Does Size Really Matter in the NBA?
I think we have all seen the effect of the Memphis Grizzlies' in the playoffs. We've seen their size overpower a team that was the best team throughout most of the season. The Spurs. Zach Randolph and his emergence has played a big role and is the main reason why the Grizzlies are still in the playoffs. His emergence came largely because of the guy he was pinned next to Marc Gasol. Gasol is 7'1 265 lbs and is very mobile for his height. Most centers his size can hardly move and are pretty much stationary centers. But Gasol is far from that.
Randolph is 6'9 260lbs, before his time with Memphis he was known as a PF who had attitude problems and often did not play much defense. When he was on the court he had a hard time staying on it. I don't know how many technicals he got but I'm sure it rides close to the number of technicals that 'Sheed got when he was in the league. When he was traded from the Clippers to the Grizzlies in the offseason of 2009. Many thought he would not stay for long. After the last 2 years of his contract were up many thought he would be on the first flight out of Memphis. When he joined forces with Gasol, memphis started to be a much better team. They did not make the playoffs right away. But they were very close. The year before they had the 2nd pick in the draft, and the year after they had the 12th. Then this year they made the playoffs. The two challenged eachother and Randolph became one of the leaders on this young team. The player who for much of his NBA career was categorized as the "Bully" became a leader of a very young team that are now making teams play their best ball even though they are an 8th seed. Instead of being on the first plane out of Memphis he ended up signing a contract to stay there. Why did Memphis even offer to extend his contract?
Because size matters. Plain and simple as that. Him and Gasol form one of the most treachurous frontcourt duos that this league has seen. Their are only 2 teams that can contend against it, the Lakers and the Celtics. And those teams are the most storied franchises in the NBA. Winning numerous championships, and meeting eachother several times in the Finals and having a very tight 7 game series. (I believe the total is up to like 30 combined championships between the two teams.)
The Grizzlies are an 8th seed this year yet because of their size they sent a one seed tumbling and then gained home court advantage against the Thunder, a very young and rejuvenated team that plays extremely well together and has a very good defense.
Other teams who start undersized PF's or centers are getting abused. For example Utah started Paul Millsap at PF who is only 6'7. Very small for a PF and he just got abused. He got into foul trouble, couldn't defend as well he could or block too many shots because he was trying to stay in the game more. Utah ended up not making the playoffs after having a terrific 15-5 start. A large part of that was starting Paul Millsap. When Kevin Garnett goes down with injury, The Celtics are forced to start Glen 'Big Baby' Davis who is only 6'9 and 289 lbs. Which may not seem that small but when he is not as productive as Zach Randolph, it becomes a problem. When the Celtics start Glen Davis they have a hard time winning and more often than not lose. Why because they getting abused down low.
I have always been a firm believer that size does matter in the NBA. But not only do you need size you also need production from that size. Both of your frontcourt players need to be mobile, big, and productive. No more can teams start undersized bigmen and be a good team. If teams do this they will struggle to make the playoffs.
Defense and rebounding are the two things you see from every NBA championship team. You can not name me one where one of those two categories was not a factor, and usually both are. Your best players do not always have to be big men, but you have to have productivity in those two areas from your big men. Plain and simple. If you can name me a champion that didn't, than you need to delve closer, because I have studied this thoroughly and find it to definitely be true. Even the Bulls and Bad Boy Pistons, who were lead by guards and wings, played both of those factors to a tee when they won their rings.
I'm not sure the PF position is the problem for many teams, it's that defensive, mobile big to pair with him which is most important in my opinion. Plenty of full-sized PFs can score but not defend, but it's masked by a defensive big ideally. Finding a C who can score... that's the hardest thing to find in this era to me.
Size matters but it doesn't always matter. Yes it's good to have a pair of mobile, capable monsters down low, but if you recall, the Spurs won a couple titles with the 6-7 Malik Rose at PF/C, Pistons won with 6-9 Ben Wallace, it's all relative.
Yeah, it seems like defense, rebounding, and having at least one very good scoring option are crucial. Usually one or two superstars, if not that then several good scoring options. The championship teams also tend to be fairly deep with two good players and a few solid role players in the top 9 or 10. Having an extra backup center or two (the old Bulls championship teams) helps too.
Most of the teams left have those things with Miami coming the closest having 2 superstar scoring options, a very good 3rd option, great defense, solid rebounding, extra big men (Anthony, Dampier, Magloire off the bench with Big Z starting). They are getting scoring off the bench from James Jones and Mario Chalmers has been pretty solid.
