A blocked shot is one of the most powerful actions in a basketball game. With one fell swoop, a crowd is on their feet screaming, fellow players are jumping up and down, and opponents are about to see their embarrassing moment on national television.
While the individual block is a beautiful thing, the art of being a good shot blocker deals with more than just volume of shots blocked—it is co-dependent on the efficiency in which the shots were blocked.
Anybody can block two shots, but if you commit five fouls to do so, are you really helping your team?
Therefore, I used two helpful numbers in calculating this list:
1. Blocks Per 48 Minutes
2. Blocks Per Foul
I also used some advanced metric statistics I will cite throughout the article.
(Thanks to NBA.com, Hoopsdata.com, 82games.com, and ESPN.com for providing the statistics)
With the pleasantries out-of-the-way, let's look at the top 20 shot-blockers in the NBA....
Blocks Per 48 Minutes: 2.2
Blocks Per Foul: 0.55
As the best player on a sorry 12-win Nets team last season, Brook Lopez's breakout sophomore season went largely unnoticed nationally. Lopez was the second-leading scorer for centers in the NBA, one of eight centers to average over 15 points and eight rebounds per game, and the only Nets starter with a win score over five.
In addition to his offensive prowess and overall efficiency, Lopez has developed a solid defensive repertoire. While he doesn't have the boundless energy and tenacity of his brother (Phoenix center Robin Lopez), Brook makes up for it with his above-average blocking ability.
If Lopez continues growing like he did from year one to year two, we have a perennial All-Star on our hands. If not, we have a lovable lug that will spend his career wallowing on 30-win teams.
Bonus Clip: Reasons to love Brook Lopez, Vol. 1
Blocks Per 48 Minutes: 2.62
Blocks Per Foul: 0.41
While the aforementioned Brook Lopez's improvement rests mostly on making a better defensive effort, Clippers center DeAndre Jordan's improvement lies almost completely on the offensive end of the court.
(Jordan's adjusted PER ranked him ninth on the Clippers last season.)
Jordan is extremely limited with his back to the basket and often looks lost within the frames of the Clippers offense.
However, one of the biggest detriments to Jordan's game during the draft period (his lack of shot blocking prowess) has become one of his strengths at the NBA level.
(DeAndre's 2.62 blocks per 48 minutes ranks him 17th in the NBA for the 2009-2010 season.)
On the other hand, where Jordan's efficiency often lacks is knowing when to go after a block. As any Clippers fan can attest, Jordan often makes bone-headed fouls when going for the show-stopping block.
If Jordan can improve on picking his spots, his position on this list could easily move up in the coming years.
Blocks Per 48 Minutes: 3.0
Blocks Per Foul: 0.43
Anyone who has read my articles throughout the NBA offseason knows how I feel about Amundson. I think he's a fantastic energy guy who has been vastly underrated by teams this offseason and will be a fantastic bargain for whoever picks him up.
And, if my word isn't enough, Amundson's block rate should tell you everything you need to know. Standing just 6'9" and weighing just 228 pounds, Amundson grinds with the big boys on a nightly basis and still manages to have the 14th best blocks per 48 minute rate in the NBA.
Lou's foul rate is the main reason for his lower ranking, but that is largely attributable to the aforementioned size differential. With that said if I ranked him any higher it would give credence to the floating theory that I drink Amundson's bath water. And we don't want that.
Blocks Per 48 Minutes: 2.49
Blocks Per Foul: 0.50
Labeled a bust heading into the 2009-2010 NBA season, Noah's career enjoyed a fantastic resurrection last season. As one of only five NBA centers to average a double-double, Noah's play quickly made him an integral part of the Bulls burgeoning young nucleus.
Despite being a nightly double-double, Noah's biggest impact was on the defensive end. With a boundless energy supply, a take-no-s*** bravado, and an unquenchable thirst for winning, Noah's personality fits perfectly with his defensive stalwart reputation.
