The Athleticism Mantra

Preliminary note: English is not my native language, i certainly will struggle here and there, but i am sure you guys give me a chance, right? :)


If you don't get excited seeing a young greek kid defending centers and then running the offense against the opposing team's point guard, you might... well, you might just be Charles Barkley, but hands down, Point Giannis should at least put a little smile on the faces of diehard Basketball traditionalists and old men yelling at clouds given his combination of measures and skill and the promise of the player he could become.

There is also nothing wrong with being fascinated by watching Team USA at the Rio Olympics and immediately thinking of Space Jam's Monstars, just without Muggsy and well, this time winning.

The athleticism of modern NBA players is just that, fascinating and big-time fun... and neither do i want to convince you of the opposite nor do i want to point to some big warning signs i sense. If today's NBA General Managers want to gamble in the Draft, they look at measures and athleticism, hoping for a chance that pure basketball skill and IQ can develope accordingly on the run. And it makes sense.

But wouldn't it be perfunctory to not discuss possible drawbacks of this modern day NBA athleticism mantra? I think so and i'm very interested in what you guys think!

Let me start with an analogy. 10-15 years ago, german football/soccer was on its knees and the core problem quickly was identified as youth schooling and development (but also coach education, but this just ruins my narrative here haha). Before that, the pressure on youth coaches to win was immense which often lead to privileging physically gifted and far-developed players. At that time, a young skinny kid got sorted out because of that at Borussia Dortmund... who now will be on the cover of the upcoming EA Sports FIFA series and who made it back to his home club for a fee of 20 Mio € - Marco Reus. Germany now is reigning world champion.

The same problem can be spotted in the english Premier League, although the change of thinking came years later and still to this day gets undermined by the massive financial power of the league – it's just easier to buy a solid international player in his prime than to go all-in on a homegrown talent with possibly more upside and allow him to make mistakes during his development.

Players with a special kind of finesse very often developed it to bypass their supposed boundaries – may it be court vision, passing, post-game, shooting as a big etc..

How many fantastic players do we miss out on because the development system(s) is/are really cut-throat and über-professionalized even in the early stages? And does the mentioned "athleticism mantra" even lift it to a whole new level? I tend to think so and i do not think a discussion a la "... but Isaiah Thomas" countered by "Exceptions confirm the rule" really helps to explore the topic.

I'm very interested in your opinions!


I see two big cornerstones on the horizon which will lead to a healthy balance or already do so to a degree. The globalization of the NBA (and the digital revolution) leads to players no longer being out of sight when they decide to play internationally, it is no longer D-League or gone. The scouts are everywhere nowadays. Undrafted players will get responsible roles abroad way earlier which is a huge chance to grow, personally and as a player, as is leaving the comfort zone and getting to know new cultures.

Parallel, i'm quite excited to think about in which direction the D-League could develope. More and more teams have their own affiliate. The contract system could – and i think will - change in future, so that promising prospects are closer tied to their franchise while having the benefit of room to grow in the D-League. Less randomness, more real focus, more own ressources for NBA teams. To a certain degree more real homegrown talent like in international sports (where there are strong ties from grass-root to the professional level) without eliminating the thrill and insanity of the US draft system. And so much more to enjoy for us fans.

All comments are the opinion of the commenter and not necessarily that of SLC Dunk or SB Nation.