In today’s NBA, when drafting or looking to sign a big man, rim protection is one of the key factors looked at by team executives. If a player has freakish measureables, too, then many teams will be even more intrigued. That’s why I decided to look and see if there is truly a correlation between elite rim protection to wingspan.
Last month on NylonCalculus.com — a basketball analytics site that is apart of FanSided and the Hardwood Paroxysm network — contributor Seth Partnow debuted a new metric: rim protection. The part I was most interested in, though, was the contest percentage. This is simply how many times a player contested a shot at the rim. With how crucial contesting a shot at the rim is for a bigs’ defensive game plan, I decided to see if players with a longer wingspan would have a bigger advantage — or if it was just a pure talent stat. Below, I compiled Partnow’s list of the top-10 big men (players with a contest% of .53 or above) and their wingspans. I was very interested in the final results, indeed.
Note No. 1: There looks to be a benchmark of 87 inches (7-foot-3) for elite safeguarding of the basket, while Chris “Birdman” Andersen of the Miami Heat is the outlier with his 84-inch wingspan.
Note No. 2: The Indiana Pacers love themselves some rim protectors. Frank Vogel and his staff pride themselves on a defensive-minded philosophy, and Roy Hibbert and Ian Mahinmi are able to guard the rim with high efficiency (ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in Contest%). Also, this duo combines to save Indiana a total of 18.74 points, per 36 minutes, on the defensive end. With two big men down low in the restricted area — whether it be the first unit or second unit — Indiana always has a reliable body to deter opposing players away from driving to the basket. Now, with Paul George being out for the season, and Lance Stephenson leaving for Charlotte in free agency, you have to wonder if they will rely more heavily on this, or blow the team philosophy up entirely.
Note No. 3: Will a team finally pick up Jermaine O’Neal from the free agent market? At 35-years-old, O’Neal is bucking the trend for elite rim protection at the high clip he did it at last year with Golden State — and there are many teams who are in need of not only a defensive stalwart in the paint, but also a veteran presence in the locker room. O’Neal’s defensive renaissance last season wasn’t an outlier, his numbers still say he has a year or two of good defense left in him.
Note No. 4: Gorgui Dieng, Rudy Gobert and Bismack Biyombo, the three youngest guys on this list, have massive potential in rim protection. Not only is all of their Contest%’s above-average, but they are able to save their teams a ton of points on defense. According to Partnow’s numbers, Biyombo had an adjusted saved points per 36 minutes of 8.99 — which was third overall in the rankings — while Gobert’s was fifth with 8.62. Dieng, on the other hand, had a multiple-point lower amount, with his AdjSaved/36 being only 6.61 points. Look for these three men, if kept in their current roles or expanded, to be near the tops of the rim protection categories for years to come.
Note No. 5: Adding up all the Contest%’s and wingspans, the prototypical rim protector should be as follows: 0.5509% and an 88.41-inch (7-foot-3.675) wingspan. So, if any NBA front office personnel are reading this and in the market for a rim protector in the future, look for a big man with those types of statistics and measurements.
After looking more in-depth at rim protection and similar numbers, I am looking forward to seeing the growth of a statistic like this — not only in the professional leagues, but college as well.