Does Size Matter?

Does Size Matter?
May 12, 2004, 01:00 am
By John Adams

This is a question that has been debated since the beginning of time. Who to pick first – the established tweener OR the seven footer who is labeled as a project? Okay, so whether or not Adam had his own fantasy basketball league going in the Garden of Eden is debatable. There is no arguing, however, that the issue of size has always been (forgive the pun) huge, when it comes to the NBA Draft.

Teams often see good players in college anywhere from 6'7 to 6'9 who play in the paint. However, teams are often leery of picking such a player because they are afraid that he will not be able to make the transition from college to the pros. They often label these types of players, tweeners. In other words, they feel that the player does not really have a set position in the pros. This leaves GMs in a bit of a quandary as to what to do. The 2004 draft will be no different, some players who have the potential to be drafted number one could slip because of their height.

So, does height really matter? Well, let's take a look at the 2002 draft. Despite reportedly good workouts leading up to the draft, Carlos Boozer was not selected until the second round. The reason? Many people felt he was too small to play power forward in the NBA. Normally when scouts deem a player too short to play one position, they try to see if he can play another position. In Boozer's case, many felt he would not be quick enough to play small forward. So, come draft night, Boozer sat and watched as taller players such as Marcus Haislip, Curtis Borchardt, and Nenad Krstic had their names called. While these players have yet to make a great impact on their respective teams, Boozer averaged 15.5 points and 11.4 rebounds (top 5 in the league) a game this season for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Not bad for a guy who was supposedly too small to play down low.

In the 2001 draft, Zach Randolph fell all the way down to the 19th pick, while taller players such as DeSagana Diop, Troy Murphy, Steven Hunter, Michael Bradley, and Jason Collins were selected before him. All Randolph did was average 20 points and 10.5 rebounds (sixth in the league) this season. Meanwhile, the other players have had mixed results, but none have been the player that Randolph has been for the Blazers.

Supporters of size bring up players such as Marcus Fizer as to why smaller big men should not be picked. However, many players who have struggled, such as Fizer, have been forced to play out of position at small forward. In Fizer's case, he has also been forced to play behind Tyson Chandler and Eddy Curry. It would be interesting to see how Fizer would prosper at the four on another team, should he get traded this off-season.

While there have been some smaller players who have struggled to make an impact, there have been some bigger ones too. For every Marcus Fizer there is a Charles Barkley or Ben Wallace who has done exceptionally well despite his size. A player can be 7'5, but if he has no heart he might as well be 6'2. Often times, it seems evident that the smaller players play with more heart and are more aggressive than bigger players. Watch how Ben Wallace and Carlos Boozer play in comparison with 90% of the big men in the NBA.

This year's potential number one draft pick, Emeka Okafor is already facing questions about whether he is big enough to play center or power forward in the NBA. Former number one picks Elton Brand and Kenyon Martin also faced similar questions. It seems that they have turned out okay. Brand has: posted career averages of 19.4 ppg, 10.7 boards, and nearly a block per game; won Co-Rookie of the Year Award with Steve Francis; and has appeared in the NBA All-Star game. Martin: averaged 16.7 points, 9.5 boards, 1.46 steals, and 1.26 blocks per game this season; was selected to the All-Star team; and has helped the Nets reach the NBA Finals two times.

Okafor was dominant in college. He led the Connecticut Huskies to a National Title while averaging 17.6 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 4.1 blocks a game. His offensive game showed promise this season as well. Okafor is undoubtedly the most complete player in the draft. Despite the undeniable statistics, many still boast that he will not be as effective in the NBA because he is only listed at 6'9. I don't get where they are coming from, they being the same people who do not consider Ben Wallace an impact player.

Again, does size matter? There is no doubt it helps, but as history has shown, you do not have to be 7'1 to be an effective post presence in the NBA. So while many teams will go after the next BIG thing in this summer's NBA Draft, Okafor will quietly become one the great big men in the history of the game. Don't believe me? Try driving the lane on him yourself.

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