Tag Archives: Omar Oraby

Defending the Game’s Easiest Shot: Pac-12 Rim Defense

I have a ubiquitously discussed fascination with shots at the rim. I want to know how teams make them and how teams stop them.

A week ago, in the midst of fan euphoria with the Wildcats in the Bay, I went in on Stanford’s #TreeDunk. The silly video lauded the Cardinal as dunking all over Wildcats. I took to the numbers and found that they actually spend very little time at the rim and that’s fine.

What I neglected to address – and I had no qualms about it then – is rim defense. So this week I will.

Defenses are constructed in many ways with lots of different philosophies on how they’re going to keep you from scoring. We can look at UCLA for example. Here’s a team playing significant amounts of zone this season, packing into the lane to compensate for size and athleticism issues. They’re effectively defending by forcing teams to shoot threes. Against the Bruins, 42.3% of shots are from distance (that’s 7th most in the nation). Conversely, Sean Miller’s pack line defense is engineered to limit threes, allowing just 26.9% of shots from deep (23rd lowest in the nation).

But forget about three point defense. You can read about it here and learn a lot.

Defending the rim is interesting because it is so often associated with the blocked shot. It’s the big men blocking the shots and it’s the big men living in the paint. If such is our belief system, we’d be led to think that the Bachynski Devils are the best rim protecting team in the conference – if not nation! After all, the big Canadian leads everyone with 4.1 blocks per game and the Devils subsequently lead the conference in block percentage (a look at blocks per 2-point FG attempts). Here’s how that breaks down for the Pac:

Pac-12 Block PercentagesIndeed, with Bachynski swatting shots away, the Devils have the highest rate in the conference. Walking our way further down the list we find that the conference’s second leading shot blocker, Omar Oraby, anchors the eighth best shot blocking team (by percentage). But as these are both big men, we can examine things a little closer to the home of this discussion. The percentage of shots at the rim a given team is blocking:

Blocked at rim PercentPerhaps not-surprisingly, this chart demonstrates that some of the more front court adept teams do a better job of blocking shots at the rim. This makes sense as Washington is devoid a significant post presence whereas teams like ASU, OSU, and USC have some significant size down low (you realize Omar Oraby is 7’2″). This further suggests that perhaps Washington’s rim defense is not predicated on shot blocking (though to say anything of Washington’s defense this season is a leap). Size doesn’t necessarily matter when it comes to shot blocking, but it can’t hurt.

Of course noting one stat of a single talent (Bachynski, Oraby) won’t tell us much about the whole. Neither does the lone stat. To note that ASU and Utah sit atop the conference in block percentages is really just to say…well…that they lead the conference in that stat. What if teams were making every other shot? You block a few but they make the rest? I suppose we could look at that too then, couldn’t we. An examination of each Pac-12 team’s defensive field goal percentage at the rim:

Pac-12 dFG% at the Rim Leading the way here is USC. The same team we previously saw sitting in eighth place in block percentage and third in block percentage at the rim. Meanwhile, Colorado is in second with just the seventh best block percentage overall and at the rim. Next is Cal who ranked sixth in both block percentages and, in some regard, we’re starting to see an inverse relationship. I don’t believe this to be statistically relevant but I do think that this is an indicator that just because you’re blocking shots, doesn’t mean people aren’t making other attempts. Our presumed block leaders, ASU and Utah, are in the middle of the pack, yielding pretty average FG percentages.

Washington sits at the bottom of both lists and I’m willing to leave that discussion there. The interesting fact here is that Arizona – they of the nation’s top defense – allow teams to shoot a gaudy 65.6% at the rim (316th nationally). The average team shoots 60.9%. It would seem the Wildcats are amongst the worst rim defenders in the country.

NotSoFastBecause what if Arizona just didn’t let teams take shots at the rim? Thus far we’ve noted teams that dismiss shots around the rim (presumably) and teams that affect missing at the rim (dFG%), but what about limiting shot attempts? As we noted earlier re: three-point shooting, teams can be constructed to limit a certain shot. With regards to the close parameter shots, this might be a good strategy. Shall we gander at the teams limiting these chances? We shall:

Pac-12 % of shots at rim defenseHOLY PACK LINE DEFENSE the Wildcats don’t let anyone get near the iron! That percentage leads the nation and handily leads the conference. But with regards to whether or not they defend the rim well, can we simply anoint them the Sworn Brother’s of the Rim’s Watch? Probably, but I’m not entirely satisfied. What do we know about Stanford’s rim protection – the team I dogged for not taking shots at the rim and who led this article? They allow 32% of shots up close while the average team is taking 38.3%. Not too shabby while also ranking fourth in dFG% at the rim. Meanwhile, Colorado ranks near the bottom of the twelve at 36.7% of shots at the rim, flirting with average. However, they nearly lead the conference in dFG% against. Are you seeing a pattern? I’m not.

