The NBA notified teams yesterday that they have to break out the measuring tape once again, for perhaps the first time in years, and accurately determine the current height of their rostered players.
Here’s Marc Stein of the New York Times with the scoop:
NBA teams were notified this week that they must certify and submit the precise height and age for every player within the first week of training camp, league sources tell @NYTSports— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) September 26, 2019
Now, for those just coming into basketball fandom, this may seem like a benign thing to announce on a random Thursday in September. Who cares what the listed heights are for various tall men playing professional basketball? The answer: us, that’s who. And also, of course, the league.
For years some players have been listed as taller -- and some shorter -- than they really are. The league clearly wants to change that.— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) September 26, 2019
Oh, and before you ask to clarify, the NBA is on it with additional details as to how they classify height:
Height will be measured with players' shoes OFF, I'm told. Player weight will not be sought because that number fluctuates so often ...— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) September 26, 2019
So no cheating! The NBA wants accurate heights listed for each and every one of its players, and it will now brook now bullshit in this regard. You’ve been warned!
Upon the announcement of this news, most followers of the NBA likely jumped right to some of the more egregious dodgers of their true dimensions in recent years. A player like Kevin Durant has long been listed at 6’9” despite being close to 7-feet tall. (His reasoning for this is the most pure KD logic: “That’s the prototypical size for a small forward.”) Meanwhile, there are dudes like J.J. Barea, who is listed extremely generously (and defiantly) at 6-feet, who definitely do not clear that bar.
On that note, are the defending champion Raptors about to be exposed here? Should we worry on their behalf about some second-hand embarrassment? Let’s review some of the more likely cases of height-fudging on the team.
(And please, bear in mind I will be using the Raptors official height listings from their site and my own visual perception and memory as to the accuracy of the assessment. You may beg to differ — as will, I’m sure, some of the players.)
The Safe Bets
Pascal Siakam - 6’9”
OG Anunoby - 6’8”
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson - 6’7”
Stanley Johnson - 6’7”
Malcolm Miller - 6’7”
Patrick McCaw - 6’7”
The group is boring in their near uniform condition. Having spent a good deal of time standing next to OG and Pascal I feel it is safe to confirm that the latter is taller than the former. Siakam tends to slouch forward a tad — though slouch is the wrong word, it’s more like he’s straining forward faster and faster — but when he stands straight he’s definitely 6’9” and taller than the rest of the Raptors combo-forwards, both new and old.
Is it funny that the Raptors now have four guys who are 6’7”? When you think about it, the approach makes sense. There’s definitely thinking that suggests RHJ and Johnson can play bigger, and a player like McCaw, with ball-handling skills that may come to the fore this season, can shift into a smaller position.
The takeaway here is that the Raptors’ cadre of multi-positional forwards are listed at the right height. Everything is fine here.
The Benefit of the Doubt
Chris Boucher - 6’10”
Serge Ibaka - 6’10”
Norman Powell - 6’4”
Marc Gasol - 7’1”
The Raptors no doubt wish Boucher was a bit taller, or a bit stouter — something to make him make sense in a lineup. Right now it’s clear he’s way too small weight-wise to be a centre, despite his skill-set mostly lining up in that position. I’m of the opinion that Boucher may actually be a touch shorter than 6’10”, while his locker room neighbour Serge Ibaka could classify as a touch taller. Or maybe they blend together and average out and really are 6’10”. On this case: I will report back.
As for Powell, look, I know we like to believe he’s a mega-sized small forward, but sometimes I think even that 6’4” is generous. Norm benefits from having longer-than-average arms for sure, but he’s dinged for being a bit bowlegged (much like the dearly departed Danny Green). I suspect this height may slide lower, but we’ll give Norm this one this time.
I slid Gasol back to this group after studying pictures of him and his brother Pau, listed at a flat 7-feet. I sometimes doubt either of the Gasols are truly that tall, but every picture of the pair suggests that Marc is a bit taller than his older brother (I know that feeling), which makes the 7’1” claim legit. Plus, it doesn’t feel right to suggest Marc would ever be party to a lie.
The Dangerous Cases
Fred VanVleet - 6’0”
Kyle Lowry - 6’1”
Unfortunately I knew the second I started this (nonsensical and unnecessary) column that we’d end up here questioning the stature of the two toughest players on the Raptors. It is absolutely true that both VanVleet and Lowry often play much bigger than their heights suggest. And while both have sometimes looked overmatched (Lowry in 2015 and VanVleet in 2019, to mention two examples), no one, and I mean no one, would ever question their heart. (Not to get all Marcus Stroman on you here!)
Then again, here comes physical reality. I’ve stood next to both Lowry and VanVleet on many an occasion over the years, and even at a generous 5’9”-5’10” assessment of my own height, neither appear to tower above me by three or four inches. I’m willing to potentially concede that Lowry is 6-feet tall — and certainly not as “oddly shaped” as ESPN’s Tim Bontemps thinks. But if FVV is as tall as listed, well, then I just enjoyed a fantastic growth spurt.
Believe me, it brings me no pleasure to report this. And to the NBA height masters, I must add: please take it easy on them!
I’ll be the first to admit these assessments may be way off. It’s possible the Raptors have been honest through and through, and that none of the members of the team have sought to make themselves taller or shorter for some perceived benefit. The NBA may just take all of the soon-to-come height measurements of the Raptors at face value, done and done.
In any case, we’ll find out tomorrow at Media Day. Stay ready.