Toronto Raptors v Phoenix Suns

If you’re an NBA fan following the right people on twitter, you’ll get your fill of interesting and noteworthy statistics to examine from time to time, and Tuesday morning was no different, as Tom Haberstroh pointed us in the direction of a defensive rebounding off of blocked shots table, via Evan Zamir. The fact that a few Raptors made the list makes it worthy of a share here.

The simple stat of a blocked shot is probably overrated by the casual fan as a definitive measure of defensive excellence when in truth, while the majority of great shot blockers are great defenders, it is also possible to be a good shot-blocker without being a defensive stalwart.

If there is a worthwhile advanced blocking stat, it’s the one linked to above. The obvious point of blocking a shot is to prevent the opposing team from scoring, but a blocked shot that lands out of bounds or is rebounded by the offensive team still keeps possession in your opponents’ hands and allows them to continue their pursuit of your basket.

A blocked shot that ends up in the hands of a teammate and the changing of possessions, however, is a true impact play on the defensive end, and the numbers suggest that the Raptors have a few guys who block shots like this with the best of them. When you look at the leaders for percentage of blocked shots that end up in defensive rebounds for the shot-blocker’s team, you’ll find Raptors rookie Jonas Valanciunas among the top-10 with an impressive 21.6 percent rate, Rudy Gay in the top-20 at 19.4 and Amir Johnson, the best defensive player the Raptors have right now, in the top-40 at 16.3.

The numbers are encouraging for a potential Jonas/Amir big man duo of the future and a team with some general defensive promise going forward. These realizations also provide some background as to why the Raptors have been so good defensively since the acquisition of Gay, especially the five-man unit of Valanciunas, Johnson, Gay, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. With a point guard capable of wreaking havoc in the back court and an athletic frontcourt that not only alters shots, but also blocks a fair share of shots that result in an actual change of possession, this Raptors lineup is capable of forcing turnovers and getting stops.

Now, can they take advantage of those turnovers and possession changes off of blocks and turn them into fast break points the other way for a much needed more efficient offence?