A couple of years ago I wrote an article about effective height in basketball. My contention was that the heights listed in the team program hardly told the whole story. In the first place they are often outright lies, but more to the point basketball is not played with the top of the head. Where the rubber meets the flesh is typically the tips of the fingers. Standing reach is a much more reasonable measure to compare where different players will be able to place those digital deflectors. Which brings us to the measurements taken at the draft combine, which provide some insights that are quite intriguing.
Dateline: August 3, 2012–58 days until the start of training camp!
All but the most casual fans have probably noted that the differences between the with- and without-shoes heights vary from .75” to over 1.5”. Considering the $’s involved in draft position, I have occasionally pictured a player (Big Baby comes to mind) showing up in platform tennis for tape measure day. If they did them back in Dennis Rodman’s day, he might have showed up in 6-inch flubber stilettos. But I digress. I would like to call your attention to some other nuggets from the measurements history that have a major impact on whether a player makes the play or comes up just short.
Players spend most of their time not in the air. When challenging a shot or pass, or corralling a carom, often the feet never leave the ground. Standing reach is a metric that sets a limit on how high an earthbound player can put a body part in play. Similarly the wingspan sets limits on how much interference a defender can impose on a passer. The agility and sprint numbers provide good comparative numbers to assess how likely it will be that a player can get/keep themselves in position to employ those long reaches to impact a play.
Since I follow college basketball only sporadically, my pre-draft activities involve a lot of scouting reports, and the combine measurements. Of course there are still the other, and most important factors. Things like exactly when a player recognizes the need to move, anticipates a pass or rim bounce, “feels” his matchup beginning to move after a shot is released or to make a cut, solves the pursuit angle, sees the screen setting up, knows the team/player tendencies, or is aware of the shot clock. But so far they haven’t devised tests, or metrics, for those—so we work with what we have. And the coaches and GM’s weigh in the thousands of hours of recordings, often back into high or middle school, and try to extrapolate to higher levels of opposition or estimate progression curves.
For us fan(atic)s, some of whom hold down non-NBA jobs and home lives, the nuggets we can glean from combine results will have to suffice for us to make our totally meaningless, except to us, appraisals of the prospects to be drafted. And after the draft we then rush to our resources to ascertain what diamonds in the rough, or fruit rapidly turning rancid, were acquired.
With that as a setting, let’s take a look at some Celtic centric data from the combine measurements.
From DraftExpress measurements history (with apologies for the formatting which will be terrible for this raw data):
Name__ Ht w/o Height Wt Wing Reach BdFt HL HW NSVert Rch MxV MxVR B Aglty Sprnt Rnk Drft
Fab Melo 6′ 10.75″__7′ 0”_255_7′ 2.5″_9′ 2″__9.2___9__10__29.5_11′ 7.5″_31.0_11′ 9″_9_12.14__3.44_NA-22
Sullinger 6’7.75″__6′ 9″_268_7′ 1.25″_8′ 9.5″_10.7_9.25_9.75_29.5_11′ 3″_31.0_11’4.5″_9_12.77_3.81_NA_21
Kris Joseph 6′ 6″__6′ 7″_215_6′ 11″___8′ 8″__8.6___9___9__28.5_11′ 0.5″_35.0_11′ 7″_6__NA__ 3.46_NA_51
I focus on the no-step vertical for centers since they usually don’t get a running jump for rebounding, blocks, or dunks. Some numbers for Melo and centers drafted before and after:
Miles Plumlee__8’9.5”____7’0.75”___ 34.0_____10.64___3.36
Andre Drummond 9’1.5”__7’6.25”____31.5_____10.83___3.39
Fab fares well in effective height but his speed and quickness numbers were disappointing for a former soccer player. After watching him in Summer League it appears to me that he has good agility but is not in top shape. Let’s just say that conditioning should be added to his “needs work” list along with most basketball skills, both individual and team. I like the raw tools—with a superior work ethic I think he can become a superior player.
Oddly the listed height for Sullinger is 1.5” taller than Brandon Bass (6’7.75” to 6’6.25”) but his standing reach is an inch shorter. However Sully’s 8’9.5” is the same as Plumlee and an inch more than Zeller—so perhaps him serving up some minutes at center is not so farfetched. Kris Joseph is some 2” shorter than Sullinger, his reach 1.5” shorter, his vertical jump 1” less, but his running jump four inches greater. That seems relevant since Joseph is much more likely to be approaching the boards on the run.
Dionte Christian has that no-neck look that suggests little of his height (6’.25”) is wasted in mounting his arms for maximum reach. His standing reach is 8’6”. Players drafted (draft position in parentheses after name) this year with similar height (+/- 1 inch) but less standing reach include Kendall Marshall (13), Bradley Beal (3), Doron Lamb (42), John Jenkins (23), Kim English (44), Austin Rivers (10), Jared Cunningham (24), Orlando Johnson (36), Tony Wroten (25), and Kevin Murphy (47); while the only similar draftees with greater standing reach were Will Barton (40) and Jae Crowder (34). As another comparison I took all players over 6’4” and under 6’4.5” with combine standing reach measurements (mostly this century) and counted those with greater vs. less. Dionte’s reach would be in about the 64th percentile (raw data: of players 6’4”+ to 6’4.9” there were 39 under 8’6” and 22 over 8’6” standing reach).
It seems appropriate to conclude with a mention of Glen Davis who doesn’t have combine measurements but certainly appeared to have T-Rex arms giving him a short reach to go with his minimal vertical. When you are talking about the effective height of basketball players it makes sense to consider that positioning, balance, agility, and standing reach are major factors; perhaps as significant as head-top height and vertical leap. It really doesn’t matter much how high your feet are off the ground, or your head and shoulders, so much as how high are your finger tips and are they between the ball and the basket, or player receiving a pass, or contending for a rebound.
Boston, and all points beyond