For San Antonio Spurs Patty Mills, he has overcome the hurdle of playing in a league where he is towered over by consistently outperforming them.
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The average male in the U.S. stands at about 5-foot-10, and the NBA currently has star players who hover at or around this stature.
Chris Paul, Kyle Lowry, and Isaiah Thomas are a few players who’ve worked to become All Stars despite having the ability to look like a normal-sized human being when out amongst the masses.
The Spurs have a talented player who also is forced to look up when addressing most of his teammates and opponents. Mills has clawed his way to success in this league by being a feisty backup point guard known for his shooting proficiency.
What he showed during the Olympics in Rio this year has proven that he in fact is a giant killer. Mills ranked atop the best during the Olympics with a 21.3 points per game average. Though there were no LeBron James or Stephen Curry present during the Olympics, there still was heavy competition and Mills balled out.
There’s a world’s difference between all the positions out on the court. Where a player plays is partly based on speed and athleticism, but more fundamentally on size.
It got me to thinking… what would be the rankings of the “very short” players in the NBA?
“Very short” is in quotations because most of these guys would still be above average in height anywhere but a professional basketball court.
I decided to make “very short” any player ranging from the shortest in the league currently (5-foot-9) to an even 6 feet.
To add to the analysis, I decided to seed each player who made the cut one through eight and have them play in a theoretical 1-on-1 tournament.
The 1 seed plays the 8 seed, the 2 seed plays the 7 seed, the 3 seed plays the 6 seed, and the 4 seed plays the 5 seed, and the action continues each round with the highest remaining seed playing the lowest remaining seed in a 1-on-1 game to 21.
Here are the rankings: 1) Chris Paul 2) Kyle Lowry 3) Isaiah Thomas 4) Darren Collison 5) J.J. Barea… 6) Ish Smith 7) Patty Mills 8) D.J. Augustin.
Each hypothetical game is analyzed to try to determine who would win a 1-on-1 contest held between the two players.
Clearly there’s more to basketball than just ball handling, shooting, and on-ball defense, but 1-on-1 has long served as the unofficial sign of being the superior player within a group vying for the distinction of being King of the Court.
Next: First Round: Chris Paul vs. D.J. Augustin
I feel bad for Augustin, because he doesn’t stand a chance. Paul can still claim that he’s the most well-rounded point guard in the game even with the ascensions of Curry and Russell Westbrook in recent seasons, and some of his most impressive skills are tailor-made for 1-on-1.
He’s a 6-time NBA All-Defensive First Team member and a 2-time NBA All-Defensive Second Team Member. Not only that, but Paul can use his quickness to effectively finish at the rim, pull up from midrange, or create a 3-point shot against the poor-defending Augustin.
Paul just has so many ways he can score. Augustin is a good perimeter shooter, but struggles as a midrange shooter. Although he has the quickness to get to the rim, he realizes that he’s not a great finisher, and decides to base his game around 3-point shooting. Paul wins commandingly.
Next: First Round: Kyle Lowry vs. Patty Mills
Mar 28, 2016; Memphis, TN, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Patty Mills (8) dribbles in the first half against the Memphis Grizzlies at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
I just don’t know how Mills would be able to stay in front of Lowry. He’s not a very good defender, and Lowry can make him pay on slashes to the basket. Lowry can also take advantage of his ability to create his own shot from the perimeter, as he’s a fantastic 3-point shooter.
A concern with Lowry’s game is that he doesn’t have a particularly high shooting percentage inside compared to other players in the league, and especially other point guards. While he’s not the best finisher, he can still have his way with Mills guarding him.
Mills doesn’t get to the rim nearly as easily as Lowry, but he has a higher shooting percentage near the hoop. He’s also a better midrange shooter than Lowry, and it could make the game competitive.
In the end, Lowry pulls out a victory that ends up being closer than he thought, as Mills just can’t seem to buckle down on defense.
Next: First Round: Isaiah Thomas vs. Ish Smith
Jan 24, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) shoots against the defense of Philadelphia 76ers guard Ish Smith (1) during the second half at Wells Fargo Center. The Celtics won 112-92. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Thomas is just so quick that his lack of defense probably wouldn’t impede him too much against a guy like Smith. Even Thomas’ occasionally erratic shooting wouldn’t hold him back, since his driving ability is what makes him so dangerous.
Smith has become one of the most improved players in the league during the past couple seasons, but going up against an All-Star like Thomas is too much for him to handle. His improvement as a facilitator shielded the fact that he still struggles to crack 40 percent field goal shooting for a season, and in a game of 1-on-1, he doesn’t have anybody to lean on to hit jumpers consistently.
Next: First Round: Darren Collison vs. J.J. Barea
Apr 9, 2016; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings guard Darren Collison (7) dribbles the ball against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the fourth quarter at Sleep Train Arena. The Kings won 114-112. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
This looks like the most competitive matchup, as these two have become known throughout the league as upper-tier backup point guards that solidify a team’s second-unit. Collison comes from a long line of recent UCLA point guards.
While he may not be quite as athletic as his former backcourt mate Westbrook, Collison has wheels that would make any defender nervous, especially one with the flaws of Barea. He can be scrappy, but he doesn’t possess the physical tools to be able to handle a guy like Collison.
Despite a hard-fought battle from Barea, who has a knack for offensive spurts that he can use in this game, Collison edges him out.
Next: Semifinals: Paul vs. Collison
Jan 17, 2015; Sacramento, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) drives in against Sacramento Kings guard Darren Collison (7) during the second quarter at Sleep Train Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
This game ends up being closer than one would think. Collison spent a year as Paul’s backup in Los Angeles, and after countless hours of practicing against him, very few players in the league know Paul’s moves quite as well as Collison.
Of course, the same thing can be said of Paul towards Collison, but he wouldn’t have to rely as much on inside information. Collision is a great perimeter shooter and explosive scorer, but he’s never had to rely on his defense to earn him minutes on an NBA team.
In a 1-on-1 game against maybe the best point guard of the past decade, those shortcomings get exposed. Paul advances to the finals.
Next: Semifinals: Lowry vs. Thomas
Oct 30, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry (7) drives the ball against Boston Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas (4) defending during the 2nd quarter at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports
This game is an absolute classic, and goes down to the wire. Word spreads around the gym that these two are answering back and forth with increased authority, and a small crowd gathers to gasp and cheer at any slick dribbling move or solid defensive stop.
Lowry can usually counter with his quick hands on defense, but Thomas is so adept as a ball handler that Lowry can’t make him uncomfortable. Thomas barely pulls out a victory by breaking Lowry’s ankles on a crossover and elevating for a step-back midrange jumper.
The gym erupts, and Thomas advances to play Paul in an epic finals showdown.
Next: Finals: Paul vs. Thomas
Mar 29, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) drives the ball against Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) in the second half at TD Garden. The Clippers defeated the Celtics 119-106. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Thomas’s lightning quickness has got a lot of people thinking that he could pull off the upset and beat Paul. It wasn’t meant to be, though, because Paul is just the far more complete point guard.
Thomas may be able to drive for a few baskets, but Paul can shut him down better than maybe any other defender in the league. When Paul has the ball, Thomas looks overwhelmed on defense, because there are so many different ways for Paul to score.
Thomas makes it somewhat difficult, but Paul ends up vanquishing his last opponent en route to being crowned the best 1-on-1 player in the “very small” 5-foot-9-6 feet division.