Analyzing Orlando’s Rim Protectors
The Orlando Magic finished with a 23-59 record last season. Their defense ranked 17th in the league. Better than its beleaguered offense that ranked 29th, but the defense still needs improving if Orlando wants to have a chance at reaching the playoffs this upcoming campaign. Head Coach Jacque Vaughn‘s squad ranked 17th in the Association in opposing field goal percentage at the rim with 53.1% conversion allowed. Not horrible, but not good either. The Pacers were first at 45.9%. Orlando ranked 9th-worst in blocks tallied at 4.3 per contest. It’s a big reason why Orlando drafted Aaron Gordon 4th overall back in June. The 18-year-old only allowed a total opposing shooting percentage of 34% when Gordon was the primary defender at Arizona.
Below is a ’13-’14 regular season chart from The Chilltime that includes the amount of field goal attempts a defending player faces per contest (vertical axis) and the field goal percentage converted against that defensive player (horizontal axis). All data is from NBA.com, and players you see in the chart were on the court at least 25 minutes per game for 30 games and faced at least 4 shot attempts at the rim. Those with reddish dots represent your better shot blockers. Those with green dots represent players who notch very few blocks.
The installation of SportVU cameras in NBA arenas is the reason these statistics are possible. Ideally, a player wants to be positioned as far right on the chart as possible. Guys like Robin Lopez, Roy Hibbert, Serge Ibaka, Joakim Noah, Andrew Bogut, and DeAndre Jordan are your elite NBA rim protectors. Even former Magic men Dwight Howard and Marcin Gortat were beyond respectable. Tristan Thompson is the worst rim protector on this chart having given up an opposing field goal percentage of 59.1% on just 5.2 field goal attempts faced per game.
Below you’ll find analysis on specific Magic players.
The first Magic man to probably catch your eyes in the chart is Nikola Vucevic. The Montenegrin is indeed a below average rim protector, but still better than guys like Kevin Love. ‘Vucci Mane’ faced 7.3 opposing field goal attempts per game at the basket, but allowed 56.4% to be converted. That’s too high for any 7-footer to allow. This is the one major aspect in his game that ‘Vooch’ needs to alleviate for him to be considered an All-Star in the future. A three or four-percent decrease to around an Andre Drummond or Al Jefferson level would go a long way in helping this Magic squad.
The next guy to spot is Channing Frye, the man who will most likely be paired along side Vucevic in the starting lineup. He played all 82 games with the Suns last season after playing no games the year before due to his enlarged heart. The 31-year-old saw 6.5 opposing FGAs per game, but only 52.2% went in. That’s no worse than average and puts him around Paul Millsap territory. Not bad for a guy who supposedly can’t defend.
Then there’s Tobias Harris who just barely saw enough opposing FGAs (4.7) to meet the chart prerequisites. The 22-year-old saw enough PF action last season to force him to play paint defense. T12’s opposing field goal percentage is a bit worse than his first cousin Channing at 53.1%. It’s still better than Blake Griffin and Pau Gasol. I would anticipate Tobias seeing more time at SF in the upcoming season.
What about other Magic players that are not on that chart? Glad you asked. Let’s check out their rim protection abilities.
Believe it or not, the best Magic opposing field goal percentage at the rim belongs to Andrew Nicholson at 45.4% on 3.3 opposing rim attempts per game. It’s not completely shocking because the Canadian’s biggest defensive flaws are in his help defense, but it does make you re-think Nicholson’s defensive value. Kyle O’Quinn missed the minutes requirement to make the chart, but he saw 4.3 opposing field goal attempts at the rim per game and only allowed 46.2% to go in. ‘Beard Be Free’ has fully earned his boost in playing time. The last big man currently on the roster that was on the Magic last season was Dewayne Dedmon. Dedmon didn’t exactly play a lot of games, but he allowed 59.0% which is way worse than Vucevic. It is a small sample size of 16 games though.
Jameer Nelson and Arron Afflalo were at 58.1% and 59.7% as they’ve departed the franchise. Let’s see how much of an upgrade Elfrid Payton will be. Victor Oladipo only saw 2.4 rim attempts per contest, but his percentage converted was a phenomenal 46.6%. Rob Hennigan’s focus on defense in the draft, as well as the acquisition of Frye may very well be positive moves to bolster weaknesses in the paint and upgrade the Magic to a playoff-worthy defense.