25 July 2015

Can The Bolts Adopt The "Small Ball" Concept?

In the recently concluded National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals, the Golden State Warriors showed everyone that playing "small ball" can be effective in giving the franchise a title. Now, it has started to become the biggest craze in the NBA. But can it be effective for a local team like Meralco Bolts?

NBA teams have started realizing that taking a wing player or forward and sliding them up one position gives the offense extra space, spreads a defense thin, and potentially allows for more versatility on defense.

Though the style has been around for a few years, the Golden State Warriors perhaps best popularized the movement last season when they played 6-foot-6 Draymond Green at power forward and center and rode the style to a championship.

Reynel Hugnatan, a twelve-year PBA veteran, has moved to the center, from the "four" in the team's small-ball lineups, creating space on offense and using his versatility to defend bigger players or switch onto guards when necessary.

Few teams commit entirely to small ball, using it more as a weapon in spot minutes. However, there are numerous benefits on offense, particularly for the players who slide up a position and suddenly have an athletic advantage over bigger opponents. Unfortunately for Hugnatan, he doesn't have that athleticism anymore when ranged against the likes of Junmar Fajardo or Asi Taulava.

Also, an offensive-minded small center would have great benefit if defense take seriously the threat posed by Gary David or Mike Cortez, which is not the case anymore. With Golden State, Green has a lot of open spaces because defense usually sag towards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, encouraging him to embrace small-ball.

The bigger question for the Bolts if they play small-ball comes defensively. Though the traditional, low-post, physical big man is rare, some people wonder whether it's more physically taxing to put a smaller player at power forward or center where they may face true centers.

Last season, the Bolts had played effectively down low when Hugnatan is match against Jake Pascual of Barako Bull or Bryan Faundo of Blackwater Elite because they are not really an offensive threat. However, the physical demand of playing against Fajardo or Taulava or Greg Slaughter is legitimate.

Offensive centers will bang Hugnatan, keep coming to the boards, going to ht him on the back and put pressure on him on the defensive end. It will be taxing to his body because he is going to box them out every possession to keep them from scoring their average numbers.

Hence, small-ball may have worked with Golden State (Green); Milwaukee Bucks (Jared Dduley) and Indiana Pacers (Paul George), the Bolts cannot afford it. They need to approach the game from a traditional view and employ big men at the paint. This is why the Bolts need to extend the contract of Danny Ildefonso, explore the possibility of tapping free-agent Isaac Holsten, or trade for the rights Justin Chua and Dave Marcelo.

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