And with Noah's stats improving every one of his three seasons, there is no reason to believe Noah reached his skill apex.
Blocks Per 48 Minutes: 2.3
Blocks Per Foul: 0.77
While Duncan is no longer the defensive force he was during his prime, the man still brings his hard hat to work every day. With a workman's like mentality, Duncan plays defense with an understated grace that has defined his career.
In an era where players swat shots to the 233rd row simply to get an "OHHHHH!" from the crowd and national exposure from Sportscenter's "Top 10 Plays", Duncan bats balls to teammates when available in Bill Russell-like fashion.
With the eighth best Win Score in the NBA last season, talks of Duncan's personal demise are greatly exaggerated. And, in an era where players are so brazenly arrogant, I think any true basketball fans are happy that the Duncan era still has life in its legs.
Blocks Per 48 Minutes: 2.94
Blocks Per Foul: 0.60
Following the best season of his NBA career, all prospects looked bright for Kendrick Perkins' future until the NBA Playoffs. After sub-par performances throughout the first three rounds, Perkins' disappointing playoff experience culminated with a serious knee injury.
Regardless of his poor play, as any Boston Celtics fan will tell you, Perkins' importance to the Celtics' success reared its head in Boston's Game 7 NBA Finals loss. Without Perkins' relentless toughness in the middle, the Lakers scooped up every loose ball and every rebound on their way to the NBA championship.
Perkins' toughness also shows up in his blocking. As a center who's not exactly the most fleet of foot, Perkins still ranks 15th in the NBA in blocks per 48 minutes.
In the aftermath of his injury, one can only assume that Perk's place on this list can only go downhill from here.
Blocks Per 48 Minutes: 3.09
Blocks Per Foul: 0.46
As someone who watched Roy Hibbert play at Georgetown pretty extensively, I can honestly say I am stunned to see Hibbert on this list.
When evaluating Hibbert's translation to the next level, I thought his lack of toughness would leave him as a career role player at best.
And while Roy's lack of toughness shows up in his rebounding statistics, his shot-blocking prowess nearly makes up for his miscues rebounding the basketball. With his combination of fleet footwork, above-average leaping ability, and aggression Hibbert has found his correct niche in Indiana as a shot blocker whose main responsibility is making plays on the offensive end.
Just don't ever expect him to pick up rebounds for you, Pacers fans.
Blocks Per 48 Minutes: 3.09
Blocks Per Foul: 0.51
Ask any Magic fan for the justification of giving Marcin Gortat $34 million to back up the NBA's best center and their first go-to move is "look at his per-48 stats".
And, in most cases, they are correct. Most of Gortat's per-48 numbers place him with the upper echelon of NBA centers—and blocked shots is no different.
(Gortat ranks 12th in the NBA in blocks per 48 minutes.)
With another four years on Gortat's contract, we may never get to see what he does as a starter. But with his toughness, rebounding acumen, excellent footwork, middling post-game, and of course, his per-48 minute splits, at least Magic fans can still find justification for calling us idiots for ripping on their $34 million backup plan.
Blocks Per 48 Minutes: 3.52
Blocks Per Foul: 0.50
Serge Ibaka's emergence on the NBA scene came as a surprise to basically everyone not named (Thunder GM) Sam Presti.
With Ibaka's development into one of the NBA's best young defenders, it looks as if Presti has hit the gold mine once again for the Thunder.
In his first season of NBA action, Ibaka ranked eighth in the NBA in blocks per 48 minutes, gave the Lakers' front court hell in the first round of the playoffs, and quickly vaulted into the Mount Rushmore of Coolest Names in the NBA.
(Current Rushmore: Kelenna Azubuike, Ibaka, Didier (D.J.) Llunga-Mbenga, and my personal favorite because it really could be the name of a Russian supermodel, Oleksiy Pecherov.)
