When it comes to NBA size, it?s not height but wingspan and reach that tell the story
Just about everyone in the NBA is a giant. Rudy Gobert is taller than anyone you know, probably by a foot. Everyone?s favorite undersized guard Stephen Curry is 6’3, which ranks him in the 97th percentile among American men. Curry looks like a rag doll on TV, but he?d be a big man on your pickup team. NBA players are all big, and height has long been key prospect measurement.
But the truth is that height is overrated. After all, height is a measure from the soles of your feet to the top of your head ? and when is the last time you saw someone block the ball by headbutting it flat-footed?
Wingspan and standing reach are much more important factors for determining an NBA prospect?s success. Makes sense, right? A player?s defensive position is in a crouch, sacrificing height. That leaves him dependent on his arms to choke passing lanes down and cut off angles. A significant standing reach helps shot blocking.
When it comes to evaluating NBA draft prospects, reach and wingspan tell us a lot more about a player?s potential, especially on the defensive end. They can mean the difference between a hidden gem and an overrated bust.
So what can we learn from wingspan for the 2018 NBA draft class? Let?s reach for some answers?
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Point Guard Prospects
Young is tiny, and his short arms and slight frame make things even worse. Trae has just a 6’3 wingspan and under an eight-foot reach, which puts him in range of players like Shabazz Napier, Monta Ellis, and Darren Collison. Players his size tend to be backup scoring guards unless they have an elite handle and/or elite shot-making skills, like Stephen Curry or Kyrie Irving. Luckily for Young, he has both. But he?s going to need to have Steph or Kyrie impact offensively to be a star, because he has no chance defensively.
Sexton is shorter than Young but has longer arms. At 6’7 wingspan and 8’2 reach, combined with his athleticism, Sexton has a much better chance to hang defensively. Still, one of his presumed strengths is his ability to get to the rim and finish, and at 6’1, you have to wonder how much that will translate.
Think of SGA like if you took Trae Young?s body and stretched it in every direction ? five inches taller and nine inches longer on wingspan and reach. Everyone fell in love with Frank Ntilikina?s pterodactyl wingspan last year. Gilgeous-Alexander is an inch longer, a modern-day Shaun Livingston. He has the body of a 3-and-D wing like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or Shane Battier, and there?s a chance he?ll be able to switch all five positions on defense if he can fill out his frame at just 180 pounds. If he?s a point guard, he has massive defensive potential.
Milton is even longer than Gilgeous-Alexander, and his frame is a more filled out. He has a huge reach and a thick body with tantalizing defensive potential at his size, but he hasn?t tapped into it yet. Milton is a knockdown shooter but he lacks athleticism and doesn?t have a great handle. Perhaps his body will translate into a 3-and-D wing or an off ball guard like Kris Dunn.
De?Anthony Melton and Elie Okobo
Melton and Okobo are late first-round PG prospects with the sort of size and length that give them strong defensive potential. Melton is already there, with outstanding defensive ability. Okobo is raw and comes from France. Both have the right body if the rest of the game fleshes out.
Brunson is the whole package offensively and was the best player in college basketball this season. But at 6’2 with a 6’4 wingspan, he has little chance to be effective defensively. His size limits his chance to become an NBA starter.
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You can decide whether Doncic is a point guard or a forward, but he has the size of a wing. With a wingspan just under seven feet and an 8’9 reach, his body is similar to Andre Iguodala or Paul George. But he can?t match their athleticism, and that?s what may make him more effective at guard. There he can use his height and size to his advantage, whereas on the wing he?d be comparable to his peers but won?t stand out athletically. His size will help mask some defensive deficiencies.
Bridges is a big winner in a wingspan study, measuring in at 7’2 with a body that puts him in rare range as a wing player, measuring up with frames like Robert Covington and Tracy McGrady. His slight frame means his defense is probably slightly overrated as he?ll need to use his length more than his physicality, but it?s a plus either way. He may not be able to guard fours until he adds some girth.
Two lottery wing prospects named Bridges means the two are destined to be compared, but there?s no real comparison in body types. Miles is a clear loser, with short arms that leave him at just a 6’10 reach, very small for a player whose skill set looks like it fits best at the four. Miles?s wingspan and reach give him a body profile similar to Danny Green or Matt Barnes, but his game struggled this year when he moved from PF to the wing and didn?t have as much of an athleticism mismatch. It?s tough to find the right match between role and body here.
There?s no prospect quite like Zhaire Smith. Smith plays like a center in a guard?s body. He stands only 6’4 but makes up for it with a wide frame and off the charts athleticism. Smith?s wingspan of 6’10 and reach of 8’4 more than make up for his lack of height and profile him as a typical wing prospect. It feels like he can play the two or three, though his strengths suit him more to the four or five, and it?s not out of question for his athleticism to give him a shot at point guard down the line if the handle and jump shot develop.
