Redefining the NBA Unicorn

“Unicorn” is up there with “the new normal” and “positionless basketball” as far as words I’d love to see erased from my brain. Any big guy with guard skills is dubbed a unicorn, and we’re sure the NBA is a mythical universe full of elves, dragons, and wizards. OK, technically the wizards have a unicorn, but we’re not sure how long the glue will keep the horn attached.

This unicorn legend is misleading. There is a big difference between a big man with guard skills and a big man with guard skills who moves like a guard. When you classify every tall man as a unicorn, the term loses its impact.

when the movement just started, Kristaps Porzies, Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Davis, Joel Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Nikola Jokic were all awarded distinctions. Today, there’s a unicorn on every block, and I’m having a hard time understanding why Starbucks coffee was so great in the first place.

We were so quick to use the term unicorn that every 7-footer with a jumper automatically qualified, and I’m not sure how many of those original six still fit my definition of a unicorn.

So I think we need to be more rigorous when doling out roses as the league is seeing an influx of skilled big men, and lumping them all together is confusing and generates NBA groupthink (aka NBA Twitter). Is. And if you’re following along, groupthink is largely a bad thing and destroys individuality, creativity, and NBA Twitter for that matter.

So entertain me as I try to convince you that you’re 5 years old while we take a look at who coined the term, who deserves the distinction, how unicorns fluctuate Happens, and if we should retire the term altogether.

Origin of the Unicorn

My research points to Kevin Durant as the originator of the term unicorn (and of course, he takes full credit for, KD used it to describe Porzinias, and it not only stuck but Blasted in attack, The funny thing is, unicorns have been around for a while, we haven’t had a word for them, and ironically, I think Durant and Dirk Nowitzki were the godfathers of the movement.

Durant defined the term in broad strokes to suggest that Zinger was unique. While I agree, I think we need to take it a step further, and look at unicorns as grown ups that guard but are grown up.

Durant and Nowitzki are unicorns in my mind because of how fast and agile they are for their size. If you ask Peek Dirk and Durant to do a quick simulation, almost out-of-control stepback three That Damian Lillard shoots, they may not be able to do it at Dame’s speed, but the motion will be quick and fluid relative to his frame.

Now consider the fadeways of Joel Embiid or Nikola Jokic. Those shots take longer to assemble and fire. They are obviously big guys, but I would argue that we have seen centers with similar body types in the NBA before. Embiid reminds me of a young Patrick Ewing, but I still think Ewing’s first step was a little too fast.

I laugh whenever an announcer points out that Joker has developed the Dirk One-Legged Fadeaway. It’s not just lazy because both Europeans are big, it’s extremely offensive to Dirk, who was a true unicorn. Young Dirk and even Prime Dirk moved much better than Jokic, and that move was institutional. The Mavericks did their damn thing on the court.

Jokic shoots shots that disappear so slowly you could smoke a whole hog in the time it takes the Nuggets’ center to go from initiation to release.

Now, I know the main takeaway from the title and art is, “Deadspin writer says Jokic is not a unicorn,” which is correct, but I never said he was bad. You can be an MVP and not a unicorn.

So in an effort not to get fucking destroyed by NBA groupthink, allow me to further explain what I think a unicorn should be.

The ages have decided who is a unicorn and who is not

I’ve mentioned it 15 million times, but I define a unicorn as a big man with guard skills who moves like a guard. There are a few reasons why this distinction is important. The first is for my mental health because listening to “Unicorn” 17 million times in the lead up to the draft is confusing as hell. The second reason is that we are going to be flooded with big men with guard skills, and the whole point of calling a player a unicorn is that the mythical beast is extremely rare and difficult to find even in the realm of fantasy.

We didn’t stumble into the land of the unicorn; We’re in a totally different era of hoops. Positional basketball has it to thank, and it’s about time coaches figure out that any argument against building a versatile skill set is misplaced.

While the NBA hasn’t always had unicorns because the old school system was rigid in player roles, it has had people who could have been unicorns with a more progressive outlook. Hakeem Olajuwon, young David Robinson, and starting Shaquille O’Neal were all the kind of athletes who moved like gazelles for their size.

We know about Dream Shake. The Admiral scored 71 points in a game when it was really hard to do so. Who knows if Shaq could ever develop the guard skills to start from the perimeter, but I think those who call Antetokounmpo the modern Shaq are onto something.

While Giannis may not be able to shoot with the efficiency of a guard, he certainly moves like one. i mean he jumped a new york knife in a game, think about it Block against Phoenix in the NBA Finals, How many players in the history of basketball can make those plays? The answer is like five people, maybe.

