Positionless hoops the future of the NBA

Giannis Antetokounmpo is the Bucks’ jack of all trades. Photo via NBA.com.

It’s easy to see that the NBA landscape is quickly changing.

More and more, teams are disregarding traditional positions. Lineups are seeing more three-guard sets. Big men are chucking up threes. So called unicorns are demonstrating the skills of floor generals and centers alike.

As positions continue to break down in the NBA, the leading example of this trend resides in Milwaukee.

Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo is an anomaly; a player whose combination of size, basketball IQ and playstyle has no true comparison.

Antetokounmpo towers at 6-feet, 11-inches in height.With a wingspan four inches longer than that, he is as lengthy as any player could dream.

Hearing just these metrics, one would expect Antetokounmpo to player center, or perhaps power forward, but the “Greek Freak” is the starting point guard of his team.

Antetokounmpo is putting up a remarkable 23.4 points per game, 8.6 boards, 5.6 assists, 1.8 steals, and 2.1 blocks, which all lead his team.

Players like Antetokounmpo are starting to dot NBA rosters, and although they may not have the same level of versatility and dominance as the 22-year-old, there are some very clear similarities.

These players usually have the height of centers but display the skills and agility of guards and wings.

Looking toward the New York Knicks, second-year stud Kristaps Porzingis has been a strong paint protector and scorer in the post, yet the 7-foot, 3-inch Latvian is tied for 25th in the league for three-point shots made.

This puts him ahead of seasoned veterans like Kevin Durant and Paul George, who are both lanky, versatile players in their own right, but simply do not have the same length as Porzingis.

Porzingis is not the first to be doing this, but he is a trailblazer in evaporating the stigma that big men should be limited to the paint.

Bigs are evolving by expanding their range, and as other centers and power forwards such as Marc Gasol, Brook Lopez and Al Horford show their range from deep, the line blurs between centers, forwards and guards.

Not only are centers and power forwards expanding their range, but they are now putting their ball handling abilities on display as well.

Young seven-footers like Karl-Anthony Towns and Joel Embiid are in their second and first years, respectively, but are playing unlike most others their size.

The two are showing ball handling, quickness and agility typically exclusive to guards and some forwards. Embiid has even said he wants to be a point guard by the end of his career.

Their ability to handle and shoot the ball makes the difference between centers and other positions thinner than it has ever been.

This continues to flatten out the diversity among players in the NBA, a trend where players are starting to be grouped less by their position or height, and more by their skill and versatility.

This creates the perfect transition for the league as it approaches a point where lineups may be set by chemistry and skill with less focus on players meeting a certain role of a specific position.

Players will likely not be defined by their position simply because the likes of Antetokounmpo and others have enough athleticism, skill and talent that listing them at a position would not be an accurate way to describe them and their roles.

Although positions will always exist, the next generation of NBA stars is not letting that define their games.

Kyle Kasharian is a business major from Green, N.J. He can be reached at kyle.kasharian@student.shu.edu or on Twitter @ItsKyleKash.

Author: Kyle Kasharian

Kyle Kasharian attends Seton Hall University where he studies business with a concentration in Finance. In addition to serving as the Assistant Sports Editor of the Setonian, Kasharian is a Peer Adviser with Freshman Studies and the Co-Secretary of ALPFA, a campus business club. He aspires to cover his favorite basketball team, the Sacramento Kings, someday. Until then, you can keep up with him on his Twitter @itskylekash.

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