Five years ago, the Golden State Warriors broke the NBA record for wins in a single season when they went 73-9. What made them so special—aside from their ludicrous win streaks and selflessness on the court—was that they had a winning model that wasn't calibrated like many of the dynasties before them.
The Warriors tortured opponents with a lineup that most referred to as "small ball" while select others titled the notorious "death lineup." The San Antonio Spurs were the team other franchises aimed to look like. They'd tell themselves, "If we could just find some similar ingredients, then maybe we can match their recipe." But it's not every day that a Tim Duncan rolls into your franchise. Nor a Tony Parker or Manu Ginobili, for that matter—unless you're the 2011 Oklahoma City Thunder. (But that's beside the point.)
What's interesting is that Golden State didn't have a Tim Duncan to throw the ball to in the post when there was four seconds remaining on the shot clock. They didn't have a paint patrolling big man—unless you count Andrew Bogut, who was brilliant in his own right. Golden State had a revitalized version of the seven-second-or-less Phoenix Suns; every basketball nerd's favorite team from the 2000s that never won a championship.
The Suns were the first installment of modern hoops, and they shared a lot in common with that record-breaking Warriors group. Both teams had an offensive rating of 114.5 for their respective seasons (GSW 2015-16 and PHX 2004-05), and it was a result of having so many offensive weapons at their disposal.
Steve Nash was a two-time MVP and one of the most gifted passers the league had ever seen, but he also had the ability to score at the drop of a hat. Stephen Curry will go down in history and always be remembered for his ability to shoot the ball regardless of the situation—catch and shoot, off the dribble, between defenders' outstretched hands—but both his ability to handle the ball like Tim Hardaway and finish at the rim like Rod Strickland is what allowed him to create so much space beyond the arc.
These two small guards ultimately changed the game of basketball. However, they couldn't have done it by themselves. The lost cogs in this conversation of revolutionary teams are two brilliant big men who succeeded in two very different ways: Amar'e Stoudemire and Draymond Green.
Stoudemire was a brilliant do-it-all power forward that could imitate Blake Griffin's posterizing dunks, but also casually drill 20-foot jumpers at the same rate as Kevin Garnett. And Draymond Green was the motor-mouthed kid from Michigan State who had Dennis Rodman's grit, Charles Barkley's attitude, Gary Payton's vocabulary, and 60% of LeBron James' body and passing ability.
The 2004-05 Suns and 2015-16 Warriors were allowed to stand out because Stoudemire and Green had it all. And without anybody realizing it in the moment, they slowly became the prototype for what a modern-day big in the NBA should strive for.
So, my theory is, if you were to combine those two versions of Amar'e Stoudemire and Draymond Green, would there be a better example of a modern big man in this league? The first thing we have to do is look at what made them so special, and then assess a few big men to determine how many of the boxes they check off.
What made Draymond Green so special in 2015-16?
Push the pace. The ability to grab a rebound and go. It's the most pivotal attribute a big man can have today. Grab a rebound on the defensive end, and not having to worry about outfitting it to a guard. Once a player like Draymond gets the board, the shooters know to run to their spots as fast as they can before the defense gets set. Because if they're open, then they know he'll find them in rhythm.
Unique vision. Draymond led Golden State in assists with 7.4 per game.
Intensity. His defensive tenacity was second-to-none, anchoring a defense that finished fifth in defensive rating despite some holes on their roster on that end of the floor.
Spacing. Draymond knocked down threes at nearly a 40% clip this season (38.8% to be exact) and was unselfish enough to sacrifice his own look for a better one via Curry, Thompson or Barnes.
Matchup versatility. The ability to be a chameleon on defense while maintaining that same physical presence has been a luxury in the NBA for decades, regardless of what era. Erik Spoelstra having a super freak in LeBron James at his disposal to throw at guards, forwards, or bigs is a coach's dream. The same can be said for Phil Jackson with Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman, and of course Steve Kerr with Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala. Dray could switch screens with the best of them and stay with Damian Lillard up top just as well as he could bang down low with Karl Anthony-Towns.