Although basketball is a sport that traditionally favors the big man, we have to remember that “big” is often relative to the average person. Before, and even after the rise of the 7-foot-1 Wilt Chamberlain, players standing 7-feet-tall and above were generally seen as awkward projects. Conversely, players standing under 6-feet-tall are typically rare, even if the likes of Muggsy Bogues and Spud Webb have proven that it’s possible to have a successful NBA career despite standing several inches below 6 feet.
With that in mind, we’ve decided to look at the NBA ahead of the 2018-19 season and see which 10 players are the tallest, and which 10 players are the shortest. This covers all players who are currently signed for the 2018-19 season, including draft picks, as well as players who remain free agents, but are expected to sign with an NBA team in the coming weeks.
Before we proceed with this list, take note that we had a ton of players tied with heights of 7-foot-1 and 6-feet-flat, which means we prioritized the better and/or more experienced ones instead of those who might not have a chance of playing meaningful minutes for their respective teams. So if you're looking for players like Los Angeles Lakers hopeful Joel Berry, who stands 6-feet-flat, or the New York Knicks' sweet-shooting center/forward Luke Kornet, who's 7-foot-1, we left them off this list, but nonetheless recognize that they are also among the league's shortest and tallest players respectively.
20 Tallest: Marc Gasol (7-foot-1/2.16m)
Remember the time when we weren't even sure if Marc Gasol would be a success in the NBA like his older brother Pau? He may not have signed with an NBA team right away, but once he got comfortable with the NBA style of basketball, he quickly established himself as one of the league's better and more versatile big men, not to mention a defensive stopper in the middle.
Now 33-years-old, the younger (and slightly taller) Gasol is a bona fide NBA veteran, and is still capable of some big numbers, with averages of 17.2 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 4.2 assists in 2017-18. That was, however, in a season where the Grizzlies finished 22-60, though a healthy Mike Conley and the arrival of fourth overall pick Jaren Jackson Jr. could help turn things around.
19 Shortest: Patty Mills (6-foot-0/1.83m)
For what seemed like forever, Mills looked to be next in line as the San Antonio Spurs' next starting point guard after Tony Parker. But with Parker slowing down like never before in 2017-18, it appeared as if the taller, more defensive-oriented Dejounte Murray had the inside track, though Mills still saw slightly more action and was the better scorer and long-range shooter.
Despite all that, Mills still started a career-high 36 games for the Spurs in 2017-18, but is that as far as he can go? At 30-years-old, he might have already reached his peak, though it's still reasonable to expect that he and Murray will continue platooning at point guard in the 2018-19 season.
18 Tallest: Thon Maker (7-foot-1/2.16m)
As he enters his third season, one has to wonder if Thon Maker is on his way to becoming one of the many 7-foot-tall-and-above draft busts in NBA history, or if there’s still time for him to prove his worth to the Bucks. While given more playing time in his sophomore season, his still-pedestrian numbers suggest that he hasn’t made the most out of his chances.
As a 7-foot-1 center/forward who can launch three-point shots and block shots, Maker brings some interesting tools to the table. But he remains too raw to be trusted with significant minutes, which is why the Bucks went ahead and signed Brook Lopez as a free agent earlier in the offseason.
17 Shortest: Kyle Lowry (6-foot-0/1.83m)
You wouldn’t guess it if you only notice his hard-nosed defense and his status as one of the better rebounding point guards in the NBA. But Kyle Lowry stands 6-foot-flat, and despite his lack of height in an NBA that keeps getting bigger, he’s had a very successful career, highlighted by the last six years, which he all spent with the Raptors.
While his scoring dropped from a career-best 22.4 points to 16.2 points per game in 2017-18, Lowry also put up 5.6 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game, the former being a career-high. As he enters his 13th season in the NBA, he's clearly still capable of playing at a high level, though we'll have to wait and see if he's able to gel with new Raptors arrival Kawhi Leonard.
16 Tallest: Deandre Ayton (7-foot-1/2.16m)
Will Deandre Ayton turn out to be closer to Karl-Anthony Towns or Greg Oden as a 7-footer picked first overall in the NBA draft? Phoenix Suns fans definitely hope it's the former, as the team has struggled for the past few years in the middle, usually relying on the aging Tyson Chandler or the young, yet ineffective Alex Len (also 7-foot-1, but see the intro paragraphs) to man the middle.
With Len now in Atlanta and Chandler set to turn 36 next month, the stage appears to be set for Ayton to become the next great 7-footer in the NBA. He'll likely go through his share of growing pains and hit the rookie wall at some point, but the immense potential is certainly there.
15 Shortest: Darren Collison (6-foot-0/1.83m)
Too good to sit on the bench, not good enough to be an All-Star. That's the dilemma NBA teams often face with Darren Collison. He won't do much to hurt your team, but he's no game-changer either, and with Tyreke Evans now in Indiana, there's a chance that the former Rookie of the Year might make it a competition for the starting point guard position.
