Rudy Gobert: Stifle Tower -or- gentle giant?

Mont Bloc -or- average joe?

Gobstopper -or- well... you get the idea...

I recently read an exchange here on the Dunk about Gobert and his rim protection dominance. Jordan Cummins was convinced that Gobert is the best of the league, while jazznerd was skeptical and threw out Andrew Bogut as a possibly better rim protector. This got me thinking about the same topic, so I first did a little digging into who was better between the two at putting the lock and key on the iron. It didn't take long for this adventure to spiral out of control, and I went on to compare him to 14 other guys in the league that seemed to have a dog in the fight.


Before I give the data, I need to preface by saying that there are a number of guys missing from this list that are certainly better than guys like Kaman or Dieng, but didn't have a single stat that supported the idea of their being the top rim protector. On the flip side, Kaman, Dieng, and everyone else on the list had at least one stat that at least suggested there was an argument to be made for them, hence making the list. In other words, don't assume I'm saying Chris Kaman is a better player, shot protector, all-around human being, or anything else compared to --say-- DeMarcus Cousins, because that's not at all what I'm saying. While DMC seems to be a good rim protector, nothing suggested that he is the rim protector, hence not making the list.

One more thing. There is one exception to everything I just went off about: Derrick Favors. While his stats argue that he's a good guy to have on D, nothing says he's the man. But I wanted to throw him into the mix simply to be able to compare him to all these guys as well.

Without further adieu:

The Candidates


So these are organized according to blocks per 36 minutes, not because I think it's the best measure of rim protecting but because it was the easiest way to put Rudy on top followed by Bogut. Yes, Rudy leads the league in blocks per 36 minutes. But he doesn't play 36 mpg, he plays 19.1 mpg. Anthony Davis leads the league in blocks per game and total blocks, which would seem to make him the best rim protector.

Goob vs Boog

But before we get into that, let's dispel the idea that Bogut is a better rim protector than Rudy. The main argument was that Bogut plays more minutes while still giving about the same protection as Rudy, therefore sustaining performance with less rest. However, Bogut has only played 20 games and only averages 25 mpg over those 20 games. Rudy averages 19 mpg over 34 games, which means he has played nearly 150 more minutes than Bogut. I didn't look at any other season but the current one, so I'm sure Bogut has had better years, and maybe it's not fair that he's missed games, but then again that's another argument for Gobert. So far over his 1.5 season career, Rudy has been pretty healthy (small sample size I know), while Bogut has been pretty injury riddled for a while. Rudy is simply more likely to be available during any given game.

Gobert averages more blocks per 36 than Bogut (3.6 to 3.1), has more total blocks (65 to 44), but averages less blocks per game (1.9 to 2.2). But the stats that really tell us about the ability to protect the rim more than just the shear number of blocks are the other stats listed. Jordan Cummins mentioned that Gobert is the 3rd best in the league at blocking while not fouling. So I came up with the ratio of blocks to fouls, and Gobert does in fact have the 3rd best blocks-to-fouls ratio of all these candidates at 0.95, while Bogut is 5th at 0.81. Gobert holds his opponents to a lower FG% at the rim, but only slightly (38.5% to 39.2%).

The next few stats may need a little bit of an intro, although they're pretty self explanatory. All 3 are derived from the SportsVU data, and are the brainchild of Seth Partnow at The percentage of contested (Contest%) shots is simply the amount of shots a player contests relative to the amount of possible attempts to contest a shot. Rudy wins this by a decent margin (65.3% to 58.9%). Points Saved considers how many shots a player contests at the rim as well as their opponent's FG% at the rim when contested to come up with a value of how many points have been saved. Bogut saves slightly more points per game (2.43 to 2.47), but Gobert crushes the competition per 36 minutes (4.70 to 3.53).

So my conclusion here is that Gobert is almost certainly the better rim protector and is more likely to be available to play at any moment, but simply isn't used quite as much as Bogut when available.

Anthony Davis the best rim protector in the league this year, isn't he?

So I already pretty much said Davis is the best this year, and he is, right? RIGHT???

