The NBA’s Goaltending Leaders

August 18th, 2014 | by Andy Larsen
Serge Ibaka blocks Matt Barnes' layup during this season's NBA playoffs. But how often does he goaltend?

Serge Ibaka goes for the block on Tony Parker’s shot during this year’s NBA playoffs. But how often does Ibaka goaltend? (Photo by Chris Covatta/Getty Images)

Goaltending is awesome.

Basketball players have an unfortunate choice: they can sky above the rim and forcefully reject a shot in a direction of their choosing, or they can meekly hope a shot misses so they may gather the rebound. The former is a remarkable feat limited to only the most athletic and genetically gifted of humans, an artistic feat of animal expression. The latter is a game delay while gravity takes its course. Unfortunately, the rules have chosen to punish goaltending.1 Lame.

But which players are the most likely to break the goaltending rules? To find out, I used a play-by-play database of the 2013-14 NBA season, acquired using APBRForums’ user kpascual’s NBAscrape Python tool.2 Essentially, this tool goes to the play-by-play section of every NBA game on NBA.com, and saves the contents to a database to use for whatever kind of basketball analysis you want, including a lot of stuff that wouldn’t be available in the box score. Today, we’re looking at goaltends, because they’re awesome.3

In the 2013-14 NBA season, 758 offensive and defensive goaltends took place, or an average of 0.616 goaltends per NBA game. Below is the list of all of the NBA players with more than 10.

Total Goaltend Leaders, 2013-14 season.

Total Goaltending Leaders, 2013-14 season.

We have a tie! Serge Ibaka and Andre Drummond are co-champions of the goaltend, going above and slightly-too-far beyond to protect their team’s rim. While they were often caught, both players had big moments last season during missed goaltending calls. Ibaka had several high-profile goaltends-turned-blocks in the NBA Playoffs (including this one), while Drummond somehow escaped being punished for this:

Both Plumlee brothers finish amongst the top group, and Jazzman Derrick Favors barely makes the list. What about offensive goaltending alone?

2013-14 Offensive Goaltending leaders

2013-14 Offensive Goaltending Leaders

Drummond and Ibaka again top this list, showing that goaltending violations are probably reflective of eagerness, rather than an innate desire to protect the rim. Here’s the list of defensive goaltending leaders:

2013-14 Defensive Goaltending leaders.

2013-14 Defensive Goaltending leaders

At the top: Ibaka and Drummond, but Dwight Howard also goaltends on D quite frequently too. Since this is a Utah Jazz site, I’ll include all of the Utah Jazz’s goaltends last season:

2013-14 Utah Jazz Goaltending

2013-14 Utah Jazz Goaltending

Sadly, the Jazz didn’t go for the style points while losing, goaltending just 23 times last season, an average of only .28 goaltends per game.

If you’d like to look up your favorite team or player’s goaltending data, don’t fret. The whole 2013-14 season of goaltending data is available for download here on Salt City Hoops.

Andy Larsen

Andy Larsen

Andy Larsen is the Managing Editor of Salt City Hoops, the ESPN TrueHoop affiliate for the Utah Jazz. He also hosts a radio show and podcast every week on ESPN700 AM in Salt Lake City.
Andy Larsen

3 Comments

  1. LKA says:

    Modern day is nice on this one. Looks like you can see many things that no one has ever thought of before. Probably even which players scrached themselves in a offensive manner..

  2. R Paulson says:

    “Below is the list of all of the NBA players with more than 10.”
    Proceeds to show Favors who doesn’t have more than 10 anyways, because screw semantics.
    ;)

  3. Hess says:

    I see a lot of elite defenders on that list, which leads me to believe that goaltending might be a small side effect of an elite defender. If that’s what it takes to be like Howard, Ibaka, Drummond, and Bosh, I’ll take it.

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