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Sunday Syncopation #41

Seems like there’s a lot of player news, interviews, and junk because of the dodge barrage. Well, none of that will be found here.

Building Blocks

Much the same way where the concept of defense in terms of evaluating guards may sometimes deviate towards looking at steals numbers, at times we are just as guilty of over-valuing shot blockers when searching for interior defensive help. After all, just look at how Carlos Boozer was a very poor interior defender and was also a very poor shot blocker. If a then b, right? (Logicians, what is that called? Modus Dumbens?) Sadly it’s not that easy – after all some guys who get a lot of blocks do so at the expense of actually defending their man, or boxing out. It’s hard to be called lock down if you leave your man as soon as you can in favor of a swat. Of course, not all guys who get a high number of blocks are stat chasers – sometimes the defense if built around a dude, and opposing players are just funneled in harms way. This clearly was the case with Dikembe Mutombo, and obviously the case with the Jazz’s own Mark Eaton as well.

Looking at the issue not in terms of behavior, but intended consequence, may actually make us feel better about our team, players, and in specifics, our bigmen. The overhyped behavior is looking for a bigman who can block shots. The intended consequence, on the other hand, is finding guys who make their men miss shots. They are not the same thing.

For example, let’s look at two players. Player A gets 1.5 blocks a game, and Player B gets 0.8 blocks a game. Looking at this evaluation it’s easy to fall in love with Player A, for he blocks nearly twice as many shots. Unfortunately for Player A, there’s more too it than just blocks. Let’s say that they both face their man shooting the ball 10 times a game. Player A still blocks more shots, but what if he also lets his man score more? Is he still better?

Player B only blocks 0.8 shots out of 10, for this hypothetical situation. However, he holds his opponent to 4/10 shooting. Only 0.8 of a total 6 misses are blocked, but he is holding his man to only 4 made shots. If Player A is put in the same situation, his man may score 5.5 times out of 10. Sure, 1.5 times out of the 4.5 misses are blocked (which is a larger % than Player B), but his man scores more frequently over all.

Surely, in this hypothetical situation Player A gets the stats, but it’s Player B who gets the stops. Of course, this means nothing if the team both players are on do not get the ensuing defensive rebound . . . we were 3rd best in the league in blocks (484 this last year), but 28th out of 30 in securing defensive rebounds (only 2338 last year). I guess the first part to defense is making your opponent miss -- the second part is getting a hold of the ball. These are defensive building blocks which appear to be more important in the big picture than making sure that making sure we have four different guys average a block a game (Al Jefferson, Derrick Favors, Andrei Kirilenko, and Paul Millsap did).



Building Blocks part 2 Duplo Blocks

I guess the block is really the sexy thing out there when you look at defensive bigs. Which is kind of sad. I spent a lot of hours trying to evaluate players based on their stats, and sometimes the stats just do not add up to what we see in the games. This is most true on the defensive end. If you are the absolutely best defender out there you know what stat you’re going to rack up on a good play? A steal? A block? Force a turn over? You’re actually going to get nothing. You will hound your man with such a tenacity that either they get the ball and have everything shut off so they have to pass it away, or that they’ll never even get the ball on the play in the first place. Fundamentally good defense doesn’t mean putting a hand up in a jump shooters face and hope for a miss. Fundamentally good defense is preventing your man from getting the ball where he can do something with it (denying good post position, denying passes into the lane on cuts, etc), and preventing your man from getting into his sweet spots. This stuff even comes before making your man miss, and getting the defensive rebound. This stuff is rudimentary stuff. And it is in a non-statistical evaluation of sub-competitive basketball that I can’t shake the silly feeling that Kyrylo Fesenko does do some things right out there on the court. Being relegated to only seeing SynergySports clips the last few weeks I’ve had ample time to actually see what he does on defense, vs. what guys like Al Jefferson and even Paul Millsap attempt to do. Fesenko is big. Other guys can’t post up on him where they want. DeMarcus Cousins couldn’t do it. Andrew Bynum couldn’t do it. Even Dwight Howard had trouble with Fesenko – if for not other reason than the fact that a) Fes is big, and b) Fes knows he is big. Fes makes you post out farther than you want. Fes doesn’t block a lot of shots, but he makes you miss a lot of shots – partly because you are shooting from 1-2 feet farther out. A 1-2’ difference wouldn’t have stopped the Hakeems, Misses Robinsons, and Ewings – but right now we’re in the middle of a group of young bigs who have no post moves. In a way, this is the perfect NBA for Fesenko, one where it’s not like he can get school by anyone for being mentally retarded. (Or maybe he has ADHD, I don’t know yet.) Matt Harpring always talks up Fes when he’s on NBA TV, saying he’s a legit NBA player and a shot changer. Having grown up on a steady diet of Eaton and Ostertag the ‘shot changing’ aspect seemed ancillary to shot blocking. Now that I actually look at the point of defense as making your man miss – I’m finding it harder to say Fesenko is horrible. (Last season he was the best on the team at closing out on jump shooters. It says something when the 320 pound ox is the guy who hustles the most to disrupt open shooters. Boozer’s defense on open jump shooters was to say "OOHHH SH**T!")


Video of the Week:

We’ve had a lot of bigmen on our team. Most of them were horrible. However, not all of them were. Mark Eaton is frequently listed as one of the best – if not the best ever – Jazz center. He was a multiple time DPOY and was an All-Star. But he has career averages of 6.0 ppg off of 45.8 fg%. Which is pretty low when you are 7’4. It’s also pretty low when you factor in all the defensive attention Karl Malone and John Stockton used to pull away from Big Ol’ Mark.

John would have had at least two to three more assists per game back in the old days if Mark had even ‘average’ professional athlete style hands. (Don’t get me started on O-Tag’s butter fingers) Thanks to cabronitosaviola for uploading this!

Hope you did not miss . . .

I can’t. I’ve been visiting my parents since Thursday. They have some kind of wireless dial-up service. I think little mice bring each data packet to the router. When I checked my email it told me how many bytes (not kB) more it had to download before I could open my inbox. You guys are lucky you’re getting this much of a syncopation at all.

Did you know . . . ?:

. . . that John Stockton is #10 all-time in Jazz franchise history for most blocks? He has 315 career, regular season blocks. That’s more than guys like Antoine Carr, David Benoit, Olden Polynice, Felton Spencer, Danny Schayes, Carlos Boozer, Jarron Collins, and so many others. Of course, it’s not like John was killing it with blocks, a huge part of him being #10th best is the fact that he’s played 47,764 minutes over his 19 season NBA career. There are only three active Jazz players in the Top 10, Andrei Kirilenko is 2nd, Paul Millsap is 8th. The third dude is 9th all time. Did you know . . . that the 9th most blocks in franchise history are blocked shots by Mehmet Okur? Well, you do now.