The Lakers have a back court superstart scorer in Kobe, a frontcourt guy in Pau, solid rebounding, a great sixth man in Lamar Odom, and a good center in Andrew Bynum. Even with Kobe, the Lakers are primarily an inside team relying on Pau, Bynum & Odom to score, rebound, and defend. Kobe gives them a perimeter threat. Ron Artest is another guy who they rely on for defense and rebounding. Derek Fisher is one of those championship point guards who sets the table, spreads the floor, and whose main job on offense is to hit open jump shots (see also: John Paxon, BJ Armstrong, Kenny Smith, Avery Johnson, with Fisher being the prime example).
Similarly, the Thunder also has above-average size on the front line with Perkins, Ibaka, and KD. If they are rebounding and defending they are tough to beat. They have a primary superstar scorer in KD, and a very good second option in Russell Westbrook. The Thunder has a decent bench with Collison who can bang/rebound inside, and an extra 7 foot center in Nazr Mohammed. Sefolosha is the Thunder's closest player to Ron Artest, and is used for defense and to put a few points on the board. Harden and Maynor are mainly relied on to hit open jumpers.
The Celtics are set up the same way with a few good scorers in Pierce, Allen, and KG, but their main calling cards are defense and rebounding. Shaq is the wild card here. If he can play some then they might be able to come back. If not, then they really miss him and Perkins and that's the main reason why they are in trouble.
I am not sure that the Bulls have enough scoring options. Rose is a great first option but I am not sure they have a legit second option. I think they also need a true scoring threat off the bench (who can create his own shot). Korver is the closest thing they have. Like the other contenders they have a few good bigs off the bench with Taj Gibson, Kurt Thomas, and Asik.
The Grizzlies are built similarly since they rely on their defense and rebounding. Their inside scoring is their main offensive philosophy. Not sure they have that elite second option this year. Next year they will have it with Rudy Gay. That will also give them a long, big front line with Gay, Z Bo, and Gasol with Battier and DA coming off the bench. OJ Mayo is a guy who can come in off the bench and get his own shots and hit open jumpers. Their point guard, Mike Conley, is mainly there on offense to set the table, spread the floor, and hit open jumpers.
The Mavs are similar to the Bulls having only one superstar scoring option. But their defense and rebounding is not as good. They have the crucial scorer off the bench (Jason Terry) but I am not sure they have enough big men and defenders to compete. Jason Kidd has to play awesome the rest of the way. Shawn Marion has to rebound at a high level as well as playing tight defense for the Mavs to have a chance.
The Hawks have some really long players, and their front line of ZaZa/Collins, Horford, and Josh Smith is pretty dang big. Good scorer in Joe Johnson with a great scorer off the bench in Jamal Crawford. Not sure though that they have the defense, rebounding, or depth to compete with the truly elite teams like the Heat, Lakers, or Celtics. The Hawks have a chance if JJ continues to play like a high level star, if Crawford continues to stay hot off the bench and if Horford and Smith play like all-stars. ZaZa and Collins have to continue to bang and defend. If so, they have a chance to beat the Bulls (the Hawks have more weapons) and could make it a good series against the Heat. I think they need quality production out of Captain Kirk too. Both on defense and on offense.
Of the remaining 8 teams, the ones with the best defense and rebounding to go along with two high quality scoring options and a few other guys who can hit shots have the best chance to win.
You forgot the Pistons also had Rasheed Wallace, who was in his prime. He's 6'11"... Ben Wallace at his peak probably was the best defensive player and one of the top rebounders this past decade. 6'9" might be "short" for a center, but really, what's the difference in one inch? I think wingspan is more important than height. Every championship team within the last 10 years has had at least one All-Star caliber big men. I don't think it's necessarily the size, but the quality of the players you have at that position.
I agree with you on the Pistons. That team had an under-sized center but Rasheed was huge, Prince was an extremely long small forward and they had a big back court. They also had Okur and Corliss Williamson off the bench. So more size their, and I think Mike James at backup guard who could score. So yeah, they had size, toughness, defense, rebounding, some good scoring options (Rip, Billups, Rasheed, Prince) and solid depth off the bench. Ben Wallace was a great defensive anchor who could dominate games without scoring.
That Pistons team was very similar to the championship Celtics who had great scorers/veterans at 2,3, and 4 a big tough point guard and a solid, defensive anchor. They also got some scoring off the bench and had reserve big men to spare.
It seems like having a big small forward is more important than one might think. The Pistons had Prince, the underdog Rockets had Robert Horry (also on some Spurs and Laker championship teams), the Lakers have Lamar Odom off the bench who plays the 3 but is about 6'11 with long arms. The Jordan teams had Pippen (who was big for long and big for his position at the time) and then they later had Toni Kukoc off the bench.
