The talk surrounding the Washington Wizards as they start their 2015-2016 National Basketball Association (NBA) campaign is that the team will play “small ball” more often this season.
That means Coach Randy Wittman may sometimes play small forward Otto Porter at power forward to go along with a second small forward and the Wizards’ star backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal. The hope is that this lineup will make the Wizards quicker on defense and lead to more fast breaks.
I am all for the Wizards’ new look. The smaller lineup — with only one big man on the court — may help them improve on last season’s 46-36 (46 wins, 36 losses) record. But there is no place other than the NBA where such a lineup would be called small.
Porter is listed as 6 feet 8 inches tall and 198 pounds. That’s smaller than Nene — the Wizards’ power forward is listed at 6-foot-11 and 250 pounds — but it is certainly not small.
Here are a few facts about height and hoops. The average American man is 5-foot-9
On the other hand, the average NBA player is around 6-foot-7. That means the average NBA player is more than nine inches taller than the average American man. That’s a lot.
The statistics are not much different for women. The average American woman is around 5-foot-4. The average WNBA player is almost 6 feet tall. Again, a big difference.
I mention this because lots of kids love basketball and dream about being a professional player some day. But the truth is that most kids will never grow tall enough to play in the NBA or WNBA.
In his book “The Sports Gene,” writer David Epstein estimates that the chances of a man who is between 6 feet and 6-foot-2 — that’s taller than most guys — being a player in the NBA is approximately 5 in 1 million.
So am I saying that kids should stop playing basketball? No way! Basketball is a great game for kids. It helps get them in better physical condition and teaches them all about working for a goal and being a good teammate.
But maybe kids should stop dreaming about being LeBron James (6-foot-8 and 250 pounds) or Elena Delle Donne (6-foot-5 and 188 pounds) and start working toward a more reasonable goal, such as making a high school team. In high school games you will see lots of 5-foot-8 point guards and 6-foot power forwards.
In high school, regular-size kids get a chance to shine. And kids as big as Otto Porter aren’t called small forwards. They are called exactly what they are . . . really tall.