Walker has a similar body to Zhaire Smith, lacking height but making up for it with decent length. He looks like a prototypical shooting guard by size and body, hile his lack of high-end athleticism may make it difficult to move up a position.
Huerter has been a late riser, getting a lot of Klay Thompson comparisons. The comparison is apt on film, with uncanny size and shooting similarities, but Thompson is a little longer so Huerter doesn?t have the same defensive upside. He?s definitely a shooting guard.
Troy BrownJosh OkogieKhyri ThomasChandler HutchisonJacob Evans
We have reached the 3-and-D portion of the draft. These guys all fit the mold. Hutchison is the biggest of the bunch and probably the only one of the five with potential to play at the four, with a wingspan over seven feet. The others all profile as wings with good size and defensive potential. Evans is the smallest of the group but has long arms and is the best defender right now.
Frazier is a favorite wing sleeper out of Tulane. He?s huge. Frazier is 6’8 with a massive 7’3 wingspan and 8’9 reach. That?s a bigger wingspan than Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brandon Ingram and a longer reach than Paul Millsap and Draymond Green. Combine that with Frazier?s athleticism, and it?s easy to see why he?s such a strong defender. He could turn into this year?s Draymond Green small ball center candidate, or he may be another Robert Covington.
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Porter is all potential, and his size is a big part of it, standing just an inch short of seven feet. But Porter has short arms that leave him with a seven-foot wingspan and nine-foot reach. That?s not exactly small, but it means he would struggle mightily if expected to protect the rim. Porter is not a big man ? he?s a tall forward. Think Paul George or Rashard Lewis.
Knox has gotten a ton of late buzz and looks like a lottery pick, and his body is a big reason. Knox is 6’9 and matches Porter?s seven-foot wingspan and nine-foot reach. His body is the perfect profile of a modern NBA scoring forward, and he hasn?t even turned 19 yet so he?s still growing into his game and body.
KDP is a sleeper for many because of his crazy long arms. He?s got the wingspan of Antetokounmpo or Ingram, perhaps Serge Ibaka or Chris Bosh if you prefer bigs. His reach is just under nine feet though, so that may limit his upside as a rim protector or possible stretch center.
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You probably don?t need anyone to tell you about Ayton?s body. He?s an Adonis, with a body sculpted by the basketball gods. Ayton is seven feet tall with a 7’5 wingspan and 9’3 reach. He certainly has the body for the job.
We?ve never seen anyone quite like Bamba, who stands 7’1 with an outrageous 7’10 wingspan and 9’7+ reach. Quite simply, there is no comparison. Bamba has a longer wingspan than anyone in NBA history, a couple inches longer than Rudy Gobert or Hassan Whiteside. His reach is probably a fingernail longer than Gobert or Boban Marjanovic. Consider that the rim is ten feet tall, and Bamba is under five inches away from reaching up and touching it. He?s an absolute freak physically, and his defensive potential is clear.
Bagley?s body profile leaves you wanting, especially compared to physical specimens like Ayton and Bamba. Bagley is tall enough at 6’11 but has just a seven-foot wingspan and an 8’10 reach. That makes him a lot more similar to Porter and Knox than the centers, and it means he could be slotted at PF. Bagley?s offensive powers are maximized at center, but he doesn?t have the size to protect the rim. Any team drafting Bagley needs to decide if they?re playing him at the four or the five and how they?re protecting him on defense, cuz he ain?t the answer there.
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Jackson doesn?t stand out like Ayton or Bamba, but he does just fine for himself with a 7’5 wingspan and 9’2 reach that give him the body of someone like Tyson Chandler or Chris Bosh. He?s one of the youngest players in the draft, so he could still grow a bit, and even another inch or two at this point could thrust him into ?freak? territory among big men.
Carter stands 6’10 with a 7’4 wingspan and 9’1 reach. He?s not small, but he trends toward more of PF size historically, though he?s clearly a center. Carter doesn?t have the size to project as an elite rim defender, comparing instead to players like Taj Gibson or Carlos Boozer, so he?ll need to make up for his size with instincts. Carter weighs in over 250 pounds and has the largest height-to-weight ratio of any first-round prospect. His size feels just a bit off overall.
Williams is reminiscent of another Texas A&M center DeAndre Jordan, though he?s about an inch smaller by height and wingspan. Still, he has equally freakish athleticism and projects as a rim runner with a similar game if he can find consistency on defense.
We haven?t seen Robinson play in awhile after he left Western Kentucky and ducked out on the combine, but his body and athletic profile have teams drooling anyway. Robinson measured 7’1 with a 7’4 wingspan and 9’3 reach, and that was a year ago as a 19-year-old who may have grown since. He?s an unknown but could be this year?s Thon Maker or Clint Capela.
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