That said, Collison has done pretty well for himself as someone who stands 6-foot-flat, and he's exceeded the expectations one normally has for a player picked late in the first round. As a certified NBA veteran at this point, Collison could also serve as a good mentor for fellow UCLA alumnus Aaron Holiday, whom the Pacers picked in the first round this June.
14 Tallest: Tyson Chandler (7-foot-1/2.16m)
Believe it or not, but it’s been 17 years since a fresh-faced kid from Southern California named Tyson Chandler became the second overall pick in the NBA draft. Now sporting a thick beard and substantially more body ink than he did as a rookie, Chandler is now approaching the wrong side of 30 as he may finally cede his starting role in the Suns to someone else – 2018 first overall pick Deandre Ayton.
While never an elite scorer by any stretch, Chandler has put his 7-foot-1 frame to good use in what will soon be an 18-year NBA career, hauling down rebounds and blocking shots with the best of them in his younger days. For 2018-19, however, his main role looks to be that of a mentor to Ayton, and by all indications, he should be a good one.
13 Shortest: J.J. Barea (6-foot-0/1.83m)
Not too many players who stand 6-feet-flat or shorter can enter the NBA undrafted and manage to have a successful career of more than a decade, but J.J. Barea has. Despite spending three years with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Barea has mostly been linked to the Dallas Mavericks, serving as a source of instant offense off the bench and playing an important role despite his traditional reserve status.
At 34-years-old, Barea is likely due to slow down at some point in the near future, perhaps as soon as the coming season. But he was still capable of 11.6 points and 6.3 assists per game in 2017-18, as he put up some very strong numbers while coming off the bench for, and mentoring 2017 lottery pick Dennis Smith Jr.
12 Tallest: Rudy Gobert (7-foot-1/2.16m)
As a French big man selected near the bottom of the first round of the 2013 draft (27th overall, just like his jersey number), expectations were rather low for Gobert, as many saw him as another European prospect in need of a little more seasoning in the international circuit before coming to the NBA. However, he did play right away and showed some quick flashes of brilliance as a seldom-used rookie.
One year later, Gobert proved to be a true bargain for the Utah Jazz, who had actually acquired (more like stole?) him from Denver for a second-round draft pick and cash. At 7-foot-1 with a 7-foot-9 wingspan, it’s no surprise that he’s blossomed into one of the league’s top shot blockers.
11 Shortest: Ish Smith (6-foot-0/1.83m)
He’s certainly not as accomplished as the other Wake Forest alumnus in the “shortest” section, but for what it's worth, Ish Smith seems to have become that go-to backup point guard who puts up big numbers while filling in for his team's starter. Last season, it was for the Detroit Pistons while Reggie Jackson was injured, and he didn't disappoint, putting up 10.9 points and 4.4 assists per game and starting 35 out of 82 games.
One could even make an argument that Smith deserves the starting point guard spot more than Jackson does, but given his weak points, especially his outside shooting, most NBA teams could do better than this 6-foot-flat super-sub.
10 Tallest: Salah Mejri (7-foot-1/2.17m)
Although his minutes have been limited in three years with the Dallas Mavericks, Mejri has made the most out of them and has been fairly reliable as a fill-in starter. He's not much of a scorer (career 3.3 ppg), but he can pull down the rebounds and block some shots, and hardly takes a bad shot, as evidenced by his 64 percent career field goal shooting.
Mejri's skill set pretty much makes him an old-school, traditional center, as there are far more versatile players out there who are as tall, or taller than him. As he turned 32 this year, there's a chance he's peaked, but to reinforce our earlier point, the Tunisian big man has been fairly reliable as a source of height, rebounds, and blocked shots off the bench.
9 Shortest: Chris Paul (6-foot-0/1.83m)
Among all the players in the “shortest” side of this list, CP3 is, without a doubt, the most accomplished of them all. Even as a rookie playing for the then-New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets, Paul was already looking like someone special, as he was, for several years, arguably the best point guard in the NBA despite standing an even 6-feet-tall.
Playing last season for the Houston Rockets, Paul averaged 18.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 7.9 assists, with the latter being his lowest assists-per-game average since his rookie season. Such is life when you’re playing in the same backcourt as James Harden, though that doesn't take away from his remaining one of the best NBA PGs after 13 NBA seasons.
8 Tallest: Zhou Qi (7-foot-2/2.18m)
Zhou is arguably the most obscure player in this list, as he saw very limited action for the Houston Rockets as a rookie in the 2017-18 season. But he's still got three more years on his contract, which suggests that the Rockets see some promise in him, even if he's not the second coming of countryman/fellow Rocket/fellow giant Yao Ming.
Unlike the 7-foot-5, 290-pound Yao, Zhou carries a rather skinny 7-foot-2, 220-pound frame, and is most effective when shooting from outside. As we've seen in his better-documented tenure in the G League, he can also block some shots, though he may need to add at least 20 pounds of muscle if he wants to become a more effective rebounder.
