During our tenure with Don Nelson as head coach of the Golden State Warriors we have come to learn once again a different, unique style of basketball called smallball (Nellieball). This style "supposedly" emphasizes agility of small, wing players to outmatch slow, lumbering bigs. Smallball is an up-tempo, run n gun, style of basketball and under Don Nelson, focuses on taking the first, best available shot presented per possession. While entertaining for many people, Nellieball is eratic and not very efficient without the proper pieces in a team. As a fan of the NBA, we all love up-tempo, freestyle, three-point shooting games where there is no lull in the game but constant excitement. And that is what everybody, especially those fans who do not have NBA teams which are willing to run n gun, believe what Nellieball is.
But Nellieball, isn't what we all have come to think of it as... a point guard, 2 or 3 shooting guards/small forwards and a center/power forward... Nellieball is just every player, no matter the position, capable of creating his own shot (with range of necessary) and using his agility to better his defender.
A lot of us, including myself at one point, have come to believe that Nelson does not like playing bigs. But that is not true, the thing that seperates Nelson from other coaches is that he demands a very specific type of post player to get constant minutes in his rotation. Nelson prefers bigs who can spread the floor, rebound, pass effectively out of a double-team and (if lucky enough) have a post-game. But Nellie is picky, if his PF or C does not do more than one of these things, he sits him on the bench and usally brings in a smaller player for his agility and ability to spread the floor. If Nelson, however, were to have an effiicient, big who can do more than one thing stated above, then he will certainly get consistent playing time.
If we look at Don Nelson's previous bigs we can see a common thing:
1) Al Harrington - Most recent, we have come to love/hate Harrington for his ability to spread the floor and occasionally provide a spark in the offense. However, his lack of a post-game and inability to rebound caused Nelson to move him to the bench and use him occasionally, especially during 4th qtr, crunch time scenarios.
2) Dirk Nowitzki - Great shooter, mediocre post-presence and decent rebounder.. Enough to get him sufficient playing time under Nellie. Since he did enough of what Nellie demands in a big, Nellie played him. His shooting stood out and is exactly what Nellie wants, a big who can spread the floo and rebound.
3) Antawn Jamison & Antoine Walker - Perfect players under Nellie in Dallas, SFs who can play the PF spot and still spread the floor. Jamison is a good rebounder for his size and though Walker was not a good rebounder, they both could spread the floor very well while providing somewhat of an inside threat. Though not efficient, both players could play within Nellie's system.
(PS: what would have happened if we had Jamison still... a legit PF who can shoot and rebound.. a much better Al Harrington I think!!)
4) Mike Dunleavy Jr & Troy Murphy - CHARMING SOFT... straight up! Hah, no well Dunleavy just couldn't rebound or hit open shots at the PF spot and Murphy got hurt. Murphy is back to his beastin mode in Indiana like he was back prior to his injurt with us. But under our current style of play, he is much better suited as a bench player. Someone who can rebound, shoot decently and as someone who has enough heart to carry a team at times. (I loved watching Murphy play against Tim Duncan). These players couldnt do what Nelson asked and such we discarded them for others.
The fact is that Nelson has no problem playing bigs so long as they do what Nellie requires in a big. Right now we do not have that in our roster. All of our bigs cannot spread the floor nor create their own shot. Biedrins is a beast but thats only on the boards or in a pick and roll situations ( yes and putbacks!). Turiaf is a defensive minded center, thats alright with me! Randolph and Wright are inconsistent both with their outside and inside game. If we look at players that are gone now which played under Nelson, Zarko... NO, Adonal.. Turiaf without an outside shot, Croshere.. Nope, Rob Kurz didnt rebound, defend or shoot well enough.. though apparently he was a good "rotation" player.. and Jermario Davidson is just not ready yet.
WE don't have bigs ready to play under what Nelson has wanted since he started coaching and unless he does get specific bigs who can play with what he demands, Nelson would prefer playing SFs and SGs who, under Nelson's type of style, always have range on their shot. Corey Maggette, Stephen Jackson and Kelenna Azubuike when playing at the PF spot all have range and agility to take their defending PF off the dribble.
Nelson does not hate bigs nor does he prefer playing smalls over bigs, he just demands a big who can accomplish what he asks. Like a Nowitzki or Amare (even Shaq! Nellie as coach of the Knicks got run out of NY because he tried to trade Ewing to free cap space to sign a free-agent to be Shaq, SHAQ playing under Nelson is like WTF, but the man can rebound and command a double-team!), someone who can post, spread the floor and rebound is what Nelson craves for in a big. Until Nelson gets a player like that or truly believes Wright or Randolpy can accomplish these tasks, we will continue to see (however regretabble) Maggette, Jackson, Azubuike and some other random SGs and SFs play the PF/C spot.