Posted on 27 August, 2020 by Dimitrije Curcic
“You can’t teach height” – Red Auerbach
We spent 2 months analyzing 24,489 records of 4,379 NBA players during 69 NBA seasons in order to show how the game of basketball evolved through the evolution of players’ height.
Special note to Kirk Goldsberry, whose book “Sprawlball” inspired the creation of this research. This article is a height spinoff of “Sprawlball”.
Sprawlball is about how pro basketball used to be about getting to the basket, but is now about dispersing most of your players out past the three point line.
… 1. Height and weight throughout NBA history
The average NBA height is 6’6’’, which is the lowest over the past 40 years. The last decade was the first in the history of the league where NBA players got shorter than a decade before.
NBA point guards are 6’3’’ tall, tallest they’ve ever been.
All other positions (shooting guards, small forwards, power forwards, and centers) are the shortest since the early 80s.
… The ideal concept of the small-ball game is having 5 guys with the same physical attributes and skillset – this is positionless basketball at its peak.
In the future, every NBA player will be a 6′-6″ 215 pound shooting forward. No more Manute Bols or Muggsy Bogueses.
So it’s not strange that 61% of the NBA players are within 6 inches, standing between 6’3’’ and 6’9’’. All other height ranges are in decline.
Also, 72% of the league is under 6’9’’.
… Similarly, 46% of NBA players taller than 6’9’’ are international players, and foreign 7-footers are accounting for 53% of league total. This data clearly shows that international big-men are still one of the most valuable assets from NBA teams.
Over the years, big men coming from abroad, particularly from Europe, have proved to be more skillful with the ball in their hands. They’re educated to play a team basketball, share the ball and learn to read the game.
This is visible on the charts – since the new millennia, when the centers slowly but surely started getting more involved in the flow of the game, by setting pick&rolls and “migrating” outside of the paint, they needed to develop a new skill set, one that the European centers already possessed. In some way, it was the international big men who made the small-ball revolution possible.
Lots more charts here.