Eliminating easy baskets has always been an obvious telltale story when talking about the keys to winning. Yet, it often gets overlooked amongst the sexier statistics.
A program called SportVU by STATS tracks various statistics in the NBA, with one of them being “rim protection”. This is basically defined as ” a defender being within five feet of the basket and within five feet of the offensive player attempting the shot”. Rim protection is probably the most underrated statistic in all of basketball, on any level. If you have a guy who can alter shots and take away easy buckets, the chances of you winning games skyrocket.
Pau Gasol of the Los Angeles Lakers has the unlovely distinction at being the pound-for-pound worst in this category as he gives up a staggering 54.4 FG% at the rim. The man is a 7-footer mind you, and was very good at doing this one thing at one point in his career. It’s pretty clear in my estimation that Gasol gives a horrible effort.
Another 7-footer with less skill and athletic ability, Robin Lopez, is holding his opponents to 42.2 percent at the rim, and no wonder the Portland Trail Blazers have overachieved most of the season. Other notables include Roy Hibbert (41.2 percent), Joakim Noah (45.2 percent), and Serge Ibaka (44.5% percent), all predictably anchoring top teams in the league.
It’s going to be very hard for Gasol to command $10-plus million per year when free agency hits with these numbers; GMs are too smart these days to overlook rim protection, and he is no longer elite. For a guy as big as he is, to take such horrible angles on driving guards has been incredibly frustrating to watch; other times, it is just unforgivable.