Commentary

In NBA, is size overrated?

Height doesn't appear to be as important as some think, especially at two positions

Updated: June 22, 2011, 12:49 PM ET
By Tom Haberstroh | ESPN Insider
Chris PaulKent Smith/Getty ImagesChris Paul is one of several shorter point guards who have thrived in the NBA.

Height is important in basketball, probably more so than in any other major sport. That's what happens when a goal floats 10 feet in the air. When talking about prospects, a player's height is usually one of the first numbers you'll hear out of a scout's mouth. Sure, the top prospects are highly skilled but they're often the ones that tower over the competition. John Wall at 6-foot-1 is good, but John Wall at 6-4 is great. Yao Ming at 7-foot is solid, but Yao Ming at 7-6 is transcendent.

Is there a golden height for point guards? Is Dirk Nowitzki the model for power forwards, or is he merely a 7-foot fluke? How much does a shooting guard's height matter?

Looking back at all the drafted players since 1996, we can analyze the relationship between height and productivity (as measured by PER) across different positions. What did we find? Well, size does matter, but height isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Point guards

Average height: 6-foot-2
Highest average PER (minimum 10 players): 6-0 (13.5)

When you think of the prototypical point guard, who is the first person you think of? Is it Derrick Rose? Chris Paul? Or is it Penny Hardaway? Of course, point guards come in all shapes and sizes, but when we look at history, we find that little guys can make a huge impact on the game. Brevin Knight stands just 5-10 but owns the sixth-highest assist rate in league history. Paul, at 6-foot-nothing, may go down as one of the best point guards of all time. Muggsy Bogues? He'd be rejected from the majority of roller coaster rides but he averaged 10 points, 10 assists and four rebounds in 1993-94.