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Paul’s Place In the Small-Guard Pantheon

Posted by Neil Paine on October 7, 2009

Chris Paul's new children's book, "Long Shot: Never Too Small to Dream Big," is about how a young CP3 was able to overcome his short stature to become an NBA superstar. It's a feel-good story for the whole family, I'm sure, but it also begs the question: where does Paul stand among the great small guards of all time?

According to official records, CP3 stands at an even six feet tall, although as is usual with height measurements, there's wiggle room -- he measured a somewhat generous 6'1" at the pre-Draft camp in 2005, but in bare feet he supposedly checks in at 5'11" ¾ or smaller. He even refers to himself as a "small 5-11, 6-0 regular guy," all of which is to say that CP3 isn't like one of those 7-footers (*cough* KG) who weirdly claims to be shorter than he actually is; he's legitimately one of the smallest men in the NBA:

NBA's Shortest Players, 2009
Player Ht Tm G MP
Nate Robinson 69 NYK 74 2209
Brevin Knight 70 UTA 74 938
Chucky Atkins 71 TOT 32 413
Speedy Claxton 71 ATL 2 15
D.J. Augustin 72 CHA 72 1908
Jose Barea 72 DAL 79 1600
Aaron Brooks 72 HOU 80 1998
Dee Brown 72 TOT 19 261
Will Bynum 72 DET 57 803
T.J. Ford 72 IND 74 2258
Eddie Gill 72 MIL 6 43
Allen Iverson 72 TOT 57 2093
Kyle Lowry 72 TOT 77 1679
Tyronn Lue 72 TOT 44 521
Jameer Nelson 72 ORL 42 1309
Chris Paul 72 NOH 78 3002
Sean Singletary 72 TOT 37 303
Sebastian Telfair 72 MIN 75 2095

Clearly he's the best player in that group by a wide margin, but how does he stack up to the other great 6'0"-and-under guards of the past? Here are the best seasons (Win Shares-wise) by members of the 72-inches-or-less set in NBA/ABA history:

Rk Player Ht Season Age Tm Lg G MP WS
1 Chris Paul 72 2008-09 23 NOH NBA 78 3002 17.5
2 Chris Paul 72 2007-08 22 NOH NBA 80 3006 17.3
3 Tim Hardaway 72 1996-97 30 MIA NBA 81 3136 12.6
4 Allen Iverson 72 2007-08 32 DEN NBA 82 3424 12.6
5 Kenny Anderson 72 1996-97 26 POR NBA 82 3081 12.5
6 Dana Barros 71 1994-95 27 PHI NBA 82 3318 12.4
7 Mookie Blaylock 72 1996-97 29 ATL NBA 78 3056 12.1
8 Allen Iverson 72 2000-01 25 PHI NBA 71 2979 11.7
9 Bobby Wanzer* 72 1951-52 30 ROC NBA 66 2498 11.5
10 Terrell Brandon 71 1995-96 25 CLE NBA 75 2570 11.4
11 Tim Hardaway 72 1997-98 31 MIA NBA 81 3031 11.4
12 Mark Price 72 1988-89 24 CLE NBA 75 2728 11.0
13 Allen Iverson 72 2005-06 30 PHI NBA 72 3103 10.9
14 Mack Calvin 72 1972-73 25 CAR ABA 84 2228 10.7
15 Tim Hardaway 72 1990-91 24 GSW NBA 82 3215 10.5
16 Chris Paul 72 2005-06 20 NOK NBA 78 2808 10.2

Well, there you go -- CP3 owns the two best -- and three of the top 16 -- seasons by a little guy in pro basketball history. And how about career rankings?

