Category 4: Defense + Passing/Non-Scorers


Category 4 Fives: Defensive 1 or 2 Skill Non-Scorers

(Skills: One or Two Skill Offensive Game With High Level Passing From Foul Line Extended, Elite Interior Defense).

  1. Andrew Bogut (Sophomore) #1
  2. Joakim Noah (Junior) #9

*Also Arguably Part of Archetype: Late Career Tim Duncan, Zaza Pachulia (can’t protect the rim but plus defense overall).

I. What Sets Them Apart

Bogut and Noah are both rarities in the league in that their high level interior defense (Noah’s more so prior to a year ago) and outstanding passing on offense have been enough to compensate for their sizable minus scoring/spacing game.  It is common narrative to prefer defense over offense from bigs in the analytics community. What is lost in translation is you have to do SOMETHING on offense to be a starting caliber player and not a complete liability.

Bogut is a two skill threat in that he’s an excellent passer from the foul line extended locating cutters on bounce passes and shooters on skips, while also being a plus finisher with lob catching ability.  Noah has the passing down as one of the best big man passers of the modern age operating as a pick and pop ball-mover similarly out of foul line extended face up situations/from the elbows on Horns sets, but his finishing acumen has fallen off precipitously of late to a comically bad level (he was never the plus finisher Bogut is).

Both players are offensive liabilities still with no post game or spacing component without a specifically tailored surrounding personnel grouping.  Bogut was passable on offense for the Dubs because the opposing big had to come out and guard him as a screen setter on the perimeter or risk Steph or Klay walking into an open jump shot.  Without that gravitational shooting pull from the Warriors’ guards bigs wouldn’t guard Bogut outside and spacing would be condemned.  The same goes for Noah, which is why Chicago’s spacing suffered with Rose and guys like Gibson playing heavy minutes with Noah over the years. Basically, having high level passing from a big is valuable, but it requires a specifically tailored offensive personnel to compensate for the lack of scoring.

I could have included Pachulia here as he’s a very underrated sub-elite big man passer and a plus team defender, but his lack of rim protection makes his placement more arguable.

It can also be argued why two players would warrant their own category. I don’t think there are other 5s quite like them, and they illustrate one avenue to bring offensive value for non scorers/dribblers.

A.Elite Passing:

2015/15 Regular Season Assist Rate (Fives)

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  • The numbers speak for themselves here.  Noah and Bogut consistently have top 5 assist rates for fives in the league.

B.Interior Defense/Rim Protection

2015/15 Regular Season DBPM (Fives: Inclusive)

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2015/15 Regular Season DRPM (Fives: Inclusive)

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  • DBPM likes Noah more than DRPM.  Bogut is elite in basically every defensive metric available, which certainly passes the eye test.

2015/15 Regular Season Rim Protection (Fives: Inclusive)

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  • I didn’t include Noah’s minus rim protection because it’s not indicative of his peak interior defense capabilities, as in his DPOY year.
  • Both Noah and Bogut are largely “drop-back” pick and roll defenders who stay near the basket and are expert “flinchers”.  Noah has more mobility than Bogut and could guard space in help and recover situations amongst the best of his generation, but Thibs preferred a more conservative Ice scheme to promote midrange shots, thus Noah mostly dropped back.

C.Plus Rebounding/Minus Usage

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  • Bogut’s rebounding fell off a little bit last year as he’s consistently a plus defensive rebounder.  Noah adds steady defensive plus rebounding but also crashes the offensive glass more.
  • Notice the minus usage numbers here.  I could have included a bunch of playtype stats, but neither of these guys are creators in any on-ball setting, relying on garbage man aspects to contribute value outside of passing.

D.Lack of Creation

Bogut 2015/16 Shot Chart

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  • Not much to exaggerate on here.  Bogut is a plus finisher on cuts and on lob catches, though he’s not really a gravitational threat on the latter.  He’s never been a feared or adept floor spacer, being largely confined to the restricted area.

Noah 2015/16 Shot Chart

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  • This is so brutal.  Noah has never been an incredible finisher, but his finishing decline last year made him one of if not the least valuable offensive scorers in basketball.  He is more comfortable stepping out and shooting jumpers than Bogut is, but defenses will gladly acquiesce to that.

2015/16 Regular Season Cutting Playtype

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  • This is included just to show how Bogut primarily contributes finishing value in his off ball hard dives to the rim in the Warriors’ motion and ball-movement scheme.

II. College Indicators/Translations

1.Measurements

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  • Both Noah and Bogut had prototype height for a 5 but had either average length (Bogut) or minus length (Noah).  Noah compensated with plus athleticism via a massive no step vert and fluid agility, whereas Bogut was less mobile.

2.40 Minutes Pace Adjusted

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  • Bogut: I bet younger NBA fans would be shocked by Bogut’s scoring proficiency in college compared to the current version.  Bogut’s scoring, 2p% and even 3pt% on limited attempt his Sophomore year specifically were pretty incredible.  He threw in non-outlier poor FT% on heavy attempts, outlier elite rebounding and average steal/block numbers for the most part.  Notice the elite assist marks, which are outlier positive indicators.
  • Noah: Similar to Bogut Noah posted above average scoring numbers to pair with one outlier positive season.  His finishing was average to elite, and his FT% was actually pretty solid.  Defensively we again see the outlier steals for a big as a plus indicator, to pair with above average to elite block numbers.  Similar to Bogut Noah consistently had elite assist marks, although he was an inferior rebounder.

3.Efficiency

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  • Bogut: Bogut was an incredibly efficient shooter/scorer in college with a plus A/TO mark to pair with a surprising number of attempts.  He never displayed a proclivity for getting to the line at a supremely high rate compared to his field goal attempts.
  • Noah: Noah was similarly adept as a scorer but threw in some elite indicators drawing fouls to pair with consistently elite A/TO marks for a 5 including one outlier elite season.

4.Usage

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  • Bogut’s usage his Sophomore year was a historically high figure for a 5, and even his Freshman year was on the upper tier of the middle class.  Noah had two average seasons in terms of usage and one negative outlier his Freshman year.

5.Skill Translation

  1. Bogut: 
    • Plus Defensive Profile
    • Plus Rebounding
    • Plus Passing + Decision-Making
    • Plus Finishing
    • Questionable Foul-Drawing
    • First Contract Translation: Starter
  2. Noah:
    • Elite Defensive Profile
    • Above Average Rebounding (Ended Up Being Elite)
    • Plus Passing + Decsion-Making

III. Overall Takeaways

  1. The Uncertainty of Projecting Scoring: Both Bogut and Noah profiled to be plus scorers on the NBA level if you looked at the stats.  Bogut specifically was considered more of an offensive player than a defensive player at the time, and the result obviously ended up the opposite.  Injuries took a toll there, but Bogut didn’t possess outlier athleticism/tools and didn’t  possess the consistent volume spacing prowess, rendering there question marks if he could ever score in one avenue well (most suspected post scoring).  His usage also suggested go-to scoring acumen, which never surfaced.  Noah got most of his baskets as a fantastic energy guy, but from the eye test didn’t profile as a go-to guy.  Scoring unquestionably matters, but equally as important is the way you score.
  2. Assists/ATO Mark Trend Creating a Floor: Again we see outlier positives for bigs in passing and decision-making metrics translating, creating at least a semblance of an offensive floor to fall back on.  If neither of these players could pass they’d likely be backup fives earlier than later in their respective careers.

Next Up: Category 5 Fives: Defense/Energy + Lob Catching

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