Average NBA Position Draft Measurements

As we near the 2014 draft, potentially one of the most unpredictable ever, people are searching for answers, objective truths visible in the haze. A number of prospects have question marks about their ultimate NBA position. For instance, Jabari Parker’s future position has led to some discussion, and it’s unclear from glancing at his measurements if he’s big enough to be a power forward or not. His height is not the best predictor of his future position; we turn to wingspan and standing reach for that.

Why do those measurements matter? Simply, you play basketball with your hands, not the top of your head. It’s about how high you can go to contest a shot, take one, or how far you can reach for a steal or deflection. Although we have an intuitive sense of height for positions, we don’t have the same for wingspan and standing reach.

To correct for this, I tabulated the average measurement at each position. The average measurement is not simply the average height of each power forward in the league, however; it’s weighted by minutes because Aldridge at 6′ 11″ is more important than Thomas Robinson at 6′ 9″. Position was taken from basketball-reference and was corrected in a few cases. (There was also an adjustment made by shifting a few player-minutes up a position because the minutes were not perfectly balanced.) If you are really interested in NBA picks check out BetQL to see who is really the best.

PositionHeight (no shoes)Height (shoes)WingspanStanding reach
PG6' 1.1"6' 2.1"6' 5.0"8' 1.2"
SG6' 4.2"6' 5.4"6' 8.2"8' 5.1"
SF6' 6.5"6' 7.8"6' 11.1"8' 8.8"
PF6' 7.7"6' 9.0"7' 1.0"8' 11.0"
C6' 9.7"6' 11.0"7' 2.8"9' 1.2"

Most NBA players use their height with shoes on (with a few exceptions like Durant.) Centers in reality are 6′ 10″, not the seven-feet beasts of yore. A player listed at 6′ 11″ (with shoes) definitely should not be criticized for a lack of height. Wingspan is where it gets interesting. If you hear about a center with an “impressive” 7′ 3″ wingspan, cool the enthusiasm — that’s the expected measurement. As a rule of thumb, a center should probably have a standing reach of at least 9 feet. This is better than the seven-foot descriptor.

However, those measurements only include roughly 75% of the available players. Many players have incomplete measurements, a few more skip the process entirely, and there are still a few leftovers from the period before DraftExpress kept records. To correct for this, a series of regression models were run to fill in the missing information.

PositionHeight (no shoes)Height (shoes)WingspanStanding reach
PG6' 0.9"6' 2.0"6' 5.0"8' 0.9"
SG6' 4.2"6' 5.3"6' 8.3"8' 5.2"
SF6' 6.5"6' 7.7"6' 11.1"8' 8.6"
PF6' 7.9"6' 9.4"7' 1.1"8' 11.0"
C6' 9.8"6' 11.0"7' 3.0"9' 1.3"

I’ve included both versions for transparency. But the regression was useful for something else: if you want to know a player’s, say, standing reach, you can estimate it from some of his other measurements.

I think this will be handy in a few cases, especially for centers:
Standing reach = -0.16 + 0.734*height (in ft, no shoes) + 0.586*wingspan (ft)

While averages are useful on their own, it’s best to get an idea of the spread and variation in sizes for each position. I’ve provided a histogram for standing reach for all five positions. Standing reach was used because it’s basically like a composite of height and wingspan, and does a better job at reflecting size than pure height. Note: it’s in decimal feet, not inches.

avg st reach pgs

avg st reach sgs

avg st reach sfs

avg st reach pfs

avg st reach centers

With a better understanding of the sizes you see at each position, let’s apply it to the draft class to see if some guys are large enough for their projected positions.

(The top ten is based on Chad Ford’s latest mock draft.)

1) Andrew Wiggins

Height (with shoes): 6′ 8″
Wingspan: 7′ 0″

I don’t have his standing reach, but his listed height (with shoes) is that of a typical NBA small forward and his wingspan is somewhere in between that of a SF and PF. Basically, if he’s quick enough to hang with SGs in the NBA, his size would be a great weapon. But he could also evolve like Paul George and move to SF long-term.

