It’s no secret that the role of big men (power forwards and, mainly, centers) in the NBA has changed a lot.
In the previous years, their role was limited and included their effectiveness inside the paint.
Nowadays (from early 00s onwards), big men have a much more active role in the tactics and have improved many aspects of their game, which enables them to be productive not only inside the paint, but the perimeter, too.
From Arvydas Sabonis to Dirk Nowitzki and Nikola Jokic, European (and international) big men have revolutionised their playing style and have started getting more involved in the flow of the game (e.g by knowing what to do in pick&roll situations and how to move in motion offence etc).
More specifically, European power forwards and centers have been more skillful than the USA-born ones and have been taught how to read the game and share the ball quickly.
And most importantly, they have made the small-ball revolution possible and have helped the USA centers improve their ball handling and learn how to play outside of the paint.
Overall, European big men have significantly affected the evolution of height in the NBA and have been the main reason behind the increasing role of power forwards and centers in the team’s tactics and playing style.
*What motivated me to write this article was a research, conducted by former basketball player and assistant coach Dimitrije Curcic, who now works as an NBA research writer for RunRepeat.
His research focuses on height evolution in the NBA in the past 67 years and examines, among other things, how international and European big men have revolutionised the center position.
You can read his research here