Contextualizing Austin Daye’s lack of heftiness

Austin Daye is too small to play power forward. You don’t need a fancy graph to know that.

But just how undersized is he?

Daye’s official bio lists him at 200 pounds, but in a recent mailbag, Keith Langlois said Daye weighs 209 pounds now. I’ll give Daye the benefit of the doubt, but it doesn’t make much difference.

Starting power forwards

Compared to other starting power forwards, Daye weighs far less. In fact, there’s as much of a difference between Daye and the next-light starting power forwards (Rashard Lewis and Lamar Odom) as there is between Lewis/Odom and Blake Griffin.

For the visually inclined:

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But pure weight might not be the best measure. Daye is 6-foot-11, so his 209 pounds are pretty spread out. That makes it even more likely Daye gets outmuscled by opponents. Let’s look at his relative pounds per inch:

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No matter how you slice it, as long as he remains Detroit’s starting power forward (which I can’t imagine will be much longer), Daye will be overmatched every night. Not most nights. Every night.

Starting small forwards

There are plenty of fans who want to trade Tayshaun Prince, so Daye can start at small forward. Obviously, this would make Daye less overmatched, but overmatched nonetheless.

In terms of weight:

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And in terms of pounds per inch:

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Backup small forwards

A third option is making Daye the backup small forward. This would help the situation more than making him a starting small forward, but it’s not a complete fix.

Weight:

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Pounds per inch:

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Everyone else

There are only 50 players in the league who weigh less per inch that Daye. I though it would be fun to make a Sporcle quiz to see how many you can name. (If you’re not interested in challenging yourself, start the timer and hit “Give up?” above the timer after about about 15 seconds. The answers will appear).

If you look at the list, it’s full of quick guards who would easily blow past Daye.

There just aren’t many, if any, opponents Daye matches up well with.

What this all means

Daye’s body type makes it extremely difficult for him to guard and rebound against NBA frontcourt players. He’s also too slow to stay with many backcourt players. I don’t see either of those things changing anytime soon, if ever.

But Daye will often be a mismatch on the other end of the court. His offensive game is diverse, and opponents will struggle to cover him.

All I ask from Daye is that he do his best when it comes to defense and rebounding. Arnie Kander believes Daye is on the right track. From John Niyo of The Detroit News:

"He has learned how to widen his base," Kander said of Daye, whose massive wingspan — along with his smooth jump shot — made him one of the more intriguing draft prospects coming out of Gonzaga a year ago. "You can amazingly get strong if you have technique, and now he’s getting into his legs and using his strength in a real way.

"He’s an amazing talent, he really is. But he’s also a bright kid and he picks things up very fast and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to get better."

I didn’t really see that in the opener against the Nets, but that’s only one game. Daye can and probably will get better.

For Daye, I think it’s important to appreciate the challenge he faces. But for Joe Dumars, I also think it’s fair to question drafting a player with such limitations.

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