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  1. #1

    Height and basketball

    [The longest thread on Sanriotown? :/]

    The height advantage in team basketball is mostly a myth. It is true in one on one basketball; the taller guy has a definite advantage. In position based team basketball, it is a different story, as guys mostly battle other guys of more or less the same height depending on their position. And if height isn't equal, some players make up for it in wingspan or vertical leap or speed.

    In the current game, the shortest players are actually the best scorers. This contradicts the myth that to play basketball, you need to be tall because the tall player can just put it in the basket with little to no effort. The shortest players will tend to have significantly lower field goal percentage shooting figures than the tallest players, but when factoring into account points from 3 point range and higher free throw percentages their actual efficiencies have negligible difference. It is still statistically significant: they have slightly worse efficiencies than the taller players. But this doesn't tell the whole story. Sometimes scoring takes initiative. Putting up more shots also decreases efficiency on the average (forcing shots) and the reverse is true for conservative shooting (the less shots you take, the higher your percentages as shot selection is better). It could be that the more efficient shots are simply not there and if the guard doesn't shoot it from range it will be a shot clock violation and turnover.

    CORRECTION: In 2016, the shortest players weren't the most scoring efficient. In 1996, they were. So it ebbs and flows...

    And this is not just a modern trend, either. The shorter player today is scoring more than he did 20 years ago, but the overall worth in terms of points differential of the shortest players was equal to that of the tallest players in 2016 as it was back in 1996. The core difference is the middle height players (Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James...): they have always been more dominant than the shortest and the tallest players, but in the modern game the difference is narrowing. Furthermore, these middle height players are being played less now possibly because they are injury prone or have less energy.

    CORRECTION: Whilst the points differential favours the middle height players, there are indications this is due to the bench suggesting that they are doing better simply because they are on better teams, and that quality teams are not taking as much of a chance on the shorter players.

    In terms of average points deficit, 6 assists (common amongst shorter players but a few medium sized players as well) or more is equal to 15 rebounds or more (a taller attribute). Therefore, a fairly common moderate passer is more valuable to the team than a rare great rebounder. One for one (10 rebounds to 10 assists) assists wins out by a factor of 2:1.

    As for the notion that the taller player has a defensive advantage in team basketball with his ability to shot block (higher amongst centres), the numbers show on the average a shot block is worth more than a steal (higher amongst guards), but it also shows on the average it is position based. A guard who blocks is worth far less than a guard who steals and a centre or power forward who steals is worth far less than such a player who blocks (possibly because in forcing it they are incuring more fouls). It also shows on the average even a rare 7 blocks is not equal to the advantage of 10 assists. Furthermore, blocks are also not necessary a negative thing. If you were embarassed about going in close and having your shot swatted away, bare in mind that for every such embarassment there is a chance of drawing a shooting foul.

    Guards (the shortest players on court) actually have a defensive title because they stop fast breaks after a defensive rebound. They protect the prospect of an easy 2 on turnover of the ball, and speed is just as much an advantage in stopping these fast breaks as height is stopping a shot from going in near the basket. So the shorter player who tends to be the faster player does have an intrinsic defensive value. You wouldn't have a 7 foot centre playing point guard, just as you wouldn't have a 5 footer playing centre.

    Even though really short NBA players are rare, many of them were great players. The shortest such player was Tyrone "Muggsy" Bogues, who was drafted 12th overall in 1986 (the 12th best player in the draft) at just 5'3". He was a starter throughout most of his career, and although his scoring numbers and stats in general were fairly average (not shoddy), his assist:turnover ratio is the best in league history. The only player to be given a chance at that height not only held his ground against taller players but also happened to be the best who ever played in a certain statistical field.

    Other short players also were in the top half of the league, including 5'5" Earl Boykins and 5'7" Anthony "Spud" Webb, while two players were/are among the top in the league: Calvin Murphy and Isaiah Thomas both at 5'9". Isaiah Thomas (who is the shortest player playing from just under 500) is in my estimation in the top 5 in 2017. Basically anyone who was given a chance who was below average height proved his worth.

    While heights are significantly above average compared to the general population for even the average point guard, this is more to do with prejudicial assumptions about the value of shorter players. Even in college basketball, no one is comparable to Muggsy Bogues' height, while Isaiah Thomas was drafted very last in the NBA draft, struggled to get quality minutes and has been kicked about from team to team. Despite shorter players showing time and again they can compete, few still want to take the risk on them. Another reason might be because of the showmanship of having players who can dunk the basketball.

    Some of the most dominant tall players were also significantly shorter than their positional counterparts. This includes Charles Barkley who outmuscled power forwards and centres over half a foot taller than him and Dennis Rodman who outrebounded everyone in the modern game. Even though at 6'7" Rodman may seem quite tall, he was outrebounding people who were 7'2" or taller (over 7 inches taller).

    No one should be intimidated because of their height to play team basketball. Netball is the girls version of the sport (it is actually far closer to historic basketball) and I don't know if it's equally true there or not. It does seem as though dribbling might open up an advantage to shorter players more than it would the absence of it in Netball. The few players who get through the cracks and get to play on the most important stage have shown that height isn't as important as we think it is in team basketball, but few are paying any attention at the schooling level. Children should not be discouraged!

