In today’s NBA, the league is undeniably dominated by big men.
The last five MVPs went to Giannis Antetokounmpo (two), Nikola Jokic (two) and Joel Embiid. Rookies Victor Wembanyama and Chet Holmgren stand at a towering 7-foot-4 and 7-foot-1 respectively, and both are starting to make their mark in the NBA.
As the league embraces this new era filled with giants, it is awesome to see the two sub-6-foot guys match up against each other: New Orleans’ Jose Alvarado and Minnesota’s Jordan McLaughlin.
Alvarado and McLaughlin, who are both listed as 5-foot-11 without shoes, have each carved out a role on their squad. The two provide different valuable skills off the bench, and they have been vital pieces to their team’s success.
Alvarado impacts the game on the defensive end by suffocating and pestering ball-handlers. He also comes up with his signature blindside steals, which earned him the nickname Grand Theft Alvarado (GTA). McLaughlin, on the other hand, is a crafty playmaker who sets up the Wolves' offense off the bench and serves as a reliable backup for Mike Conley.
In a league where there are 34 players who are 7-feet or taller this season alone, Alvarado and McLaughlin remain outliers and part of a dying breed.
There are only 12 players who are listed at 6-feet or below in the NBA this season, with the shortest being Markquis Nowell at 5-foot-7 and Jacob Gilyard at 5-foot-8. Together, they represent only 3% of the league population – which means small guards are largely going extinct in the NBA.
Unless you’re an established point guard like Fred VanVleet, Kyle Lowry or Chris Paul, there has been little to no room for these shorter players on NBA rosters.
The current trend of positionless basketball and do-it-all forwards has certainly hurt these smaller guards. Whether it be less reliance on traditional point guards to set up an offense or getting hunted out for switches defensively, teams have been shifting away from said player prototypes. Even a former All-NBA teamer and super scorer like Isaiah Thomas was virtually driven out of the league mainly because of his unfortunate trait of getting exploited on defense due to his height.
Given this, it’s impressive how Alvarado and McLaughlin are staying in the league. This could be attributed to their specific skill-sets. Both guys show that short players still have a place in the NBA as long as they provide value and play a certain role effectively and efficiently. In a league where height is often equated to success, it’s refreshing to see two sub-6-foot players hold their own on the court.