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The tallest recorded starting lineups in NBA history

When coaches decided to get creative and use size to their advantage.
John Henson, Larry Sanders, and Giannis Antetokounmpo

John Henson, Larry Sanders, and Giannis Antetokounmpo

NBA basketball today can best be described as positionless. Point guards want to play in the post (Kyrie Irving), guards are setting screens, and big men's go-to move is a long-range jumper. Forget about your standardized basketball schemes. Today's game is all about variety.

In such a landscape, we're witnessing an increasing number of NBA teams experimenting with players' positions. LeBron plays the point guard, Kevin Durant is rumored to spend some minutes at the five, and 6-5 P.J. Tucker is a starting center for the Houston Rockets. At this point, height is just a number. It's all about the players' skill sets and finding guys who fit within the newly implemented basketball systems. Sometimes it works. Other times, things get weird -- the Nuggets venture against Washington is the perfect example of that.

Denver Nuggets

When the Wizards took the court for the team's first live-action in the Orlando bubble, Washington immediately found itself undersized. It's because the Nuggets rolled out one of the tallest lineups in NBA history. Here's the five Mike Malone started the game with:

  • PG: Nikola Jokić (7-0)
  • SG: Jerami Grant (6-8)
  • SF: Bol Bol (7-2)
  • PF: Paul Millsap (6-7)
  • C: Mason Plumlee (6-11)

The total height of the Nuggets lineup equals to 412 inches. It's safe to say that all NBA teams throughout the NBA history would've been undersized going against these five. Well, all except one.

Dallas Mavericks

The '20 Nuggets didn't start the game with the tallest lineup ever. The '99 Dallas Mavericks did. Here's the five.

  • PG: Hubert Davis (6-5)
  • SG: Michael Finley (6-7)
  • SF: Dirk Nowitzki (7-0)
  • PF: Chris Anstey (7-0)
  • C: Shawn Bradley (7-6)
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With a total of a whopping 414 inches, the Mavs starting five from the last game of the lockout-shortened 98/99 NBA season is the tallest group ever to start an NBA game. But unlike the Nuggets who beat Washington 89-82, the Mavericks ended up losing their experiment game 110-100 to the Sonics.

However, despite the failure, the Mavs ran the experiment again three years later. On November 2, 2002, Don Nelson started a group with a total height of 411 inches against the Phoenix Suns. And this time, it worked. Dallas beat the suns 93-87, with their starting lineup combining for 71 points. Here's the Mavericks' lineup.

  • PG: Steve Nash (6-3)
  • SG: Michael Finley (6-7)
  • SF: Dirk Nowitzki (7-0)
  • PF: Raef LaFrentz (6-11)
  • C: Shawn Bradley (7-6)

Indiana Pacers

That was the third time in NBA history a team started guys with a total height of 411 inches. The first time it happened was in '97, and it was done by the Pacers. The best thing about it is that Indiana did it twice in the span of a week. Their first attempt bore fruit, as they beat the Bucks 92-89 with the starting five combining for 70 points. But the same can't be said about the second one, as Indiana lost to the Hornets 98-97. Here's the five that started both games:

  • PG: Jalen Rose (6-8)
  • SG: Reggie Miller (6-7)
  • SF: Derrick McKey (6-9)
  • PF: Dale Davis (6-11)
  • C: Rik Smits (7-4)

Milwaukee Bucks

The latest team to join the 411 inches club is the Milwaukee Bucks. With Eric Bledsoe and Malcolm Brogdon unable to play, the Bucks presented their version of an antidote to small-ball, starting a group with no player shorter than 6-8. Here's the five:

  • PG: Khris Middleton (6-8)
  • SG: Giannis Antetokounmpo (6-11)
  • SF: Nikola Mirotić (6-10)
  • PF: Ersan Ilyasova (6-10)
  • C: Brook Lopez (7-0)

Despite Giannis' putting up 43 points, 15 rebounds, and 8 assists, the Bucks fell to the Jazz 115-111 for an overall record of 3-3 when teams start their games with abnormally tall lineups. It's certainly good enough for teams to keep experimenting with it, and my bet is on the Sixers to be the next to do it. The five of Ben Simmons (6-10), Furkan Korkmaz (6-7), Tobias Harris (6-8), Joel Embiid (7-0), and Dwight Howard (6-10) sure doesn't sound bad.

P.S. the Erie Bayhawks of the ABA once trotted out a gimmick starting lineup (432 inches) of Barry Mitchell (6-8), Deng D'Awol (7-0), Ayo Adigun (7-1), Gheorghe Muresan (7-6), and Sun Ming Ming (7-9). To this day, that's the tallest starting five in professional basketball history. It's safe to say this one is set in stone.

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