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Dear NBA Community: Let’s use standing reach as the gold standard for player height

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It’s far more important to know how high a player can reach than what his height is. Join me in my crusade to start publicizing each players’ standing reach!

Charlotte Bobcats v. Cleveland Cavaliers Photo by Brock Williams-Smith/NBAE via Getty Images

When it comes to one of the most essential physical characteristics of a basketball player - his height - the NBA universe almost always misses the mark. We hear constantly about a player’s height and sometimes about his wingspan, but how many of you can actually do the mental math when you are told a player is 6-foot-8 with a 6-foot-11 wingspan? Does that mean he has the reach of Stretch Armstrong or a T-Rex? To make things simpler on all of us, here’s my plea to the NBA Universe:

Can we please start using standing reach as the new gold standard for height?

Standing reach matters, big time. The longer a player’s reach the more able he is to tip passes, secure rebounds, block shots, and get a hand in a shooter’s face. Traditional height is helpful for context (we can all picture what 6-foot-4 looks like), but it can also be deceiving. Players of the same height can have vastly different standing reaches. Wouldn’t it be helpful to see player’s standing reach along with his height displayed on NBA.com or TV broadcasts? (Standing reach info taken from the NBA’s Draft Combine site.)

Hornets players height and standing reach

Player Height on NBA.com Standing Reach
Player Height on NBA.com Standing Reach
Bimack Biyombo 6'8" 9'3"
Willy Hernangomez 6'11" 9'1"
Ray Spalding 6'9" 9'1"
PJ Washington 6'7" 8'11"
Cody Zeller 7'0" 8'10"
Jalen McDaniels 6'10" 8'10"
Miles Bridges 6'6" 8'8"
Dwayne Bacon 6'6" 8'8"
Cody Martin 6'5" 8'7"
Kobi Simmons 6'5" 8'3"
Terry Rozier 6'1" 8'3"
Devonte' Graham 6'1" 8'0"

Isn’t that helpful? When you hear Bismack Biyombo is 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot-7 wingspan (which is ridiculously long) while Cody Zeller is seven feet tall with a 6-foot-11 wingspan, do you know what that really means? Probably not. But when you see Biz is four inches shorter than Cody and his standing reach exceeds Zeller’s by five inches, that makes sense intuitively. It also helps us understand why Biyombo was such an excellent shot blocker early in his career despite having the height of a small forward.

On the same token, I’ll bet nobody reading this article knew that 6-foot-7 PJ Washington has a higher standing reach than seven footer Cody Zeller and 6-foot-10 Jalen McDaniels.

Terry Rozier’s reach is longer than most players his height. Rozier and fellow guard Devonte’ Graham are both listed at 6-foot-1 but Rozier has a three inch reach advantage. Despite Rozier being four inches shorter than 6-foot-5 Kobi Simmons, both players have a standing reach of 8-foot-3. Those extra inches mean something when it comes to guards with active hands.

Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz is 7-foot-1 - just one inch taller than Cody Zeller and two inches taller than Willy Hernangomez - but Gobert’s standing reach is a remarkable 9-foot-9. While all three players would look roughly the same height standing next to each other, Gobert has an eight inch reach advantage over Willy and a shocking eleven inches on Cody. There’s a reason Gobert is one of the league’s premiere shot blockers and it has a lot more to do with where his finger tips end than where his head stops.

Washington Wizards center Thomas Bryant is 6-foot-10 but his standing reach is an astounding 9-foot-5. His teammate Davis Bertans is also 6-foot-10 but his standing reach is a more proportional 8-foot-10. While their heads are the same height, there’s a seven inch reach difference between these two teammates.

What’s so helpful for us as fans knowing a player’s standing reach is we all understand the rim is 10 feet high, so when a player has a nine foot standing reach we immediately have context. We know exactly what that means. It’s more helpful for me as a fan to know that PJ Washington has a standing reach of 8-foot-11 than his generic height of 6-foot-7.

Now, there are reasons to doubt the accuracy of some standing reach data that gets recorded at the NBA combine. Some players reportedly try to take an inch or two off their standing reach to make their vertical jump look better, but that’s just anecdotal. Even if some of these measurements are off by an inch or so here and there, they should be directionally correct enough to help us understand how much space one player can cover with his arms when compared to another player.

My plea to the NBA universe is to consistently show us both measures together - height and standing reach. It provides a lot of helpful context. Just like football fans are now accustomed to hearing “he’s got 4.4 speed” I’d love to start hearing on NBA broadcasts “he’s got an 8-foot-10 standing reach.”

I’m planting my flag on this hill and I’m willing to die on it. Join me in my crusade to help better educate the basketball universe by more visibly and regularly sharing standing reach. It matters so much more than traditional height. Let’s make this happen!