As the Thunder continued improving this offseason, the team showed their faith in Ibaka by making it evident he's their No. 1 option at power forward next season. If Ibaka's first season is any indication of how good he can be, I'd Presti made another great call.
Blocks Per 48 Minutes: 3.41
Blocks Per Foul: 0.6
Dalembert's reputation as a fantastic defensive stopper has netted him $60 million five years ago.
Now, heading into the last year of his contract, Dalembert needs to have a better season than his 2009-2010 campaign if he wants to dupe another team into giving him a long-term deal.
While it sounds like I am ripping Dalembert, I'm not. However, I am ripping teams for being stupid enough to give $60 million to a player with absolutely no post game and then expecting his skills to develop after giving him a truckload of money.
Dalembert is what he is—a very good rebounder and great shot blocker who could contribute to any team.
The sooner teams realize that spending $50+ million on a player just because he is tall and has some skill isn't a good thing, the better off the league will be.
Blocks Per 48 Minutes: 3.22
Blocks Per Foul: 0.76
We go from one player who is finishing an awful contract to a player who just signed one. In no way, shape, or form is Brendan Haywood worth $55 million. None.
Regardless, this article is about great shot blockers, not a referendum on horrible contracts. And the $55 million man Haywood is both a good shot blocker and an efficient one.
With the tenth best blocks per-48 minutes in the NBA as well as the seventh best blocks per foul ratio, Haywood shows that it is possible to block a high volume of shots without nearly fouling out every game.
Blocks Per 48 Minutes: 3.96
Blocks Per Foul: 0.69
The more I read about Anthony, the more I like about him as a player.
While he is a complete offensive liability, Anthony is a best defensively. At just 6'9, Anthony combines toughness, a nose for the ball, and athleticism to wreak havoc on his bigger counterparts.
With Anthony in line to receive more minutes next season and the glaring spotlight being placed on the entire Heat supporting cast, Anthony's performance will either be lauded or scrutinized all season long.
And if the Heat center continues blocking shots at his current rate, his national stock should soar after the 2010-2011 season.
Blocks Per 48 Minutes: 2.88
Blocks Per Foul: 0.72
Josh Smith's rating is a direct result in a personal deviation from the stats and toward my own game-watching experience.
Smith is one of the most arrogant and self-aggrandizing players in the NBA, but he is also one of the game's best defenders as evidenced by his All-Defensive Team selection last season.
Josh Smith does not block as many shots as some of the other players ranked behind him on this list, but Smith's blocks are so spectacular that their overall effect cannot be measured by any advanced metrics.
He energizes the crowd and teammates as well as demoralizes the opposition as he sends shots soaring into the fifth row of the stands. And, for that, he gets a bump up on this list.
Blocks Per 48 Minutes: 3.03
Blocks Per Foul: 0.91
If this was a list solely based on efficiency, Marcus Camby would top the list by far.
(His 0.91 blocks per foul ratio tops the NBA.)
The years may have worn on Camby's athleticism and volume of blocks, but it hasn't ruined his innate ability to time his block attempts perfectly.
As the beneficiary of a new contract in Portland, Camby can step into a mentor role for 2007 No. 1 overall pick Greg Oden while also being an important cog in the Blazers' rotation.
I normally would not advise a team to spend over $10 million a season for a 36 year-old center, but with Camby having the fifth highest Win Score in the NBA last season it might actually work out.
Blocks Per 48 Minutes: 3.77
Blocks Per Foul: 0.79
If someone would have told me four years ago that Andrew Bogut would be one of the most foremost shot-blockers in the league in 2010, I probably would have walked away in disgust.
Considered Charmin-soft by many pundits early in his career, Bogut has completely revamped his game into a defensive stalwart and overall good NBA center.
As Bogut continues healing from a vicious elbow injury suffered last season, excited Bucks fans anxiously await word on their center's clearance. After a stellar offseason, Milwaukee looks as if it's on the precipice of yearly contention. A healthy Bogut is step No. 1.
