Shot Blocking in 2013

Last season, the player of the year was known for his defense and shot-blocking. But 2013 has been a better year for shot blockers.

First, for those who are unfamiliar with the stat, block % is: Blocked Shots / Opponent 2-pointers Attempted

Before diving into the numbers, I’d like to recommend another article from a couple of years ago about blocked shots. According to Jeff Haley’s math at Burnt Orange Nation, a blocked shot is worth approximately 0.7 points.

The block statistics for this year will be slightly inflated due to the weaker competition of the non-conference schedules, but we’ll re-visit these numbers at the end of the season to see what unfolded.

The data from Kenpom.com shows that there are 36 players this year with a block rate at 10% or higher. The previous mark (in the years with data available) was 26 in 2011.

Number of Players with Block Rate >9.99%

The chart below looks at the top 20 players in block rates going back to 2005. The average of these shows that the top shot blockers this season have a slightly higher block rate and that it has increased each year since 2009.

Block Rates from 2005 to 2013

Typically good shot blockers also draw more fouls, since they are contesting more shots. The point value of a block can be quickly negated by a foul that sends the other team to the free throw line.

The chart below shows that there are fewer fouls this year, which would indicate that players are blocking with less fouls. However, we would need to look at individual players’ fouls to make that claim.

Fouls Per Defensive Play, by Year

In the preseason, Jeff Withey was expected to be one of the best shot blockers in the nation. But Withey seems to have also improved in his timing and spacing. Last season, his block-to-foul ratio was 1.87 and he has more than doubled that figure this year. It would take some digging, but he may be on a record-setting pace in this category.

Blocks per Foul

The blocked shot is one my favorite plays in basketball. But it can also be infuriating when a player has an easy block but decides to swat it into the bleachers instead of towards a teammate. In those instances, I’m sure the point value of the block would be much lower than 0.7. Someone should tell Dwight Howard.

2013 seems to be the year of the blocked shot. The infusion of athletic shot blockers has altered the game and has changed the way that teams value recruits.

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“Havoc” Defenses

Anyone who played any sport with two “goals” (basketball, soccer, hockey, football, rugby, blindfold water polo) remembers those games where you just felt overwhelmed on offense. You may have been the better team, but the other squad just dominated defensively. They challenged you in every aspect and never let you find your groove.

Shaka Smart’s defensive style at VCU is often referred to as Havoc. This video does a good job of showing what it looks like.

Havoc, by definition, is widespread destruction. It’s not one particular thing that a “havoc” defense does to an opponent. It’s a defense that’s in your face, on top of the ball, pressing, going over screens, contesting every pass, flocking to the shooter, etc. It causes an uneasiness that spreads to other aspects of the game.

There are a few statistical categories (tempo-free of course) where VCU has been highly rated (block %, steal % and TO %). The chart below shows the teams that have some of the best overall numbers in these categories this season. Any team with a shaky offense should be frightened to play one of these squads.

Missouri plays at Ole Miss on Jan 12 and I’ll be watching.

Team Block% Steal% TO%
VCU 6.5% 18.8% 30.0%
Syracuse 13.1% 14.8% 24.9%
Louisville 6.5% 16.4% 29.7%
Minnesota 11.8% 14.6% 23.7%
Ohio 7.0% 13.9% 27.4%
Memphis 9.4% 13.9% 24.2%
LSU 8.5% 14.8% 24.1%
Cincinnati 11.9% 12.8% 22.2%
Mississippi 10.1% 12.8% 23.7%
Clemson 10.1% 13.0% 23.3%
Georgetown 8.8% 13.2% 23.9%
Savannah St 7.9% 13.0% 23.8%
Oregon 7.8% 13.3% 23.6%
Wichita St 9.3% 12.6% 22.8%
DePaul 8.5% 12.7% 23.3%
Wagner 10.8% 11.7% 22.0%
Hampton 9.8% 11.2% 23.4%
Wyoming 7.4% 11.7% 25.2%