    Some data to back up my claims. Sorted by above average, average and below average height:

    Code:
    DATE/GAME           HGT    DIFF     +/-     MINS    FGM    FGA    3PM    3PA    FTM    FTA    ORB    DRB    TRB    AST    STL    BLK    TOV    PFS    PTS
                                 ON     OFF    MINS%   FGM%   FGA%   3PM%   3PA%   FTM%   PTS%   ORB%   DRB%   TRB%   AST%   STL%   BLK%   AST:   FTA:   SCORE EFF
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    [>82]                      -0.1    -0.2    22:22    3.8    7.5    0.2    0.6    1.9    2.7    1.9    4.6    6.5    1.3    0.6    1.0    1.3    2.3    9.7 
     2300-2365 [49.30%]       -.007   -.010    46.25  50.82   8.92  33.15   8.45  68.29  19.14   4.28  10.46   7.38   1.33   0.62   1.03   1.01   4.92  1.094 +.027
    
                                      [TEAM:   48:22  38.3/84.3=45.4, 8.4/23.7=35,17.6/23.2=76.0 10.3   33.4   43.7   22.5    7.8    5.0   13.8   20.2  102.5
                                        OPP:   48:22  38.3/84.7=45.2, 8.5/24.3=35,17.5/23.2=75.5 10.4   33.3   43.7   22.4    7.9    4.9   13.8   20.2  102.6]
    
    [78:82]                    +0.3    +0.1    22:00    3.3    7.4    0.8    2.3    1.5    2.0    1.0    3.2    4.2    1.6    0.7    0.4    1.1    1.9    9.0 
     6628-6499 [50.49%]       +.003   -.004    45.54  45.02   8.75  35.26  30.83  75.55  16.64   2.27   7.24   4.75   1.58   0.71   0.46   1.42   4.56  1.068 +.001
    
                                      [TEAM:   48:20  38.3/84.6=45.3, 8.5/24.0=36,17.6/23.2=75.7 10.4   33.3   43.8   22.3    7.9    5.0   13.8   20.3  102.7
                                        OPP:   48:20  38.1/84.4=45.2, 8.4/23.8=35,17.7/23.4=75.6 10.3   33.2   43.6   22.2    7.9    4.9   13.8   20.2  102.4]
    
    [<78]                      +0.0    -0.0    24:20    3.9    9.2    1.1    3.2    1.8    2.3    0.5    2.3    2.8    3.4    0.9    0.2    1.6    1.8   10.8 
     4145-4141 [50.02%]       -.001   -.004    50.32  42.87  10.82  35.74  34.71  80.81  17.01   1.07   5.27   3.17   3.47   0.95   0.21   2.10   4.48  1.052 -.018
    
                                      [TEAM:   48:21  38.2/84.6=45.2, 8.7/24.5=35,17.8/23.5=75.6 10.3   33.4   43.7   22.3    7.9    4.9   13.7   20.3  102.9
                                        OPP:   48:21  38.3/84.7=45.2, 8.6/24.2=35,17.7/23.4=75.6 10.5   33.5   44.0   22.3    7.8    4.9   13.9   20.4  102.9]

    The last column shows that in 2015-16, the below average height players scored an average of 10.8 PPG compared with the average height and above average height players of 9.1 PPG. This was before the breakout seasons of Isaiah Thomas and Russell Westbrook. Even though still tall (the below average height starts at 6'4" and under) if height was such an incredible impediment in position based team basketball, why are the shorter guys dominating scoring?
    Last edited by dwayne2004@hellokitty.com; 09-25-2017 at 07:41 PM.

  2. #2
    As for the ugly discussion re. the Isaiah Thomas/Kyrie Irving trade, the arguments were that Isaiah couldn't defend a shot for the life of him while Kyrie could because of his height based on theory and assumptions. Here's how those players actually rank in terms of opponents field goal percentage in 2016-17 (opponent shooting percentage/expected percentage/difference before rounding):

    Code:
    REGULAR SEASON
    
    1.  John Wall (6'4"):		 	42.9 	44.5 	-1.6 	(78 games)
    2.  Mike Conley (6'1"): 	 	44.6 	45.1 	-0.5 	(69 games)
    3.  Kemba Walker (6'1"):	 	44.7 	44.8 	-0.1 	(79 games)
    4.  Stephen Curry (6'3"):	 	44.4 	44.3 	+0.0 	(79 games)
    5.  James Harden (6'5"):	 	46.1 	45.0 	+1.0 	(81 games)
    6.  Isaiah Thomas (5'9"):	 	45.5 	44.3 	+1.2 	(76 games)
    7.  Chris Paul (6'0"):		 	46.2 	44.9 	+1.2 	(61 games)
    8.  Damian Lillard (6'3"):	 	45.6 	44.1 	+1.5 	(75 games)
    9.  Kyle Lowry (6'0"):		 	47.1 	44.5 	+2.6 	(60 games)
    10. Russell Westbrook (6'3"):    	48.6 	45.2 	+3.4 	(81 games)
    11. Kyrie Irving (6'3"): 	 	49.9 	44.7 	+5.2 	(72 games)
    
