The NBA is getting bigger, but the Portland Trail Blazers are not.
After an era where “small ball” was king, led by the Golden State Warriors’ dynasty throughout the late 2010s, the NBA is gearing more towards size again.
That’s evidenced in the skilled big men that are the focal points of teams in today’s NBA: Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, and soon to be, Victor Wembanyama.
However, the Blazers lack size, boasting the second-shortest team in the NBA behind the Houston Rockets, another team that was responsible for the “small ball” movement in the NBA.
OKC is tall and skinny, ORL is tall, and HOU is short. pic.twitter.com/2p8bp5dQPK— Tom Bassine (@tvbassine) February 21, 2023
“It’s funny, I was talking to my staff a week or so ago, and I was saying things are going back to getting bigger at the four, and obviously, you’re always going to be big at the five,” Chauncey Billups said in an interview with The Athletic. “I think teams that have that luxury can tinker with that, especially if you’ve got good guard play. You kind of play through your guards for the most part, anyway. They can tinker with those lineups.
“We don’t really have that luxury, but a lot of teams are starting to play big and go bigger. And it presents a lot of issues, especially because these guys are so skilled. These big guys are tall in stature, but they’re really skilled. They’ve got guard skill sets, a lot of times. That puts you in tough spots.”
Jusuf Nurkic has been the team’s primary center all season long, making him incredibly valuable to the Blazers. However, with Nurkic out, the Blazers are 5-7 this season. In games with Nurkic, the Blazers are an even .500 at 23-23, and this season, that’s the difference between a playoff and lottery team.
Nurkic is expected to return soon, and the Blazers are going to need him in order to challenge the height coming from their opponents on a nightly basis.