A frustrating thing about relying on counting stats to assess a player’s value is that it’s impossible to count things that don’t happen. Yes, perhaps you can watch enough of a player to tell if he is good at not doing bad things, but realistically it is tough. How many people watch a player score a basket and say, “that was a really good job at not committing a turnover.” It doesn’t happen.
For this reason, John Wall was considered a viable player of the year candidate two years ago despite a prodigious turnover rate. Likewise, Kendall Marshall was anointed the best point guard in a America before the season despite a turnover problem. And of course both Wall and Marshall are great players, but it does seem like their tendency to commit turnovers went unnoticed.
In case you’ve been locked inside the Biodome lately, Kentucky’s Anthony Davis is very good at something – blocking shots. We all know this. What makes Davis truly unique is his ability to not do something – commit fouls. (BTW, Searching for Billy Edelin is already on the case.)
But Davis’s 2.6 fouls committed per 40 minutes played is just a number that by itself doesn’t mean much to me. It turns out that this number, when combined with his block rate, is rather spectacular. To give it some context, I went back at looked at past shot-blocking greats that went on to play in the NBA (or at least tried to) in order to see how Davis’s combination of block and foul rate stacks up.
Blk PF Min PF/40 Blk/40 Blk/PF Adonal Foyle - Jr. 180 60 1055 2.3 6.8 3.0 Anthony Davis - Fr. 120 50 772 2.6 6.2 2.4 Hasheem Thabeet - Jr. 152 90 1145 3.1 5.3 1.7 Jarvis Varnado - Sr. 170 88 1141 3.1 6.0 1.9 Dikembe Mutombo - Sr. 151 91 1090 3.3 5.5 1.7 Marcus Camby - Jr. 128 87 1011 3.4 5.1 1.5 David Robinson - Jr. 207 100 1187 3.4 7.0 2.1 Shaquille O'Neal - Jr. 157 86 959 3.6 6.5 1.8 Emeka Okafor - So. 155 98 1087 3.6 5.7 1.6 Hassan Whiteside - Fr. 182 82 889 3.7 8.2 2.2 Justin Williams - Sr. 163 93 900 4.1 7.2 1.8 Alonzo Mourning - Sr. 169 102 962 4.2 7.0 1.7 Theo Ratliff - Sr. 144 95 912 4.2 6.3 1.5 Shawn Bradley - Fr. 177 109 984 4.4 7.2 1.6
There’s only one mega-shot blocker with an NBA resume that has not committed at least three fouls per 40 minutes and that was Colgate’s Adonal Foyle, who was picking on non-scholarship Patriot League opponents in the late ‘90’s. Davis isn’t immune to foul trouble, obviously, but among shot-blockers he’s as foul-proof as one gets. The only games where his minutes were seriously limited due to fouls were against Old Dominion and Indiana. Those were two of the five games where he’s played fewer than 28 minutes. The other three were non-competitive contests. It also helps that Davis has committed just three charges this season, so he’s not going to pick up fouls on offense very often.
While I’m not sold on the idea of Kentucky’s defense being the best in the land, or even that the Wildcats are clearly the best team in the country, one thing is clear: A strategy to challenge Davis in the hope of getting him in foul trouble is likely going to end in rejection.