NBA Rim Protection in 2017-2018

Paul Millsap

In an effort to determine the league’s best rim protectors, I’ve put together a statistic I’d like to call RIMD: a weighted efficiency statistic that seeks to measure how effectively players can defend shots at the rim, giving preference to those who contest a large volume of shots each game.

With the basic NBA Advanced Stats for rim protection in hand (looking at all shots 0-6 feet from the basket), here’s how to calculate RIMD for a given player:

  • Calculate the mean number of field goals defended at the rim (DFGA) across the league
  • Take an individual player’s impact on shots taken (shown by DIFF, which is how positively or negatively the defensive player impacts the offense’s shooting percentages) and multiply it by the volume of shots they contest (DFGA again)
    • Favors players who contest a large volume of shots successfully
    • Punishes players who give up a large volume of easy shots
  • Divide the product in the last step by the value in the first step, the league mean of DFGA
    • Normalize the results to account for a standard volume of defensive activity

10 Best Rim Protectors

Paul Millsap DEN 5.8 47.7 -14.5 -35.1
Kristaps Porzingis NYK 5.9 48.7 -13.8 -34
Joel Embiid PHI 6.5 50.1 -12.1 -32.9
Rudy Gobert UTA 7.7 51.9 -10 -32.2
Anthony Davis NOP 6.5 51.6 -10.5 -28.5
JaKarr Sampson SAC 2.6 39.7 -22.1 -24
Derrick Favors UTA 5.3 52 -10.6 -23.5
Jakob Poeltl TOR 5.7 51.2 -9.8 -23.3
Jusuf Nurkic POR 6.6 53.8 -8.3 -22.9
Hassan Whiteside MIA 5.8 53.7 -9.2 -22.3

Not a ton of suprises here in the top 10. Even though Paul Millsap missed a good deal of the past season, he emerges atop this list of defensive superstars due to incredible defensive efficiency (opponents shoot 14% worse at the rim when defended by Millsap) complemented by a large volume of shots defended (nearly 6 per game). The rest of the top five goes as you might expect, with three different DPOY candidates finishing 3, 4, and 5 in our rankings.

10 Worst Rim Protectors

Georgios Papagiannis POR 2.5 81.1 19.4 20.3
Briante Weber MEM 2.2 83.9 22.1 20.3
Dillon Brooks MEM 2.7 75.6 14.1 15.9
Quinn Cook GSW 1.5 83.7 24.3 15.2
Kyrie Irving BOS 2.6 73.8 13.1 14.2
Stephen Curry GSW 2 76.9 16.5 13.8
Nikola Jokic DEN 7.5 66.8 4.2 13.2
Brandon Jennings MIL 1.6 81 19.8 13.2
Jamal Murray DEN 2.9 71.4 10.8 13.1
Marcus Morris BOS 2.9 72.7 10.3 12.5

The biggest outlier in this field is clearly Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets’ franchise center. The large volume of shots he contests is the root of the problem - most of the other players on this list are guards who only defend against a couple of layups or dunks per game. Jokic defends nearly 8 shots at the rim each game, which combined with his sub-par defensive efficiency creates a large and negative impact on the Nuggets’ overall rim protection. Thank goodness he has Millsap!

Best Teams

NBA Team Rim Protection

To see which teams have the best rim protection, I calculated a weighted average for each team that accounts for the FG% differential for each player as well as the number of shots they defend each game. This makes sure that all player’s contributions are weighted proportionately based on the number of shots they contest, minmize the impact of outliers and giving the best insight into team’s overall performance.