the 1st overall pick, Orlando gave him all the looks he wanted and were prepared to be patient with him.
Brook Lopez - Played two years of college as the foundation of the team, also had the advantage of playing against his twin brother - he was able to learn to score against someone with similar length.
Andrew Bogut - #1 pick, spent two years in college as the first option, also given plenty of opportunities to play in the post in the SEABL in Australia, and playing for the Australian national team.
Al Jefferson - Always had post moves - see ridiculous 42ppg average in high school - and lucked out in going to a Minny team that was rebuilding.
Marc Gasol - Played four years in Europe and was MVP in the Spanish League before coming to the NBA.
Pau Gasol - Won MVP in the Spanish Finals before coming to the NBA, and was given the reins to Memphis as the 3rd overall pick.
Z-bo - Always was a great inside scorer and was given opportunities in Portland.
Andrew Bynum - Already had post-moves - if you haven't seen Bynum's first exchange with Shaquille O'Neal you're missing out - and incredible size.
Joakim Noah - Spent three years in college and made the great decision to return so he could repeat as a champion (and did).
Tim Duncan - Four years in college, numbers were average as a freshman, also, #1 pick.
Cousins - First option at Kentucky, saw a lot of the ball as a Wildcat, and has been dubbed the franchise player since he stepped through the door.
Hibbert - Spent four years at a college which has always given their big men a priority in the offensive system.
Monroe - Spent two years at Georgetown, and was given the keys to Detroit as they started their rebuild.
Pekovic - Was a beast overseas before coming over.
All of the guys who I would dub "successful big men" (not the jump-shooting variety) were given the opportunity to carry the offensive load and develop their post instincts in either college, overseas or in very few cases, early in their NBA careers.
None of the guys were developed in the NBA.
Someone pointed out Jermaine O'Neal, and he was probably the only person I can think of who developed into a real low-post threat despite limited opportunities early on and no college experience. That said, it wasn't until he was given the opportunity to play on a Pacers team lacking big-man depth that he was able to really produce
The point remains, that barring extreme examples, unless raw big men are drafted into the exact right situation, they are unlikely to develop into legitimate low-post scorers, because the system is designed for them to fail.
There are only two ways this is going to change; if the raw prospects select a college whose system will see them given the opportunity to polish their post moves in the paint and give them offensive responsibility instead of relegating them to a purely defensive role (ahem- UConn anyone?) and if, after being given this opportunity, the players are wise enough to spend as many years in college as they need to develop on offensive game, instead of jumping at the chance of being a high draft pick and expecting to develop it in the NBA.
The other way is for a better Minor League system where young big men can be stashed and made the first option by the coaches whose express goal would be to develop them as offensive players and allow them to grow through their mistakes.
It's a LOT better for big men and the teams that draft them to be playing in the D-League and battling it out as 1st options until they are ready to be called up instead of playing 10-15mpg as a defensive player who gets maybe 1 touch in the post if they are lucky and otherwise is relegated to setting picks and blocking shots. If all you let your players do in games is block shots, rebound and finish alley-oops, that's all they'll be able to do in the future, it's not going to miraculously change overnight, even if they work with Hakeem all summer, because 1v1 play is completely different to playing 5-v-5 as a big man.
Honestly, I hate to see the small-ball we get now where it's just constant jump-shots and pick and rolls, tonnes of 3s and no efficient, low-post scoring.
Let's just hope Andre Drummond can buck the trend and overcome the difficulties he faces in Detroit (limited touches due to the presence of another low-post scorer in Monroe who is more polished).
Can I just say that I am totally amazed at how well you 1.) got the point I was driving at more than anyone else who's commented and 2.) put my efforts to shame by elaborating your points 10000x more than I would have had the drive to do so in a post. Thank you thank you very much. I just hope everyone who comes across this post reads both our posts and understand the point we are making.
This has been rumbling around in my head a lot recently, but I never sat down to write it out until just now.
Also to provide a clarifying point; too many teams draft a young raw prospect and take the approach of "when you've developed we'll feed you the ball" when they should be thinking "we'll feed you the ball so you will develop". That's really the main obstacle facing young raw big men.
Alex Len is a 'project'.
Playing time makes a big difference in how fast a player develops, Favors and Kanter are good examples of this, Corbin had Big Al and Milsap and so Favors and Kanter got limited minutes and that slowed their development. Favors got alot more time than Kanter but he still didn't get the time nor was he asked to produce on the offensive side of the ball and his development has been slower and less productive. Both should see their playing time increase dramadicly this coming season and therefore we should see major increase in development and productivity. Favors has alot of work to do this off season to develop confidence and consistency on offense and IMO Kanter just needs playing time and he will blossom into a very good offensive player, he has all the tools to be very good.