This would give the Heat (LeBron), Lakers (Odom off the bench but plays huge minutes), and Oklahoma City (Durant) an advantage. If the Mavs use Dirk at the 3 then that would also benefit them. Dirk and Marion are interchangable at the forward spots to go along with the very tall Tyson Chandler in the middle. If the Grizzlies fail to come out of the west it could be that they miss Rudy Gay (a strong, long, athletic 3 with pretty good height) too much.
That is where defense and rebounding comes in. You may not need someone 6'10 at the Center or PF position, but they need to play defense much bigger than their size. Dennis Rodman, Malik Rose and Ben Wallace all played crucial roles their (though I would not put Malik in the category of the other two). When you talk about those players, you rarely bring up that they lack size because of the ways in which they made up for it. Saying size matters does not necessarily means the biggest teams win, but you need the toughness to sometimes play beyond your size, which these players had and maybe some others have lacked.
Teams take advantage of mismatches, so when you have a shorter player on a taller player, than you are probably going to be exploited. Dennis Rodman was the prime example of someone who did not let that happen. As was Ben Wallace and to a lesser and more complimentary aspect, so was Malik Rose. Big Baby and Leon Powe even provided this off the bench for the Celtics in 2008. Playing beyond your size can matter as well, but I would quantify it into defense and rebounding. Just so happens, the teams that do this the best tend to have talented, taller players. Not necessarily always lead by Centers or PF's, but these positions do tend to play a huge factor in these two crucial aspects of championship basketball.
shaq wasnt one of the most dominant centers of all time because he was small..
Rebounding matters. If you can't secure the ball after a defensive stop, perimeter and post defense doesnt mean anything. Rebounding=Possessions, which is why if you see a wide rebounding margin, you usually see the team ahead winning barring a huge difference in shooting percentages. Both Randolph and Gasol are rebounding machines, so when it starts getting chippy in crunch time, you have two guy who you are confident can secure the ball, which give the guards the freedom to break out immediately and use their speed, case in point with Memphis.
The guys who are small make up for it with hustle and physicallity. Ben Wallace is thought to be a small C at 6'9'' but he will bang you and fight for rebounds. Same with Dejuan Blair. The first thought that comes to mind when people say his name to me is when he flipped Hasheem Thabeet over his back when fighting for a loose ball. Height is never a negative in basketball but it can be made up for with hustle, desire, and toughness.
Most teams left in the playoffs has a legit 6'11 or 7 foot Center it seems that can rebound or defend.
Dallas has 3 7 footers, the Lakers 2
The Heat even though they have Big Z an older Center. They have 2 great defenders and rebounders at the SG/SF position and Joel Anthony is a very good defender.
The Hawks are the smallest team but Zaza is around 7 feet and will still battle inside.
Like Riley used to always say no rebounds no rings.
Honestly, size doesn't matter if you're talking 2-3 inches is no difference in the grand scheme of things. It's about how much heart you put into defense and rebounding. I would rather have a guy that is 6'7/6'8 and 6'8/6'9 as my PF and C if they give their all on the defensive end as well as rebounding. Obviously teaching is involved in those two areas, but what seperates the good from the great in those areas is the desire players have. I mean honestly what's the difference between a guy that's 6'8 and 6'1l, 3 inches that's it. I mean Dennis Rodman (IMO the greatest modern day rebounder) was only 6'7, and played against some of the greatest centers to ever play the game, and won multiple rebounding titles. If a guy puts in the effort on the rebounding and defensive end they will be successful no matter how tall they are.
^^^^^ dennis rodman also had a 7'4 wingspan...
Of Dennis having such a wingspan, but it would not be incredibly surprising. Wingspan is usually a part in people playing bigger than their height, though at the same time so is strength, even speed. Still, it should be noted that every team to ever win a championship has had impressive defense and rebounding from their bigs. Not to mention, many of the most dominant Centers have been catalysts of championship teams. You do not need the most dominant bigs to win, but if you are not getting the defense and rebounding necessary, you should probably wave goodbye to those championship aspirations. Just has been the way things have gone, history can change things, but it has been a trend on every team thus far that has WON (not gotten too, or come close to) a title.
Phil Jackson was once asked who the best overall "Athlete" he ever coached was and he said Rodman. Not to mention he had a nose for the ball and an unmatched toughness/roughness, was extremely physical against the opposing bigs, and a motor that makes Joakhim Noah look lazy. He, Bill Russell, and Ben Wallace are exceptions, not the standards to the rule. Not to mention when The Pistons won the title in 04, Rasheed Wallace was guarding Shaq, and bringing it offensively in the post, and he's a 7footer.
When it comes to size, i think having great size can be great in having length , being better in your interior defense , and potentially having size mismatches. It ultimately depends on a team's style of play. Because you can win with size or without it.
Size matters but if you know how to roleplay you'll be fine ;)