Rk Player Ht From To Lg G MP WS
1 Allen Iverson 72 1997 2009 NBA 886 36719 99.9
2 Tim Hardaway 72 1990 2003 NBA 867 30626 85.8
3 Calvin Murphy* 69 1971 1983 NBA 1002 30607 83.0
4 Louie Dampier 72 1968 1979 TOT 960 32201 74.8
5 Mookie Blaylock 72 1990 2002 NBA 889 31026 70.8
6 Mark Price 72 1987 1998 NBA 722 21560 69.1
7 Terrell Brandon 71 1992 2002 NBA 724 21545 63.0
8 Kenny Anderson 72 1992 2005 NBA 858 25868 62.7
9 Mack Calvin 72 1970 1981 TOT 755 21593 61.8
10 David Wesley 72 1994 2007 NBA 949 30272 61.5
11 Avery Johnson 70 1989 2004 NBA 1054 26615 56.5
12 Freddie Lewis 72 1967 1977 TOT 750 24924 54.9
13 Damon Stoudamire 70 1996 2008 NBA 878 29106 54.8
14 Muggsy Bogues 63 1988 2001 NBA 889 25429 54.3
15 Chris Paul 72 2006 2009 NBA 300 11169 53.7

15th is extremely impressive, seeing as how Paul has only been in the league for 4 seasons! Finally, while I don't usually use PER to evaluate players, in honor of CP3 ranking first in John Hollinger's preseason PER projections, here are your top small players ever by career PER (minimum 10,000 MP):

Rk Player Ht From To Lg G MP PER
1 Chris Paul 72 2006 2009 NBA 300 11169 25.8
2 Allen Iverson 72 1997 2009 NBA 886 36719 21.1
3 Terrell Brandon 71 1992 2002 NBA 724 21545 19.7
4 Mark Price 72 1987 1998 NBA 722 21560 19.6
5 Tim Hardaway 72 1990 2003 NBA 867 30626 18.6
6 Calvin Murphy* 69 1971 1983 NBA 1002 30607 18.0
7 Mack Calvin 72 1970 1981 TOT 755 21593 17.4
8 Bobby Wanzer* 72 1952 1957 NBA 373 12128 17.1
9 Mookie Blaylock 72 1990 2002 NBA 889 31026 16.8
10 Michael Adams 70 1986 1996 NBA 653 20446 16.6
11 Kenny Anderson 72 1992 2005 NBA 858 25868 16.4
12 Dana Barros 71 1990 2004 NBA 850 19480 16.4
13 Darrell Armstrong 72 1995 2008 NBA 840 19914 16.3
14 Earl Boykins 65 1999 2008 NBA 520 10874 15.9
15 Kevin Porter 72 1973 1983 NBA 659 19107 15.6
16 Dick McGuire* 72 1952 1960 NBA 606 17170 15.5
17 Damon Stoudamire 70 1996 2008 NBA 878 29106 15.4
18 Rickey Green 72 1978 1992 NBA 946 23271 15.3
19 Louie Dampier 72 1968 1979 TOT 960 32201 15.2
20 Sherman Douglas 72 1990 2001 NBA 765 21148 15.1

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5 Responses to “Paul’s Place In the Small-Guard Pantheon”

  1. Jason J Says:

    if you set the height limit to 6' 5" he's still one of the absolute best.

    His '09 WS is second only Oscar's in '64.

    His '09 PER is second only to Wade's in '09. (I set game limits of at least 41 played and minutes limits of at least 24 per game to keep guys who played 6 amazing minutes in 1972 off the list - dangers of a per / minute metric).

    The kid is a stat machine. He scores well on great shooting, racks up assists like crazy, gets to line, keeps his turnovers down and his steals up. What more could you ask for in a PG?

  2. Boss Says:

    What impresses me most about Paul is his rebounding. He puts up some incredible numbers for a guy around 6 foot tall. His numbers are comparable to many that are 6-7 inches taller than him.

  3. Owen Says:

    it's a good point. By rebound percentage Paul was a better rebounder than Kobe last year, not that a network analyst would mention it.

  4. Mike G Says:

    Hot off the press:
    http://sonicscentral.com/apbrmetrics/viewtopic.php?t=505

  5. Ryan Says:

    Why are we all of a sudden ranking a player by a cumulative stat that relies extensively on the overall performance of the 4 other guys on the court with him at the time, in order to maximize the ceiling for the stat?

    Constant comparison throughout last season of '09 LeBron to '88 Jordan based on PER... though I've yet to see anybody note his 20.3WS (> LeBron's 19.8), despite his team winning 16 less games.