Hm... Let's find out. Davis does get the most blocks per game, and since he has also played the 3rd most minutes on this list, he has the most blocks over the entire season. He is 3rd in blocks per36 (2.9), behind Rudy and Bogut. His other redeeming quality is that he seems to block without fouling really well. In fact, he's the best at it with a ratio of 1.45. Pau Gasol is the only other guy in the league (that actually plays) that blocks more often than he fouls. Who's in 3rd? Our Rudy!

But back to Davis. What else indicates that he's the best? Well, really that's it. His opponent's FG% at the rim is 50.6%, which is good for only 12th of our 16 candidates. Favors is better at 49.0%, and Gobert destroys. In fact, the only guys on the list that have better-shooting opponents are Marc Gasol and the 3 guys that --in hindsight-- don't even deserve to be on this list: Chris Kaman, Miles Plumlee, and Gorgui Dieng.

But he contests shots all the time right? Well actually, of these 16 guys, he contests the least percentage of shots, at a measly 29.8%, whereas Kaman, Plumlee, and Dieng are all in the 50%'s (the one stat that got them on the list). This then translates into -0.84 and -0.85 points saved per game and per 36 minutes, respectively. That's negative 0.84 and negative 0.85. Of course, that doesn't actually mean he scores points for his opponents, but it does mean he's not the droid rim protector we're looking for... Probably...

But if he has blocked so many shots, then how is he not a very good rim protector? Honestly, I don't know. But considering how often he contests shots, it seems he only goes for shots he knows he can block. Otherwise, he doesn't put forth much of an effort to alter or contest a shot at all. It may also be that he blocks so much simply due to a high volume of shots at the rim. I haven't looked into the numbers and I'm not going to, but maybe teams just pound the inside like crazy against the Pelicans, giving Davis more opportunities to block than the usual inside man gets, but ultimately also having decent success by doing so.

Don't take this the wrong way. Davis is still a great defensive player (probably), and he gives a team a lot of inside offense that many of these other guys simply don't have, but he's not actually the rim protector that he seems to be.

So if not Davis, then who?

Let's cut some guys from the list, shall we? While Kaman, Plumlee, and Dieng seem to contest shots pretty often, the other stats seem to suggest that it doesn't do them any good as they don't actually block that many shots and their opponents still shoot really well over them. We've also cut Davis for the reasons discussed.

Who's next? Well we've established that Gobert is really good and probably better than Bogut, but that Bogut is still really good, so we'll leave them in for now. I think it's fair to say that if you're letting your opponent shoot better than 49% at the rim, then you're barely protecting the rim half the time and therefore aren't the best out there. This cuts Marc Gasol, Lopez, and Drummond. Favors is actually right on the 49% line and he's middle of the pack with most of these stats, so it's probably time to cut him as well.

Also, while shot blocking isn't the only aspect of rim protection, it's pretty important, and the drop off here seems to be from Pau's 2.4 to Dwight's 1.9 per36 blocks, so Dwight's out (oh how the mighty have fallen by the way). Also, Ibaka only contests 36% of the time, and Jordan saves a negative amount of points, so they're out.

This leaves Duncan (how'd he sneak in?), Pau, Gobert, Bogut, and Hibbert--the reigning Rim Protector from last season (if you forget about the playoffs... and the end of the season).

At this point, it's really hard to say who should be crowned. Pau has a lot of blocks, but he has also played a ton. He and Timmy don't actually block as often as the others per 36 minutes, their opponents still make 46% of their shots, they contest shots less than 50% of the time, and they save quite a few less points compared to the other 3 guys, so I should probably cut them next. Then again, Hibbert fouls a ton and has a terrible block-to-foul ratio, but he does get his opponents to shoot pretty poorly and he does a decent job of contesting shots. He also saves the most points per game. Bogut's biggest knock is that he's always injured and therefore doesn't play much even when he's available, and Gobert's biggest knock is that he simply doesn't get onto the floor very much compared to these guys.

So... Gobert might be the best rim protector in the league, but he simply doesn't get enough minutes to definitively say he is.


Rudy needs to play more!

All comments are the opinion of the commenter and not necessarily that of SLC Dunk or SB Nation.