    PLAYOFFS
    
    1.  James Harden (6'5"):	 	35.7 	45.3 	-9.6 	(11 games)
    2.  Mike Conley (6'1"): 		36.8 	46.1 	-9.3 	(6 games)
    3.  Russell Westbrook (6'3"):    	40.6 	45.9 	-5.3 	(5 games)
    4.  Stephen Curry (6'3"):	 	39.3 	43.8 	-4.5 	(17 games)
    5.  Kyle Lowry (6'0"):		 	41.9 	46.3 	-4.5 	(8 games)
    6.  Kyrie Irving (6'3"): 	 	43.7 	46.3 	-2.7 	(18 games)
    7.  John Wall (6'4"):		 	42.4 	44.6 	-2.2 	(13 games)
    8.  Isaiah Thomas (5'9"):	 	44.7 	45.5 	-0.8 	(15 games)
    9.  Damian Lillard (6'3"):	 	51.2 	49.8 	+1.3 	(4 games)
    10. Chris Paul (6'0"):		 	50.0 	46.4 	+3.6 	(7 games)
    N/A Kemba Walker (6'1")

    So Isaiah was middle of the pack, and way about Kyrie during the regular season. The playoffs are highly unreliable for comparison due to the fact they occur over series with very different teams and due to the limited number of games may depend more on whether the opposing guard is on his or off his offensive game. But both players actually saw an improvement post-season and were better than average.

    The fact is, a body in the way of a defender prevents a player from getting a good shot. An arm prevents a set shot. He may eventually see over his arm on ascending for a jump shot, but the increase in percentage is negligible when dealing with shots from range. Even were there a Kyrie Irving like deficit, the difference is negigible. 5% more made baskets over the course of a game (around 10 attempts) equals 1-1.5 points conceded on average, a deficit a player can easily make amends for in other departments.

    UPDATE: Data for the 2016-17 regular season shows below average height players dominated scoring again:

    Code:
    DATE/GAME           HGT    DIFF     +/-     MINS    FGM    FGA    3PM    3PA    FTM    FTA    ORB    DRB    TRB    AST    STL    BLK    TOV    PFS    PTS
                                 ON     OFF    MINS%   FGM%   FGA%   3PM%   3PA%   FTM%   PTS%   ORB%   DRB%   TRB%   AST%   STL%   BLK%   AST:   FTA:   SCORE EFF
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    2016-17
    [>82]                      -0.2    -0.0    21:45    3.8    7.4    0.4    1.0    1.7    2.5    1.8    4.5    6.3    1.3    0.6    0.9    1.2    2.3    9.7 
     2359-2416 [49.40%]       -.001   +.005    45.01  51.41   8.71  34.93  13.85  69.53  17.70   4.15  10.28   7.21   1.35   0.63   0.93   1.07   4.82  1.121 +.038
    
                                      [TEAM:   48:19  38.9/85.2=45.7, 9.4/26.4=36,17.8/22.9=77.5 10.1   33.2   43.3   22.6    7.7    4.8   13.4   19.8  105.0
                                        OPP:   48:19  38.9/85.1=45.7, 9.7/27.1=36,17.7/22.9=77.1 10.1   33.3   43.4   22.6    7.7    4.7   13.5   19.8  105.2]
    
    [78:82]                    +0.2    +0.0    22:15    3.4    7.5    0.9    2.5    1.5    2.0    0.9    3.2    4.1    1.6    0.7    0.4    1.1    1.8    9.2 
     6645-6482 [50.62%]       +.002   -.005    46.07  45.47   8.78  35.37  33.86  76.87  16.28   2.17   7.27   4.72   1.61   0.71   0.44   1.49   4.47  1.088 -.003
    
                                      [TEAM:   48:18  39.1/85.4=45.8, 9.7/27.2=36,17.8/23.0=77.1 10.2   33.4   43.6   22.8    7.7    4.8   13.5   19.9  105.7
                                        OPP:   48:18  39.1/85.5=45.7, 9.6/26.9=36,17.8/23.1=77.2 10.2   33.3   43.5   22.6    7.8    4.7   13.4   19.9  105.5]
    
    [<78]                      -0.2    -0.1    24:06    4.0    9.3    1.2    3.4    1.9    2.4    0.5    2.3    2.8    3.5    0.8    0.2    1.6    1.7   11.2 
     4055-4181 [49.24%]       -.003   +.003    49.88  43.40  10.83  36.35  36.96  82.25  17.29   1.11   5.37   3.23   3.49   0.88   0.22   2.19   4.36  1.075 -.014
    
                                      [TEAM:   48:18  39.0/85.5=45.7, 9.7/27.0=36,17.8/23.0=77.2 10.1   33.3   43.4   22.6    7.7    4.7   13.3   19.9  105.5
                                        OPP:   48:18  39.1/85.3=45.8, 9.7/27.1=36,17.8/23.1=77.2 10.1   33.5   43.6   22.7    7.7    4.8   13.4   19.9  105.7]
    Last edited by dwayne2004@hellokitty.com; 09-25-2017 at 07:42 PM.

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