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Size matters: the evolution of the NBA big man

A new generation of seven-footers has shifted the balance of power in the NBA from the shorter guys – but are these changes good for the game?

Last week, late in the first quarter of an NBA game in Detroit, Michigan, Myles Turner, the Indiana Pacers’s 20-year-old 6ft 11in center, popped out to the top of the three-point line and hit a 25ft jump shot with an arc so high the cameraman had to raise the viewing angle to follow it. Less than a minute later, he hit another one from the same spot. Both shots were so smooth that neither of them even skimmed the rim. The field goals were no anomaly. Turner is shooting 41% from the three-point line, well above the league average of 35%.

More than a thousand miles west in Denver, Colorado, Nikola Jokic, the Denver Nuggets’ 21-year-old 6ft 10in center, stood with his back to the basket, 15ft away, and threw a no-look, over-the-shoulder pass to a cutting team-mate for a wide-open lay-up. The pass, more common in a Harlem Globetrotters game than an NBA one, was nothing new for Jokic. A three-minute YouTube compilation posted to the site last month highlights dozens of them. “Jokic actually has some flair,” said former NBA coach George Karl, whose memoir about his life in basketball, Furious George, was published this week. “He throws some balls that only guards think about throwing.”

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