Beyond the block: Jeff Withey vs other elite shot blockers

Who doesn't love to see a good swat? A ball spiked into the stands? The players go nuts. The fans go nuts. Meanwhile, the coaches quietly shake their head.

The value of a blocked shot depends on what happens after it occurs. Which team gains possession? A block into the stands just means the opposition gets to run a set out of bounds play, which typically have a higher efficiency than standard half court sets. So it's more about gaining possession than it is about pleasing the fans.

I looked at four of the top shot blockers: Jeff Withey (Kansas), Nerlens Noel (Kentucky), Chris Obekpa (St. John's), and Jordan Bachynski (Arizona State). All are among the nation's leaders in blocks, and all average at least 3.9 per game. Using play by play data, I examined what happened after every one of their combined 201 blocked shots. All four of their teams established possession on greater than half their blocks, but one player stood out: Jeff Withey.

Here's the chart:

Player Total Controlled Uncontrolled %
Withey 50 36 14 72.0
Bachynski 53 33 20 62.3
Obekpa 59 36 23 61.0
Noel 39 23 16 59.0

Kansas gets the ball after 72% of Jeff Withey's blocks. The low is Nerlens Noel and Kentucky, who get the ball after 59%. I'll continue to keep an eye on this through the season.

The other important factor is how often these players commit fouls. Obviously, they're committing some fouls when they aren't going for blocks, but it's still a good surrogate measurement for how effective they are at being aggressive without hurting their teams. Here's that chart, looking at how many fouls they commit per 40 minutes of play.

Player Total Controlled Uncontrolled % FC/40
Withey 50 36 14 72.0 1.6
Bachynski 53 33 20 62.3 3.1
Noel 39 23 16 59.0 4.0
Obekpa 59 36 23 61.0 5.0

Withey stands out with how often his team gets possession, but he really stands out with how little he fouls. The next closest player is Jordan Bachynski, who commits nearly twice the fouls that Withey does. Chris Obekpa commits more than three times as many.

For this season at least, Withey is elite amongst the elite.