So what I did was find the total number of field goal attempts each team has yielded and multiplied it by the team’s percentage of field goals at the rim. This led to the gross number of shots at the rim and was then multiplied by the field goal percentage at the rim. Those numbers crunched yields us the gross number of made field goals at the rim. And that was the number I wanted – or at least thought I wanted. If teams aren’t making shots at the rim, then you’re protecting it, right? This factors both affecting misses and limiting chances. Here’s what it looks like – I mean all of it:

Pac-12 Rim Defenses not final

Once again, however, not so fast my friend!  I have one final chart for us (and then I’ll show one more). The above offers gross data and if I’m being completely honest I think I just wanted you to see all of it. The factor we’re not accounting for is defense. Teams play at different paces, putting up more or less shots and subsequently their opponents doing similarly. USC, for example, appears to have the resume of a good rim defending team when looking at % shots allowed and dFG%. But they’re also the third fastest team in the conference behind UCLA and Oregon and are subsequently yielding 12 dunks or layups a night – third most in the conference. So let’s divide the above columns 2 and 3 to get our rim defense rankings:

Pac-12 Rim DefendersBy finding the ratio of rim makes to total field goal attempts on defense, I believe we’re looking at the defense as a collective. After all, the goal of a defense is to prevent the other team from scoring and the other team scores by taking shots. That’s what is represented in the denominator. The numerator in this case (field goals made at the rim) represents the number of easy buckets yielded. In short: As a fraction of total defense, how much are you giving up at the game’s easiest success point?

If you’re Washington, it means that one quarter of all shots taken against you are worth two points from very close to the rim. That’s not good. Conversely, Arizona allows just 12.07% of the shots against them to be successfully laid or dunked in. I wish I had national context to these numbers but I don’t have the bandwidth right now. If you want more, email me and we can talk.

In bringing things full circle, Jordan Bachynski is going to set both the school and conference blocked shot records. He is a factor in protecting the rim as are all great shot blockers. That’s an important and helpful asset to the game. But like everything else, there is no Bachynski in team. Its appears the defensive collective – if not strategy – can often protect the hallowed area. Of course with this information, we can further our understanding of a team’s defensive strategy which would take a team by team analysis. But that’s for another post so just know that Oregon severely misses Arsalan Kazemi and Tony Woods.

But one final chart. This time with no numbers, just color coordination so we can see how all of this adds up across the factors we examined and the mishmash of strategies used to protect (or otherwise) the rim:

Rim Defense Collective

NOTE: All data and stats for this piece were obtained from Kenpom.com, hoop-math.com, and basketball-reference.com.

Ranking the Pac-12 front courts

While this group doesn’t hold a candle to the collective guard talent, there are some formidable pieces. The conference has brought in solid transfer bigs and we could see a record fall in Tempe. I’ll propose the question: What is Kyle Anderson and why’d ya do it, Eric Moreland? The bigs:

  1. Arizona – Three five-stars that each bring a completely different set of skills to the table. You can push Aaron Gordon to the three and he can talk all about his desire to play there, but the fact of the matter is, the kid plays above the rim. That’s Kaleb Tarczewski big. The impending health of Zach Peters (recently cleared) offers another six-feet-and-ten-inches of unique skill set (shots).
  2. Stanford – Maybe they haven’t won much but between Dwight Powell and Josh Huestis you’ve got everything you’d want in a front court. Each has springs and can play physical. Powell can score from all over the place while Huestis is about as tough defensively as they get.
  3. UCLA – I already gave Kyle Anderson some back court love, but last season he was asked to be more of a forward and he excelled at that – averaging nearly a 9 boards/game. The Bruins already feature the Wear family who’s been formidable and while Travis is out injured right now, David is healthy again and should have an improved season from a year ago. The unknown to this group – and the piece that could make them a pretty scare team – is the improvement and conditioning of Tony Parker. It’s an unfortunate annual event that we discuss the conditioning of a Bruin big but if one of them ever gets it about them to be in shape, look out.
  4. Colorado – Josh Scott had a great first season and particularly when he had fresh legs. His output tapered some as the season dragged on but that’s what sometimes happens with freshmen. He’s now a year aged and while he lost his rebounding running mate, Xavier Johnson projects to fill in nicely at the wing-forward spot while Buffs fans are also very high on Wesley Gordon.
  5. Oregon – One of their starters was suspended but that’s not the key piece. Mike Moser has proven to be a terrific power forward. In 2011-12 he was amongst the nation’s best players. Then a year later he wasn’t. Who is Oregon getting? I’m thinking it’ll be a lot more of the former than the latter. If Ben Carter can recover from his salesmanship and produce, this group could be tough with all those guards.
  6. ASU – Depth maybe isn’t their strong suit up front but if Jordan Bachynski can replicate last season, he will be the Pac-12’s All-Time leading shot blocker. That’s saying something.
  7. Oregon State Let’s note right up front that Eric Moreland will be out for 14 straight games. We’ll also note that he’s a very good basketball player and flirted with the NBA. The First Team also has Devon Collier and returns everyone’s second favorite Aussie, Angus Brandt. In most any other system, I think these guys might be a top-four front court. But this is a school averaging just 15 wins a year the past three seasons. Sigh.
  8. California – I’ve said it before, I like Richard Solomon. I think he could have a big year. But to this point he’s been a foul prone athlete in Cal’s paint. His services have been supplemented by a walk-on named The Thurmanator. Solomon has the skills to be great, but will he? The other big in Haas is David Kravish who has a very sound skill set, a solid big, but he’s just not that big. Front court depth will also be a Bear-issue.
  9. Washington – They lose their anchor in Aziz but they’re bringing in a very interesting piece that LoRo says has the “potential to lead the team in scoring.” That’s nice – and scary, frankly, considering CJ Wilcox is on the team – but what I like the most about the addition of Perris Blackwell is that he’s a big body who’s going to let all those guards run amuck. Between him and the Rain Man Jr. (along with Desmond Simmons), the Dawgs have a few guys to get dirty in their second attempt at the high post offense. And this.
  10. Utah – This ranking hinges squarely on the fact that Jordan Loveridge is fantastic, he’s a double-double about to happen. Maybe he’s manning the middle alone now (bye Jason Washburn), but he’s man enough to do it. Worth noting, K did mention an improved and healthy Renan Lenz.
  11. USC – I don’t think these two are well suited for Andy Enfield’s tempo but they are serviceable bigs. Omar Oraby and DJ Haley are just too big for Dunk City. This is an offense that needs to get out and move and 7’2″ and 7′ tends to be a bit rigid when it comes to the fast break.
  12. WSU – Uhhhhh. They have their full allotment of scholarship athletes?

