NBA Rim Protection in 2018-2019

Hassan Whiteside

One of my favorite posts from last year was about NBA Rim Protection. In that post, I created a statistic sitting on top of other rim defense statistics called RIMD. While you can check out the old post for additional detail on the statistic itself the bottom line is that RIMD is a weighted efficiency statistic that seeks to measure how effectively players can defend shots at the rim. The stat is designed to give preference to those who effectively contest a large volume of shots each game (DFGA) while holding shooters to a lower shooting percentage on those shots than their season average (DIFF%).

RIMD = (DIFF * DFGA) / AVG_DFGA

Now that there are only ~20 games left in the NBA season, I thought it would be fun to revist the rim protection dataset for the 2019 season, and see how players and teams around the league are performing this season.

10 Best Rim Protectors

PLAYER TEAM DFGA DFG% DIFF% RIMD
Hassan Whiteside MIA 6.3 49.5 -13.1 -33.0
Derrick Favors UTA 5.6 48.6 -13.7 -30.7
Rudy Gobert UTA 8.3 53.5 -9.1 -30.2
Myles Turner IND 8.1 54.0 -8.8 -28.5
Joel Embiid PHI 8.8 54.0 -7.8 -27.5
Brook Lopez MIL 5.9 51.1 -11.4 -26.9
JaVale McGee LAL 6.3 51.4 -10.6 -26.7
Jusuf Nurkic POR 6.9 53.7 -9.3 -25.7
Jonas Valanciunas MEM 4.4 49.0 -13.7 -24.1
Jaren Jackson Jr. MEM 4.8 50.4 -12.4 -23.8

Seeing DPOY-contendors Gobert and Embiid near the top is no surprise, nor is Hassan Whiteside’s impressive work around the hoop this season for the Heat. What is more surprising, and impressive to me, is Jaren Jackson Jr.’s inclusion on this list. Interior defense is one of the hardest skills to enter the NBA and master (cue KAT and DeAndre Ayton’s defensive struggles), and Jackson’s appearance on this list in his rookie season suggests that he is going to be special defensive talent in this league for a long time.

10 Worst Rim Protectors

PLAYER TEAM DFGA DFG% DIFF% RIMD
Collin Sexton CLE 3.0 82.5 20.6 24.7
Trevor Ariza WAS 3.0 80.2 16.3 19.6
Chris Paul HOU 3.7 73.9 11.2 16.6
Kevin Huerter ATL 2.4 79.5 16.5 15.8
Jrue Holiday NOP 3.3 72.5 10.7 14.1
Trae Young ATL 2.2 78.4 15.6 13.7
D.J. Augustin ORL 1.2 89.4 27.5 13.2
Jeremy Lamb CHA 3.2 71.8 10.1 12.9
Chasson Randle WAS 1.9 78.6 16.9 12.8
Lance Thomas NYK 1.8 81.3 16.8 12.1

Much like last year’s list, this season’s list of the worst rim protectors is dominated by small guards. One thing I think is interesting is that there a number of individually solid defensive players appearing on this list, such as Trevor Ariza, Chris Paul, and Jrue Holiday. Since these players are typically perimeter players, their presence on the list (as well as general futility contesting attempts at the rim) suggests that other teams may be seeking out post-up opportunities in the post against these players to generate easy points at the rim.

Jokic Update

Even at 6’10”, Nikola Jokic was the 7th worst rim protector in the league last season, with a RIMD of 13.2 (so pretty much as bad as tiny Trae Young for example). It goes without saying that his defense put a major ceiling on the Nuggets, even with Paul Millsap around to cover up Jokic’s defensive liabilities. Fortunately for the Nuggets, and to Jokic’s credit, he has recorded a RIMD of -4.5 this season, a strong number in the same league as Steven Adams and Bismack Biyombo.

Best Teams

Team Rim Protection Statistics (2018 - 2019)