In my previous post I was touching the term modern day basketball. I wrote about how in this year’s Eurobasket in Poland we could see many examples of a basketball game that has evolved into a much faster and more fluid game, with more mobile players. So lets try to dive deeper into ‘modern day basketball’.
With this in our mind we can move on to the core of modern day basketball. The game is much faster and everyone on a team needs to be able to run and move. There is no place for a big guy if he can’t run and move. Then the other team will just involve him in for example ball screen defense and his team will have troubles because he will be out of position and probably too slow. A player needs to move according to the basketball game, even if he is tall the demands are; running the floor, setting screens, diving and cutting and on defense handle ball screens as well as inside and perimeter defense. Even a tall player must be able to play defense on a guard for a couple of seconds without getting destroyed.
What about shorter players? Is there not room for them anymore? The answer is of course that there is room for them, but the demands on them are getting tougher. A shorter player needs to be really quick if he wants to play on a higher level. When comparing two players with the same basketball skills, speed and quickness, smartness and so on I would bet most coaches would take the player who is taller because he would for example get higher on rebounds and it would be more difficult to shoot over him. Some people might think this is unfair but I would say it’s pure competition.
But it’s not only the physical demands on the players that are significant of modern day basketball. As the game has become faster the reaction time and the time for decision-making has decreased. This is why in modern day basketball you very seldom see fakes anymore. There is simply no time to make fakes, either you are open to take the shot or you have to drive to the basket or to find the next pass. The modern players read situations before they occur and react in a flow.
Today almost every player on a team can make an open three-pointer, I would go that far and say that there must be something very unique for a player to not have a three-point shot in his repertoire. That could be for example a big guy with a great screening and post-up game and where the player can use a hand-offs when he is out on the perimeter to stay in a threat. The fact that almost everyone can make an open three-point shot puts pressure on the defense. They must go out and guard all players, which all modern day players can do, no matter if you are 180 cm or 215 cm. The defense has improved and for an offensive player to get an open shot he just has to be open enough to make a quick draw and shoot it. If he is not open, he will not get open by faking. Then he should already have gone to the basket or dribbled or passed the ball.
Passing is another very interesting subject when talking about fakes or what I prefer to say “no fakes”. In the Gold medal game in the Eurobasket ’09 the winning team Spain showed great passing skills. They passed off the dribble. They made extra passes in the air. The ball moved so fast, there was definitely no time in the world to fake a pass. In modern day basketball to set up a good pass demands more of the player with the ball. At the same time as catching the ball or attacking with a dribble the angle for the next pass must already have been set up. This can be done by the player’s body movement, how the player uses his center of gravity and where his eyes are. A good tip can be to lean up and look up when using a bounce pass and the other way around, eyes down and lean down when passing in the air.
Now I have talked a lot about the individual part of the game. How the players look, how they move, what skills they have and these areas are of course importing when trying to get a picture of a modern day basketball player. But there is another important aspect I would like to also mention. The way team plays have changed and the style of basketball in the modern day game is much more demanding for the players on both sides on the floor. The offense has changed and the static post-up game is gone. Instead the big players are involved in Hand-offs, Pick & Rolls and then getting in the post again, maybe facing up. They set screens and are constantly active. Looking at a game on a high level there could for example be five screens from one player in the same offense!
But the game has changed also the smaller players and the demands on guards and perimeter players on their ball-handling and passing skills have definitely increased. The traditional style of playing was built up with a point guard taking the ball up the floor and then setting up the offense. But with all the great defenders in the modern day basketball who can put intense pressure on the guard it’s more or less insane to rely on one player only to start the offense. Instead players on position 2 or 3 and sometimes even on position 4 take the ball up the floor ‘acting’ as playmakers in certain parts of the game.
The players have become so much better in defense. They play more intense which in many cases have increased the pressure of the team defense. One example where you get into a lot of trouble is when you let the ball go inside. Way to often the offense gets open shots from outside or hurt the defense in the paint with easy baskets or foul shots when the ball has been inside. Many teams denies the pass inside, maybe not during a whole game even though some successful teams do that, but definitely when the game is on the line it’s very uncommon that a team lets the ball be entered to the post.
Players develop their game, both in offense and in defense. They look at games on video, their own performance, they look at their opponents, they look at players in other leagues both in Europe and in America and they pick up different parts of the game that could fit into their own game. In this way players push each others to become better and better. Teams develop in the same way, different teams change things in offense or in defense to work with the players they have or players they play against. New ways of playing, new ways of solving situations that happen out on the floor push coaches to keep up with the game.
This constant development of the game is what modern day basketball is all about: to keep your eyes open, to follow trends of how the game is developing and then to take that back to your club and team, work with it, use it, and maybe find new ways of doing it. Then you are also developing the game and maybe on day you are one of many creators of ‘the modern day basketball of the future’.
Coach David Leman