It's time for a more pragmatic blocked shot

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Ken Pomeroy posted a bunch of offensive rebounding data on Wednesday, and a lot of it is interesting--well, interesting if you're a huge stat nerd like I am. Among other things, Pomeroy lays out offensive rebounding percentage by shot type, and he's got a great bit on the value of keeping blocked shots in play.

The best point to take away is that if shot blockers keep their swats in play, their teammates have about the same chance of securing the ball than if the ball got to the rim. Or in the case of layups - where most blocks occur - a much better chance. Keeping blocks in play is surely a skill to some extent and it’s an important one for a rim protector.

Layups that get to the rim are rebounded by the offense around 40% of the time, but for blocked layups that stay in play, that number is only around 32%, which is a sizeable bonus for the defense in those situations. And obviously, every ball sent screaming out of bounds by an overzealous big man is "rebounded" by the offense. For every three blocked shots you keep in play, you can expect your defense to recover two of them. Cutting the opponent's OR% from 100% (on shots swatted out of bounds, obvs.) to 32% (shots kept inbounds) is kind of a big deal.

You don't need numbers to understand there's value in this, though I appreciate Pomeroy putting a fine point on it. That's why I've wondered in the past why this doesn't seem to be a larger point of emphasis for coaches. Or maybe it is, but when it gets down to it in the heat of the moment, most players simply can't help themselves and have to knock the ball into the third row when the opportunity presents itself. Still it seems like that's something you could eventually beat out of a player with constant reinforcement (hopefully not literally beating anybody). Send a ball flying out of bounds and you're running laps, son.

I wonder if there is some fear among coaches given the uncertainty of a loose ball situation; maybe there is concern that your team could end up surrendering more easy baskets or clean looks if the ball is kept in play, whereas when it's gone out of bounds, you can't get possession, but you at least know you'll get to set your defense. That's not a statistically justifiable way of thinking, but I could see coaches potentially approaching it that way.

Whatever the case might be, this definitely feels like a blind spot for a lot of  players and teams. I love me some emphatic blocks as much as the next guy, but if a player is doing that as often as he can, in the long run he's gifting his opponents points.

We should all be eager to embrace a more pragmatic block. And if we work together on this, perhaps we can at least convince Mark Gottfried to make this a priority while all the other rubes are out there being all like "I am indifferent in regards to how my players block shots." Yes, you go on about it that way, sir; we'll be over here collecting every last ounce of margin we can squeeze out of the game.

Lotta work to do, though, and here you can see what we are up against:

I'm sure most folks are inclined to cock the arm back and let that appendage fly at the ball--it is fun, after all. Gottfried's a typical case, as is clear in his abbreviated shot-blocking motion. He is definitely suggesting emphatic swattage, so if change is going to come, we'll have to start at the top. Only after converting Gottfried to our more measured approach, which admittedly lacks the same sizzle of the kill-ball alternative, could we begin to imagine true reform within the program.

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