Random Number Generator Series – Forecasting Shotblocking


"A random number generator (often abbreviated as RNG) is a computational or physical device designed to generate a sequence of numbers or symbols that lack any pattern, i.e. appear random."

This is how I end up feeling about a lot of my posts here at Hickory High. I often begin with a question and start assembling data that I think may help me find an answer. With my underdeveloped math and logical reasoning skills, this often leads me to assembling several tables or charts with no actual connection to the answer I was seeking. Usually these failed inquiries end up in the trash, but this one took a lot of work. Maybe someone can take what I have started and finish it up for me.

This will be the first of my Random Number Generator Series; a, hopefully, sporadic series of posts where I pose a question and then assemble a bunch of numbers which don’t really answer said query.

Today’s question: How do you forecast shotblocking? My favorite team, the Pacers, is in search of shot-blocking in the NBA Draft this year. There are several players with gaudy block numbers available in the draft this year. How can you predict who will be able to translate this skill to the NBA?

Since the 2001/2002 season, there have been 409 individual player seasons in which a player averaged 3.0 or more blocks per 40 minutes in Division I college basketball. If we subtract duplicate seasons by the same player, and players who are either still in college or entered in the draft this year we are left with 209 players. Of those 209, only 43 played even 1 minute of NBA action, and only 11 (Hasheem Thabeet, Sean Williams, Emeka Okafor, Javale McGee, Joakim Noah, Danny Granger, Joel Anthony, Roy Hibbert, Chris Kaman, Jason Maxiell, and Taj Gibson) have ever totaled 82 blocks in a single season. That would be an average of one block per game across an entire season. Robin Lopez and Greg Oden probably would have made it this season if not for injuries. Channing Frye and Jason Thompson have each had seasons in the 70s. Even with those players included that’s only 15 of the 209 best college shot-blockers over the past nine years, or 7.1%, who have become a shot blocking presence in the NBA. Obviously, this number could go up somewhat when this year’s draft class is included.

The statistic of blocked shots in college doesn’t seem to be an adequate stand alone indicator of who will be a productive shot blocker in the NBA. Injuries are a huge variable to this equation, one that is largely out of the hands of the individual players. As strange as it sounds, scoring and rebounding turn out to be variables as well. If you can only block shots, and can’t help out in other areas of the game then you’re a long shot to get drafted, let alone see any playing time. All 11 of the players I mentioned above averaged at least 8.5 points and rebounds per 40 minutes in the season they totaled 82 blocks. Size of the player and size of the college would also be factors. Players at smaller schools, playing against less talented competition can rack up blocks even if their own physical and athletic shortcomings would prevent them from doing the same things in the NBA.

35 players in the NBA blocked at least 82 shots this season. Of those 35, 12 either came from Europe or directly from high school and never played college basketball. I couldn’t find college statistics for Chris Andersen or Ben Wallace, but I am going to assume their numbers were astronomical considering the competition level they were playing against. Below is a table showing the 23 players with at least one season of college experience, who also blocked at least 82 shots this season. Included is their Blk/40 from their last year in college, and their Blk/40 from this season.

NameTotal Blocks ’09-‘10Blk/40 ’09-‘10Blk/40 College
Andrew Bogut1753.12.1
Brendan Haywood1582.75.3
Samuel Dalembert1512.86.7
Marcus Camby1462.55.1
Chris Andersen1433.3
Brook Lopez1391.82.7
Roy Hibbert1312.63.4
Emeka Okafor1272.15.0
Tim Duncan1171.93.6
Joel Anthony1093.36.5
Taj Gibson1041.93.4
Javale McGee1014.24.1
Joakim Noah1002.12.8
Paul Millsap991.72.7
Chris Kaman941.43.7
Al Horford911.32.6
Hasheem Thabeet894.06.2
Tyrus Thomas852.84.8
Kevin Durant841.02.1
Ben Wallace841.7
Spencer Hawes831.72.4
Gerald Wallace831.01.8
Dwayne Wade821.22.0

So except for Andrew Bogut, the outlier, no one seems to block more shots in the NBA; not a gigantic surprise given the increased talent level. But when looking at players like Hassan Whiteside, Ekpe Udoh, Ed Davis and Jarvis Varnado who are available in this year’s draft, how do we project if they will end up on this list? Is this just a question of being talented enough in other areas to make a roster and earn minutes? Is there anything besides traditional scouting to aid in this evaluation? Are there any statistics which can be used to project their ability to bring this skill set to the NBA? I don’t know, I’m just a Random Number Generator for today. Anyone else have any ideas?