The Franks-Miller method also helps us understand differences in interior defenders. Below, you see the 2013-14 defensive shot charts of three of the NBA’s most prominent rim protectors.
As you can see, all of these guys turned the paint blue, meaning opponents suddenly shot at below expected efficiency when facing them. However, while Roy Hibbert and Tim Duncan each faced a lot of shots in the paint, Dwight Howard deterred opponents from even attempting close-range field goals. Abandon all hope, ye who enter the paint against Superman.
Now, were these differences in interior defense symptomatic of individual skill, or were they reflections of the varying defensive principles among teams? Did the Spurs and Pacers intentionally “funnel” shooters toward their behemoth basket protectors in ways that the Rockets did not? Of course, schemes and teammates matter — Rudy Gobert makes Trey Burke a better defender, just like Hibbert made Paul George a better defender. But that caveat doesn’t negate some of the new ways we’re able to quantify defensive performance.
Another important stat to come out of Franks and Miller’s work: Contest Rate. Last season, NBA players attempted more than 200,000 shots. We can now see which frontcourt players contested shots the most often when they were on the floor and who contested shots the least often.
Highest Contest Rates Among Frontcourt players, 2013-14
Roy Hibbert: 41.9 percent
Robin Lopez: 40.1 percent
Ian Mahinmi: 39.3 percent
Joakim Noah: 37.3 percent
Timofey Mozgov: 37.2 percent
Hibbert not only contested almost 42 percent of shots, but his backup, Ian Mahinmi, was third. Which brings us back to that idea of the Pacers funneling shooters toward their centers. It’s an idea bolstered by David West’s placement on the next list:
Lowest Contest Rates Among Frontcourt players, 2013-14
David West: 23.4 percent
Mike Scott: 23.9 percent
Josh McRoberts: 25.1 percent
Blake Griffin: 25.3 percent
Jeremy Evans: 25.6 percent
Contest Rate is one thing; tallying up Points Against is another.