We may never have seen a center that could pass like Jokic, but there have been comparable visionaries, and I don’t think I’m out of line when I say that Jokic’s body type isn’t unique to the NBA. There is nothing physically hindering Antetokounmpo from passing the ball as well as Joker. The Greek itself is a very good distributor; He doesn’t have a sixth sense like Jokic, Magic Johnson, or Larry Bird.

That said, Jokic and Embiid will never be able to do like Giannis. I don’t even need to ask if Embiid or Jokich can jump over a player to finish the lob in transition. I know the answer. The only question is, who feels bad about trying to do it?

Speaking of injuries…

A unicorn can lose its luster with age or injury.

This brings me back to Porzinis, who was a unicorn during his prime in New York. The guy ran fluidly for his size and was devastating on defense. Now, after a bunch of injuries, he’s only 7 feet with guard skills. Wizards fans (and maybe KD) may protest when I say it, but after a few scotches, they’ll admit that this Zinger is not the same guy who was briefly King of New York.

The Washington Porzies late-ish phase is reminiscent of Nowitzki when he couldn’t move his feet fast enough to stay in front of smaller players, but he had the beautiful footwork and length to be a bucket. Although Porzisis remains effective as a scorer and is producing his best as a professional, he is not the wonder beast capable of changing the league landscape, like the old Dirk.

We’ve only looked at the ages of a few unicorns so the data is inconclusive. They can turn into big men with the skill set of a guard, as when Sam Perkins drove three-pointers at the three-point line toward the end of his career, or be able to defy Father Time, like Durant. .

While KD has also been hit by injuries, he always starts from where he left off. Brown has shown at times this season how effective he can be when healthy, but people have noticed that he isn’t running like New Orleans Davis. His unicorn-ness has been tarnished, and I’m not sure he’s one of the five guys Giannis could advance down the final block.

Earlier in the year, I wrote that the focus should be on Davis keeps getting tighter and tighter as he gets older Because the age of a heavy big man is not the biggest. Despite showing us that he can lift weights and still dominate, he hasn’t been able to do it consistently, and I have a feeling some Kareem Abdul-Jabbar yoga sessions and diet protein shakes will help more than he chews.

That’s why I’m fascinated by the prospect of Antetokounmpo seven years from now. My guess is he’ll still be a world-class athlete by any measure, but will the physical decline be enough to explain some of his weaknesses? This is where Jokic and Embiid have the upper hand because their effectiveness is not based on quickness and explosiveness. So in theory, their games should age better. their bodies? I don’t know that.

Embiid and Jokic are the next evolution of centers in the NBA, but they are not unicorns. They come to their position because they are not positionless. The only way they don’t occupy the middle is if Mike Malone or Doc Rivers super-size the lineup, are drunk, or both.

An Argument to End the Unicorn Argument

My personal motivation for asking the art department to transform Jokic into a hippo was that I thought it would be hysterical and present vinegar/bong water to Nuggets fans. (Screw you, Dale!) The altruistic and more pervasive motivation is whether or not labeling players in the NBA should be more fun than unicorns. Everyone deserves their own spirit animal.

he is a She goathe’s a unicorn, he’s a tarantula, he’s a Octopus (Or is it a Claw?) Well, Joker reminds me of one of those the hippo that dances Anastasia, He gives us artistry in a simple vehicle. He is slow, but elegant. No movement is wasted because it cannot expend energy.

Also, hippos are one of those deadliest animal on the planet And if you don’t pay attention, I’ll cut you in half. Pablo Escobar’s Former Pets Are Now Considered An invasive species in Colombia, but it doesn’t really work for this analogy because you can’t call the aliens an “invasive species”, even though they are slowly taking over the league. (The last hippo fact, apparently only a small percentage of males ever breed, so they may be promiscuous for other, more subdued reasons.)

When a unicorn is on the floor, you know it. It is amazing for Giannis to take three dribbles from halfcourt to the hoop, even though he does it regularly. He is constantly blowing our senses because this will never be normal. I feel the same way about watching KD crossover hapless wing defenders and get up for a 17-footer than he does a 7-footer Devin Booker.

Not so in the case of Embiid. Sure, he’s doing things that aren’t usually seen from big guys, but his size and body type make him an established cannon. It is not inconceivable that a center with a similar frame could do what he does with an open-minded coaching staff.

I’ve never seen a player with Chet Holmgren’s body do what we think Chet can do. Now, Chet is not Giannis because no one is Giannis, but both are from the same intellectual property. Shit, upcoming No. 1 overall draft pick Victor Vembanayama is from outer space if lebron james had to be believed,

I hesitate to give LeBron credit for anything but praise him for not going straight to unicorn – even though his choice was outrageous. dash, We (mostly) need more such leadership and forward thinking. At least until NBA groupthink co-opts “alien”, and I have to write another 2,000-word ambling research paper arguing that not every 8-foot center is an “alien” and That time is really on a never ending loop.