7 Shortest: D.J. Augustin (6-foot-0/1.83m)
Given the fact he’s played for eight teams in a journeyman career that’s lasted 10 seasons and counting, it’s hard to believe that Augustin was the ninth overall pick in the 2008 draft. But we'd still say it's impressive that he got a lot of attention from NBA scouts despite being only 6-feet-tall, and that he's lasted a decade in the league so far.
Currently playing for the Orlando Magic, Augustin appears to be the team's likely starter at point guard, and that's not necessarily a good thing, as he sports career averages of 9.6 points and 3.8 assists, with a career shooting percentage of 41 percent. The Magic can definitely do better, though they might need to trade Nikola Vucevic as rumored in order to acquire a quality point guard.
6 Tallest: Alexis Ajinca (7-foot-2/2.18m)
Yes, you might have forgotten that he's still in the NBA, and if you did, we can't blame you. Ajinca missed the entire 2017-18 season for the Pelicans due to injury, and because that left New Orleans with a lack of depth behind Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, they had to resort to some unexpected moves, such as bringing back Emeka Okafor after four years away from the NBA.
Ajinca still has one year left on his contract with the Pelicans, and in his last season prior to getting injured, he averaged 5.3 points and 4.5 rebounds in a reserve role. Oh, and he once had 28 points and 15 rebounds in one of those no-bearing April games, so he's definitely more than just a warm body off the bench with unusual height and six fouls to commit.
5 Shortest: Tyler Ulis (5-foot-10/1.77m)
The Phoenix Suns were so hard-up at point guard in 2017-18 that they thought it would be a good idea to line up Ulis at starting point guard alongside his old Kentucky teammate, Devin Booker. While Booker continued to thrive, Ulis struggled mightily, and it's saying something that Elfrid Payton did substantially better after arriving via trade, despite being very inconsistent.
At the moment, Ulis remains an unsigned free agent, but he did show enough in 2017-18 to attract some attention as somebody's backup. Recent rumors have connected him to the Cleveland Cavaliers, though his lack of size and consistency could limit him to third-string duty behind George Hill and Collin Sexton.
4 Tallest: Kristaps Porzingis (7-foot-3/2.21m)
On the surface, Porzingis is tied as the tallest player in the NBA for the 2018-19 season, but since he's 50 pounds lighter and a fraction of a meter shorter than our leader, we're listing him in second place. He is, however, definitely an example of someone well over 7-feet-tall who becomes more than just a project in the NBA, as he averaged 22.7 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.4 blocks, and close to two three-pointers a game for the New York Knicks in 2017-18.
That was, of course, prior to an ACL tear he suffered early in February, and with the Unicorn still healing up from what was quite a severe injury, there's a chance he'll be out for at least a year in total. Here's hoping he could make a successful recovery.
3 Shortest: Kay Felder (5-foot-9/1.75m)
Despite being a second-round pick in 2016, Felder was thought by some to be a potential steal for the Cavaliers, mostly on account of his eye-popping numbers playing for the mid-major Oakland University in Michigan. Alas, that didn't come to pass, as Felder spent most of his time in the G-League in the 2016-17 season, before splitting 16 games with Chicago and Detroit in 2017-18.
Having joined the Toronto Raptors for the 2018-19 season, he'll definitely have to fight for a spot on the final roster, but if he does hang on for the start of the season, he'll have a hard time getting minutes behind Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet.
2 Tallest: Boban Marjanovic (7-foot-3/2.22m)
When Marjanovic was sent to the Los Angeles Clippers in the trade that sent Blake Griffin to the Detroit Pistons, many people, especially fantasy basketball players, were hoping that Doc Rivers would "free Boban" and give him a chance for some meaningful minutes. Unfortunately, Marjanovic's minutes slightly declined as he remained a third-string center, albeit a very productive one on a per-36 basis.
With DeAndre Jordan having moved on to the Dallas Mavericks, this could mean more playing time for Marjanovic as he backs up the aging Marcin Gortat. With averages of 6 points and 3.7 rebounds in only 8.6 minutes per game in the 2017-18 season, we could be theoretically talking a regular double-double machine even if he plays just 20 minutes a game.
1 Shortest: Isaiah Thomas (5-foot-9/1.75m)
At this point, we shouldn't be telling you anything you don't know about Isaiah Thomas and his 2017-18 season. Due to a combination of factors, most notably his injuries, Thomas went from a near-29-ppg scorer for the Boston Celtics to someone who was relieving Lonzo Ball after the 2018 trading deadline. Before that, Thomas failed to make the expected impact after the Celtics traded him to Cleveland for Kyrie Irving.
Despite all that, it's pretty impressive that he averaged 15.2 points and 4.8 assists for the Cavs and Lakers, despite playing a shade under 27 minutes a game. Expect more of the same as he might have to play behind Jamal Murray and Gary Harris in Denver.