The chart above shows the top 10 most frequent rim protectors in the league (by field goal attempts per game against them at the rim), sorted by the field goal percentage they allow. Towards the left means they allow a worse field goal percentage (which is good), towards the top means they defend more attempts per game. Scroll over the player’s name to see his numbers.
You can see Pau Gasol at the top left of the chart, which is exactly where you’d want to be: Gasol defends a ton of attempts at the rim per game, and holds teams to under 43 percent shooting — well below the league average at the rim of 54.8 percent.
Update: Gasol liked to hear that news:
— Pau Gasol (@paugasol) November 15, 2014
On the other side of the chart is someone you won’t be happy to see: Nets center Brook Lopez, who’s allowed the highest field goal percentage of the bunch, with opponents scoring on 60.3 percent of his defended attempts through his first five games. That’s 11.6 points per game with Lopez trying to defend the rim, more than any other player except Terrence Jones, and no one with over eight attempts per game has allowed a worse percentage at the rim. (Al Horford and Kevin Love are worse if you expand the list to seven attempts per game.)
In a weird way, this offers room for hope. Lopez was one of the league’s best rim protectors last season, turning away shots at a league-best rate before his season-ending foot injury. He’d made significant strides at defending the basket even as the team struggled to start the season, and he’s looked significantly slowed at the beginning of this season.
If Lopez isn’t at 100 percent yet, it’s possible the space between his physical peak and his current form accounts for this disparity, and as Lopez continues to get his feet under him, his quickness should perk up ever so slightly. But if this is just what Lopez has become, the Nets are in for a rough season on the defensive end, particularly with defensive-minded coach Lionel Hollins breathing down his neck.