The Golden State Warriors figure to be among the best in the league at a lot of things. But after an offseason in which they cleared out salary cap space for Kevin Durant by trading their starting center and letting both backup centers walk in free agency, the roster that has spent the last few seasons dominating the league with small-ball lineups didn’t seem likely to be among the NBA’s tallest. So you might be surprised to learn that, thanks to a point guard who is taller than the average wing (Shaun Livingston), a wing who is taller than the average big man (Durant), and a handful of big men plucked from the scrap heap (JaVale McGee, et al.), Golden State is now the second-tallest team in the league.
We spend a lot of time ranking NBA players by their perceived value, their abstracted contributions to a complex game that is still difficult to meaningfully quantify. But while we’re preoccupied with the more advanced stats, we’re not spending as much time ranking NBA teams and players by the most basic playground metric: Who is the tallest?
As a rule, everyone in the NBA lies about their height. The discrepancies vary between players (word to Cole Aldrich’s 2.25-inch inserts), so we used every player’s height without shoes, which is typically measured before the draft. This measurement may short-change players who continued to grow after the draft, like Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, but our assumption is that situations like that are less common than the wild fabrications commonly foundin teams’ media guides.
The tallest team in the league, Milwaukee, has an average height of 6-foot-7.25, and the Bucks are followed, in order, by the Warriors, Kings, Wolves and Knicks.
At the other end of the yardstick, the shortest team in the league is the Celtics, who can attribute their status to the diminutive Isaiah Thomas and Brad Stevens’s fondness for four-out lineups. The Rockets, Pacers, Suns and Cavaliers round out the bottom five.
But there isn’t a whole lot of difference between the top and bottom teams — just 33 inches separate the Bucks from the Celtics in terms of total height. Where teams really diverge is in how they assemble their rosters.
The traditional position classifications (point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward, center) are a little rigid for today’s NBA, so we defined players as point guards, wings or bigs.3 The average point guard is 6-foot-1, the average wing player is 6-foot-5.7, and the average big is 6-foot-9.
The Warriors were the most obvious outlier, with point guards two inches taller than the average for their position and wings just over an inch taller than average. This is primarily because, as mentioned earlier, Durant and Livingston are basically playing down a position. The Nets have the largest point guards in the league thanks to Greivis Vasquez and Caris LeVert, but the shortest wings around, primarily because Isaiah Whitehead and Sean Kilpatrick are two of the shortest shooting guards in the league. Then there are the Sixers, who are known for piling up tall young men who lose basketball games. I’d assumed they would be the tallest team, but while they are in the top third of the league, they don’t necessarily have more bigs than everyone else — they just stand out in fans’ minds because they’ve used a ton of draft picks on the bigs they have.
Ah, you want trivia? Well, buddy, you’re in luck.
If you stacked every single NBA player on top of each other, they’d be almost 212 feet taller than the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa. The kilometer-tall Azerbaijan Tower will overtake them in four years, if it’s built to plan, but for now, NBA Dude Tower would still top the charts. The cumulative height of all 450 players we looked at is approximately eight times the height of the world’s tallest redwood. Boban Marjanovic is the tallest in the league, followed closely by Roy Hibbert, Kristaps Porzingis, Georgios Papagiannis and Rudy Gobert. Marjanovic is a full 18 inches taller than Cavs rookie Kay Felder, who stands just 5-foot-8.25 and is the shortest player in the league. Isaiah Thomas, Tyler Ulis, Casper Ware, J.J. Barea and D.J. Augustin are the next-shortest players.
The skinniest team in the league — the Rockets — is also one of the shortest. However, the Knicks are one of the tallest teams in the league, but they’re a total of 170 pounds lighter than the Warriors, thanks to stocking up on lanky European youngsters. By pounds per inch, the Magic are the heftiest team in the NBA, while the Knicks are the most wiry.
All told, the average NBA player is 6-foot-6 and weighs 221 pounds. Hawks rookie Taurean Waller-Prince has the honor of being the most average-sized player in the league, at 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds.