One of the few benefits of the offseason is that we have the time and ability to take a critical look at the state of the Association as a whole. A majority of our time during the regular and post season is allocated to watching and talking about specific teams or players. I wouldn’t exactly classify this as a bad thing by any means but it’s important sometimes to step back and examine some of the league wide trends.
On a similar note, the offseason is also a good time to check in with the fresh pool of young talent currently being groomed as the All-Stars of the not-so-distant-future. I know we just spent a good amount of time breaking down and analyzing the draft, but NBA stars start their training long before their grueling year of college. That’s right. A quick update on the dirty, back-door-dealing, AAU circuit!
Today the LeBron James Skills Academy wrapped up in Las Vegas. 20 of the best college athletes and 80 of the top high school athletes convened in Vegas to workout, play pick up, and in all likelihood talk off the record with shoe company executives salivating over the potential money that can be made. As someone who cares probably a little bit too much about high school basketball and recruiting, I made sure to follow most of the big name writers on twitter and read their daily summaries.
Perhaps the most interesting tweet I read came from Scout writer Jason Scheer:
The Oklahoma City Thunder were without a doubt the darlings of the NBA this season (with the noted exception of the greater Seattle area and The Diss). They featured a plethora of very young, very talented athletes who won a crap load of games by being faster, more explosive, and more opportunistic than their competition. They thrived at getting out in transition and finishing at the rim with sensational athleticism. David Stern is pleased. Very pleased.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, my grandmother once told me (sixty thousand times). However crazy she may be – this sentiment rings just as true for little brothers as it does NBA executives. Executives from losing teams, executives from winning teams, AAU coaches, teenagers, puppies, all watched as this new style of NBA basketball was unfolding. Is this the new model for building a successful basketball team?
Whether or not this style of basketball can be sustained will remain a mystery for the time being. I consider myself somewhat of a basketball purist, and I tend to think that while this style of play may be exciting to watch – it’s going to be incredibly hard for them to maintain and even harder for anyone else to copy. But it’s not my opinion that matters. It’s the kids.
In 2012 being a high school/AAU center isn’t “sexy”. In 2012 being a high school/AAU center carries with it the unfortunate and untrue connotation that you’re un-athletic and slow. Every young big man these days watches Kevin Durant and thinks, I want to do that! I want to bring the ball up the court! I want to shoot from the perimeter! I want to face up every time! If he’s making it work, so can I!
No, 2012 high school/AAU center. you can’t. You’re not even close to Kevin Durant’s level and chances are you never will be. But fear not, 2012 high school/AAU center, there’s still hope!
NBA basketball has been around since 1946. In those 66 seasons we’ve seen some pretty damn effective innovation, from the pick-and-roll to the triangle offense, but you know what’s always remained a constant strategy for winning basketball games? Having a skilled big man play with his back to the basket.
So, my message to all you kids out there not reading this article is to use your natural ability to play your natural position. It may not be as glamorous to bang down low and grab boards, or go to your weak side for a contested layup, but it’s a proven technique that will always be desired. If you’re 6’8” and still growing take pride in being a center, and leave the ball handling to the undersized guard who probably has no college or professional potential. Find beauty in effective footwork, utilize the talents you were blessed with, and remember – you’re no Kevin Durant.