Blocks Per 48 Minutes: 4.64
Blocks Per Foul: 0.58
Well, I guess this is consolation for the Portland fans that lost one of the NBA's five best players on 2007 Draft night. At least you have a top five shot blocker!
Oh...that doesn't make it better? Um, sorry.
In the 82 games Oden played in three years since being drafted No. 1 overall, he proved himself as a fantastic defensive center—averaging nearly 15 rebounds per 48 minutes along with three blocks per 48 minutes.
Problems with Oden lie with fouls and injuries. If, as I stated before, Marcus Camby mentors Oden on being more efficient, the only question left is can Oden stay healthy?
And the answer remains the same: I sure hope so.
Blocks Per 48 Minutes: 4.8
Blocks Per Foul: 0.54
I have gone on record and been criticized for already calling Hasheem Thabeet an abject failure at the NBA level. I continually make the point with Tyreke Evans and Steph Curry on the board, taking a player who all talent evaluators said would be a bust was simply an eff you to fans.
And, so far, I have been proven right.
Regardless, there is no denying Thabeet's greatest asset is his unbelievable shot-blocking ability.
(Thabeet's per-48 minute stats rank him as the second best shot blocker in the NBA.)
My skepticism aside, Thabeet does have potential to be an All-Defensive Team selection if he ever finds a way to avoid foul trouble and finds some semblance of an offensive basketball IQ. I'm just not holding my breath.
Blocks Per 48 Minutes: 5.01
Blocks Per Foul: 0.83
McGee is my favorite choice for breakout player of the 2010-2011 NBA season. With McGee and point guard John Wall showing a budding chemistry during the Summer League in Las Vegas, all signs point to a more athletic Chris Paul-Tyson Chandler relationship.
As all Wizards fans who watch the team closely can tell you, McGee has been an emerging defensive star since the moment he stepped on an NBA floor. Last season McGee was the NBA's leader in blocks per 48 minutes as well as its third best player in terms of blocks per foul.
Many casual observers will take a look and wonder who the hell JaVale McGee is and what he is doing as the third best shot blocker in the league, but if recent indications mean anything, McGee is about to become a household name.
Blocks Per 48 Minutes: 4.05
Blocks Per Foul: 0.84
Since returning to NBA action in 2008 following a two-year suspension, the Birdman has been a defensive menace and crowd energizer.
His combination of efficiency, knack for the spectacular, and overall output on the defensive end makes Anderson an irreplaceable member of Denver's rotation.
Birdman's story is one of the most interesting in sports to me. Undrafted out of Blinn Junior College, Anderson worked for his first NBA glimmer of hope with the Nuggets. After the drug problems that kicked him out of the league, most men would have went into a free-basing coma. Instead, Birdman cleaned himself up and was reinstated as a better basketball player than ever.
As Americans we love rags to riches stories, so Chris Anderson's rags to riches to rags to riches is simply fascinating to me.
Anyone with a soul is rooting for Birdman to continue blocking shots like the one below.
Blocks Per 48 Minutes: 3.85
Blocks Per Foul: 0.79
The No. 1 on this list was obvious from the moment you opened the link, so don't try to act surprised.
Howard's defensive dominance really begins and ends with his all-time great blocking ability. Howard's combination of flair, efficiency, and tenacity all combine to make him the game's best defender.
In addition, Howard's defensive prowess also gives him the nod for the highest Win Score in the NBA according to Hoopdata.
If Dwight ever becomes motivated to be the greatest, I don't see anything stopping him. He has the perfect blend of talent, athleticism, position scarcity, and timing. As of now, it seems Howard is content being the lovable "Superman" character instead of the Incredible Hulk.
With the burden of hate placed squarely on the Super Best Friends' Club, we need a superhero to vanquish the villain. It just remains to be seen whether Dwight has the heart to become that guy.