Getting to know USC: They’re nice

Let’s get serious. If we’re going to discuss USC basketball we’re going to talk about Andy Enfield’s wife comments about UCLA, “Wanna play slow? Go to UCLA.” Boooom! And then he swiftly glowed about his respect for “Steve” and the UCLA program. I don’t doubt his sincerity, but I also don’t fully believe the fact that he wants that spice behind closed doors. In a recent meeting a co-worker told me that if you’re going to write a marketing email that everyone is going to like you’re going to be boring. No one likes boring. No one plays for boring. So Dunk City needed to make a splash. Dunk City has to come into Los Angeles – which is UCLA’ s town – and make itself loved. To be loved, someone’s gotta hate you. Because you’re either loved, hated, or forgotten. Andy Enfield aims to not soon be forgotten.

Amanda_Marcum-5

Why I love them: This team has almost nothing going for it from the standpoint of a talented roster. This is a predicament that – in the realm of sports – not conducive to left column. USC is not going to win many ball games. But they’re winning the press conference. They’ve won a recruiting battle. And Mrs. Enfield. Pe’Shon Howard is a nice transfer and Omar Oraby is gigantic. Byron Wesley returns after a sound sophomore campaign and JT Terrell is going to shoot more often than Lane Kiffin changes jobs. Darion Clark won a title at Oak Hill Academy and arrives in LA by way of transfer from Charlotte. DJ Haley brings all seven feet of himself to the Galen Center from VCU… along with his 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game. So many nice parts, right?

Why I hate them: Ever asked someone how their date went and they say, “Good time. He was nice.” Yeah, game over. Nothing good is ever nice and everything inside the Galen Center just feels nice. JT Terrell is stoked to be let loose as an athlete (“Been a lot of people getting dunked on in practice”) as I imagine everyone else is. But when two of your greatest assets – at least on paper – are seven-plus footers (Oraby and Haley), well then your run-n-gun, up-tempo offense wouldn’t seem to have the right pieces. I’m excited about USC’s direction, but it’s just really nice right now.

Stat you need to know:

11:38:56

Andy Enfield’s time on stage at Pac-12 Media Day. Worth noting, Steve Alford’s time on stage was 14:54:45. Who’s faster?

Quotable:

“We play up-tempo basketball here. If you want to play slow, go to UCLA.” – Andy Enfield’s quote that ain’t going anywhere.

Outlook: I suppose it’s a loaded question because, amongst all of the teams we’ve previewed, in the long term USC has the greatest ceiling. Or at least they’ve got the best opportunity to become a regular dancer. They’re sure as shit not there yet. Katin Reinhardt is riding the pine and won’t take the court until Jordan McLaughlin arrives on campus. 2013-14 won’t be easy to swallow in the Galen Center but neither was Bozo Ball. Did you know that one of KO’s USC teams had the 335th best offense in the nation (87.9 ORtg)? In a word: awful.  On to the Enfield-era where offenses move like grandmas with cheetahs taped to their backs and dunks flow like 405 traffic after a SigAlert clears. You wanna play slow? Go to…