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Bigs, Blocks, and Fouls

This is a short post because I feel bad for never posting. I *am* going to be posting more regularly, but you may have noticed that my big long 5000+ word pieces with custom artwork and lots of stats take more than 20 mins to poop out. (Unlike some ‘bloggers’ on other websites that just link to your work and call it semi-original content; that’s how you become a chill bro, by the way.) This season the Jazz blocked a lot of shots. How many? They sent back 484 shots, which was 3rd best in the league. In 2009-2010 the Jazz blocked only 400 shots total, and they were ranked 16th best in the league. In 2008-2009 the Jazz only blocked 374 shots, and were 21st in the league. Clearly the Jazz are blocking more shots. Blocks alone don’t make you a good team, what really matters is a ratio between blocked shots and fouls. For the years that the Jazz improved from 21st to 16th to 3rd in blocks, the Jazz’ fouls went up from 8th most to 4th most to 1st most. That’s not so hot.

Let’s take a look at the bigs that project to get the most playing time next season (provided that we resign our major free agents and there are no trades).

Who are these guys?

Our frontcourt (failing any major shake up or draft of a legit big) is Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Andrei Kirilenko, Mehmet Okur, and Derrick Favors. Some of them are naturally gifted athletes, while others worked hard on timing their jumps and have quick hands. Of the 484 blocks our team got last season these guys managed to block 327 of them. That’s 68% of our team’s total. Is 68% a big number or a small number? I honestly don’t know. What I do know is that these guys aren’t all superb shot blockers when you disregard the blocks per game deal, or even the blocks per minute deal; and instead look at the ratios that exist between blocks and fouls.

Andrei Kirilenko:

Andrei is amazing. These numbers look great, and will only get better when you look at how they compare to the rest of the guys in the following paragraphs.

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Last season was a ‘down’ season for Andrei in terms of blocks and fouls. He has his lowest blocks per minute (BPM) value of his entire career. He made it up with having his lowest fouls per minute (FPM) of his career as well. His blocks to fouls ratio was still ‘down’, only 0.655 which was among the lower ones of his stellar career – but over all he’s still a valuable beast in this department. Perhaps he’s a shadow of his former self but that shadow still looms large in the mind of opposing team’s shooters.

Mehmet Okur:

While Andrei is a defensive player; Memo couldn’t be accused of being that. Ever. Still, in his last full season with the Jazz, the big Turkish shooter blocked 1.11 shots a game.

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Memo has never had a positive Blocks / Fouls ratio (everything under 1.0). If you forgot, Andrei has had 4 seasons like that. Memo still for his career averages 1.5 (rounding up) blocks in 2 games. Last season was a throw away year though. He only blocked 0.31 blocks per game; obviously, it was his lowest ever. That said, his growing veteran savvy on the defensive end has made his blocks to fouls ratio much better now than his peak offensive years on our team. Furthermore, his shot blocking wasn’t based upon athleticism at all. It was a product of playing smarter. I think Memo can continue to play smarter, he’ll almost have to as he tries to get back into the rotation next year. A contract year.

Al Jefferson:

Big Al blocked 1.87 shots a game this last year. That was the single highest BPG average on our team since Andrei back in 2006-2007. He had a career high in total blocks this season as well.

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What’s even better than just straight up blocking shots is that he also had a career high in blocks / fouls ratio (.643). It was way higher than his career cumulative total (.472). While it was still lower than AK’s value, no one ever accused Big Al of being a defensive juggernaut. I liked what we saw from him and his value could increase next season with the defensive change of herding players to the baseline / side line – instead of into the mouth of the paint, giving an advantage to the dribbler to get in and get fouled.

Paul Millsap:

For whatever reason I think we were all blown away by a Rookie Millsap and his violent shot blocking. He also fouled a heck of a lot back as a rookie too. What we may have seen since then his Millsap playing with less reckless abandon. What we may be failing to see is that there’s a good reason for that.

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Sap is blocking less frequently, and fouling less frequently as well. True, his blocks to fouls ratio is lower than it was as a rookie – but aside from last seasons’ apotheosis, it is right about where he’s been for three of his five years in the league. His blocks per minute are down 31.6% from his cumulative total. His fouls per minute are down 20.0% from his cumulative total. Looks bad right? Well, a -20% reduction in fouls per minute just means that he can stay on the floor for longer. And MySynergySports shows us that he’s one of our best scorers per possession (#46 in the league); in this regard having a less reckless Millsap means having more of him to apply to the other side of the court. And if all the advanced stats makes your head spin, well, as a rookie he blocked 0.9 shots a game. Last season he blocked 0.91 shots a game. More mins, more points, less blocks per minute, less fouls: a solid trade off.

Derrick Favors:

We are expecting great things from this kid. It’s unfair, but this rookie has a lot of fans expecting massive on-court production increases.

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While the sample size (only 78 games) is very low, we can see that he’s already a better shot blocker than Memo is. (Yes, I know, I’m setting the bar low – I don’t want my expectations to be too crazy) He’s a little worse than Sap is. Sap’s career cumulative total blocks to fouls ratio is .287; while Favors got a value of .276 as a rookie. But that’s the rub … he’s only a rookie. Let’s take a look at these five guys in their rookie seasons.

Rookies, rookies, rookies…

HOLY HECK ANDREI KIRLENKO IS A BEAST! Well, he was a beast . . . a decade ago.

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Andrei is still good now, but we shouldn’t expect Andrei’s career arc in blocking everything in the air from Favors. Compared to all of the guys not named Memo, Favors doesn’t look that hot. He doesn’t look bad though. He is average-ish. And lacking a big-man coach, or a defensive coach, we can only assume he’ll have an average-ish improvement over the next few years.

Gestalt Blocking:

The point we should focus on is that this group of guys blocks shots together. They work on the floor and give the Jazz some serious Surface-to-Air defense that we haven’t seen in a long time. The entire team had a cumulative 2010-2011 regular season blocks to fouls ratio of .259. These five guys together? They had a cumulative 2010-2011 regular season blocks to fouls ratio of .465 – which is way better. It’s not amazing, like Andrei’s peak seasons – but as a group is much better than a number of other NBA teams. More than anything else, though, it’s a start for a team that needs to curtail dribble penetration. It’s something we can build on. It’s something our team could hang our hat on going forward.

Odds and Ends:

Why no Francisco Elson, Kyrylo Fesenko, Gordon Hayward, or Jeremy Evans in this list? I don’t think that some of those guys are going to get big minutes in the paint for us next year – or even be on the team next year. We all love Evans’ ratio of .340 – but I really don’t know where he’ll even play next season. The other three guys all had ratios under .2 and .16; not really something to call home about.

This is not one of the big things for me this off-season. This isn’t even a part of the season review series, this is just something I wanted to touch on quickly. Those things, and a dedicated player by player stats review WILL be happening. I promise to have everything done before next training camp. Hopefully months before then though.