2) Parker

Height (with shoes): 6′ 8″
Wingspan: 7′ 0″
Standing reach: 8′ 8″

His measurements are from 2013, but yes, his measurements are similar to Wiggins. However, as a projected combo scoring forward, he’s fairly similar to Carmelo Anthony. Carmelo was listed as 6′ 8″ too with a 7′ wingspan, although his standing reach was 1.5 inches more. True to form, those measurements are in between the range of NBA SFs and PFs.

3) Dante Exum

Height (no shoes): 6′ 4.5″
Height (shoes): 6′ 6″
Wingspan: 6′ 9.5″
Standing reach: 8′ 7″

Exum is listed as a point guard, but he has the size of an NBA shooting guard at the very least. He’s so large, in fact, that one could look at his measurements and see a small forward. The only larger point guard right now is Shaun Livingston.

4) Noah Vonleh

Height (no shoes): 6′ 8″
Height (shoes): 6′ 9.5″
Wingspan: 7′ 4.25″
Standing reach: 9′

Vonleh has the height of an average NBA power forward, but the wingspan and standing reach of a center. This bodes well for his defensive promise and finishing abilities. He could also play center as long as his strength isn’t as issue.

5) Aaron Gordon

Height (no shoes): 6′ 7.5″
Height (shoes): 6′ 8.75″
Wingspan: 6′ 11.75″
Standing reach: 8′ 9″

Gordon has the height of a power forward, but the arms of a small forward. Accordingly, he’d be one of the smaller power forwards by standing reach if he plays there. (Referring to the chart above, 8′ 9″ translates to 8.75 feet, which is unfortunately close to the 10th percentile.)

6) Joel Embiid

Height (shoes): 7′
Wingspan: 7′ 5″
Standing reach: 9′ 4″*
*Estimated from height and wingspan

Embiid has size in the upper range of NBA centers with a full inch of height and two inches of wingspan over the average center. The estimated standing reach is an approximation (reiterating this so I don’t lead people astray), but he does appear to be a legitimate NBA-sized center. His wingspan was measured at a different camp in 2013, but if it’s accurate it bodes well. Let’s hope he stays healthy.

7) Julius Randle

Height (no shoes): 6′ 7.5″
Height (shoes): 6′ 9″
Wingspan: 7′
Standing reach: 8′ 9.5″

Randle’s size is surprisingly similar to that of Gordon’s. I have heard less concerns about his size, but he’s slightly bigger than Gordon and weighs more. Referring to the purple chart, he’s right at the 8.8 mark. He’s more like the prototypical undersized power forward who performed well in college. The last guy like this was Thomas Robinson, but to be fair Robinson was two years older.

8) Marcus Smart

Height (no shoes): 6′ 2″
Height (shoes): 6′ 3.25″
Wingspan: 6′ 9.25″
Standing reach: 8′ 3″

Smart is a larger point guard, but it’s not extreme like Exum. Without a good jump shot, Smart will need all the help he can get.

9) Doug McDermott

Height (no shoes): 6′ 6.25″
Height (shoes): 6′ 7.75″
Wingspan: 6′ 9.25″
Standing reach: 8′ 7″

A controversial draft pick, some feel McDermott will be exposed in the NBA with bigger athletes. His foot speed would be less of a problem at power forward, as has been suggested before, but according to his measurements he’d be one of the smallest power forwards in the league. His standing reach, in fact, would be the smallest one for a power forward, and it’d be a little small even for a small forward. He’ll have to learn to be a small forward, and even then he’ll have problems contesting shots.

10) Nik Stauskas

Height (no shoes): 6′ 5.25″
Height (shoes): 6′ 6.5″
Wingspan: 6′ 7.75″
Standing reach: 8′ 6″

Stauskas is only a little smaller than McDermott, and as such he’d have enough size to cover shooting guard. There are plenty of smaller shooting specialists who have survived at a wing position like Redick.

It’s that time of the season for critiquing amateur basketball players, but let’s at least put some context into how they measure up with NBA players.