Observations on Pac-12 Rim Defense

Posted by Adam Butler on February 7th, 2018

As much of the basketball community discusses the value of a DeAndre Jordan with the NBA’s trade deadline approaching on Thursday afternoon, I thought it would be interesting to examine a few measures of Pac-12 rim defense. To be clear, the Jordan reference is an allusion to the value of rim-protection and not necessarily which teams in the Pac have a traditional center. That can be left to more subjective measures, especially as you consider that Arizona hasn’t exactly looked unstoppable despite Dusan Ristic catching fire.

Dusan Ristic Has Caught Fire But Isn’t Known as a Rim-Protector (USA Today Images)

Rim protection can be quantified in many ways. For example, another Deandre (Ayton) has drawn criticism (or at least prose) regarding his block rate. As a measure of individual rim-protection, this is probably the most telling metric among readily available stats. In noting such, Kenny Wooten (the Oregon freshman) has the third best rate in the nation, blocking a remarkable 16 percent of the shots taken while he’s on the floor. That is insane. Ayton, by comparison, owns a six percent block rate, good for eighth in the conference. It’s an improvement since The Ringer compared him to other elite college bigs, but still lacking. If nothing else, it’s not remotely close to Wooten.

California actually has two of the conference’s top five shot-blockers in Kingsley Okoroh and Marcus Lee. The Bears’ frontcourt tandem holds block rates of 9.9 percent (33rd nationally) and 7.5 percent, respectively. These are impressive individual numbers. But as noted at the top of this piece, it’s just one of many measures of rim-protection. While Cal clearly has two great shot-blockers on the roster, I’d be remiss in failing to mention that it also allows opponents to shoot 66 percent at the rim. For greater context on that metric, there are 319 other teams in Division I basketball that allow a lower conversion rate at the rim. As a collective, Cal seems to make shots at the rim relatively easier. Conversely, Oregon State leads the conference in field goal defense at the rim. Teams are connecting on 53 percent of their rim attempts against the Beavers, the 23rd-worst rate in college basketball. Drew Eubanks, of note, has the fifth-highest block rate in the conference, but collectively, the Beavers rank sixth in conference block rate (Cal ranks second and Oregon seventh, despite Wooten’s propensity). A shot at the rim in Corvallis would seem to be a touch more difficult.

There’s also, of course, a team’s propensity to allow shots at the rim. By that measure, Cal actually leads the conference. Just 30 percent of shot attempts against the Bears come from the easiest distance. Conversely, Oregon State allows the highest percentage of shots there (40%). In considering these two defenses, Cal is allowing fewer shots at the rim but presumably better looks. Meanwhile, Oregon State allows more looks but is perhaps better prepared to challenge those attempts. And then, to make things even more complicated if we’re considering rim-protection a critical part of team defense, Washington actually allows the highest conversion rate at the rim.


Team FGM at rim % blocked shots % Shots at rim FG% at Rim
Arizona 274 12.9 32.4% 60.9%
Arizona State 315 9.3 37.3% 60.1%
California 274 12.0 30.1% 65.6%
Colorado 303 11.2 43.3% 50.5%
Oregon 267 10.1 37.5% 54.5%
Oregon State 257 10.4 39.8% 53.1%
USC 264 8.4 32.1% 58.0%
Stanford 304 9.5 35.0% 58.7%
UCLA 271 11.6 31.4% 58.3%
Utah 236 8.4 33.4% 54.8%
Washington 248 11.5 27.2% 67.6%
Washington State 321 5.6 37.0% 63.1%


As the table above shows, there are good shot-blockers, teams that limit attempts at the rim, and teams that make shooting at the rim uncomfortable.

Adam Butler (47 Posts)

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