I matched up player height and reach data from the NBA combine with lineup data and then tested the relationships between average lineup height and defensive rating. I shared my findings in The Athletic – Bay Area, in a story called “The Warriors have revolutionized small ball, but are they really small?” For the 2016-17 season, I found there was no relationship between a lineup’s average height and its defensive effectiveness (quantified by the number of points the opponents scored per 100 possessions).

But, unlike average height, variance in height was the best indicator of a lineup’s defensive capabilities last season — that is,

Units that were comprised of players who were of similar size tended to allow fewer points.

The Warriors “small”-ball lineups were comprised of players with small ranges in height.

Whitehead - Warriors heights 01 - Table

This seems to have translated to an effective switch-heavy defense in Golden State.

Whitehead - Warriors heights 03 - Chart

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