Finding the valuable heavy-footed defenders (part 2)

February 20, 2017 by J.H. Yeh

On February 18, 2017, I did a research on finding the valuable heavy-footed defenders and I concluded that blocks over-estimate players like Clint Capela. Conversely, I also concluded that blocks alone might under-estimate rim protectors like Roy Hibbert and Dwayne Dedmon. Moreover, I also predicted that Trey Lyles is going to be a valuable defenders in the future because he is currently ranked third in opponent FG% at the rim at  0.540  (behind Hibbert and Dedmon) but he posts a very low blocks per game and blocks per 36 minutes.

Below is the list of the players who are classified as centers and power forwards and their respective minutes per game, blocks per game, blocks per 36 minutes, and opponent FG% at the rim. This is the same exact list from part 1.

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Now I’ve added another metric in blocks per minute to (hopefully) have a better and more precise look at the impact between blocks and opponent FG% at the rim. I scaled it to five decimal places for better accuracy. The list is sorted by blocks per minute (highlighted in yellow). Joel Embiid and Kyle O’Quinn are the only players with an above 0.09000 blocks per minute and Lucas Noguira is the only player in the 0.08000s. The average is 0.03673.

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Next, I plot these blocks per minute stats along with the opponent FG% at the rim. This yields us a similar (but different) regression line. The low R-Squared in 0.16 is the highest of the three graphs (the others being the correlation between blocks and opp FG% at rim and the correlation between blocks per 36 min and opp FG% at the rim). The low R-squared is a strong evidence that blocks alone is not a good metric on predicting a player’s rim protection ability.

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Despite that, the result still shows some valuable information as it further validates that blocks alone over-estimate players like Capela and Anthony Davis. The chart also shows that both Rudy Gobert and Hassan Whiteside are effective defenders as their blocks per minute number under-estimate their opponent FG% at the rim.

Moreover, the regression line further confirms that both Trey Lyles and Domantas Sabonis are not just a fluke as they average 0.01693  and 0.01843  blocks per minute while limiting their opponents to just 54.0% and 55.6% at the rim, respectively. Both players are very young (Lyles is 21 years old and Sabonis is 20) and it is expected for them to get better. Their development in the next couple years should be very interesting as the league is gearing towards efficiency and these two players certainly have the potential to be great and effective defenders.

To sum up, with a slightly better R-Squared, blocks per minute is a good measurement to gauge which players are the heavy-footed defenders who can play effective interior defense without blocking too many shots. In spite of limited minutes, Hibbert and Dedmon are the clear outliers and the coveted skilled bigs who can play defense near the basket. In addition, as the graph suggested, budding players like Lyles and Sabonis are shown to have big potential and bright future to be great defenders in the league in future seasons.

— J.H. Yeh

(all graphs are created by me, and all sources of stats are courtesy of NBA.com as of February 16, 2017)

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