Last week I made a list of the top 20 at-the-rim finishers in the NBA. I tried to develop a formula to rank the players so it was not purely subjective, but it was clearly flawed as it greatly favored big men and only took attempts and percentage into account.
I've altered the equation (to be explained on the next slide) to more accurately reflect at-the-rim finishing ability.
This will start out going position by position to show who the top five finishers are at each, then will conclude with a ranking based on a plus/minus system that uses a player's number against his position average.
The list will include 10 players at the bottom, 10 in the middle and then the 10 best.
There will undoubtedly be some controversy over the results and you're more than welcome to let your opinion be known. Numbers do not always tell the whole story, but I believe this is a reasonably accurate statistical assessment of at-the-rim finishing ability.
If you would like the numbers on any particular player, just let me know in the comments section and I will get them to you as quickly as I can.
(All stats are provided by Hoopdata.com and I must give a shout out to reader Dre Davis whose suggestion of looking at the worst players in this category served as the spark for this article.)
In my first piece on this subject, I used an overly simple at-the-rim attempts multiplied by at-the-rim shooting percentage to come up with a number that was then used to rank players.
While it provided some good conversation, looking back, it wasn't all that accurate and the triple-digit numbers it produced just don't work for basketball.
So, in an attempt to come up with a number that is much more NBA-esque, I came up with this formula using the at-the-rim numbers:
((Makes x At-Rim FG Percentage) - (Misses x 2)) divided by Attempts
This number will be referred to as At-Rim-Finishing-Ability or ARFA for short.
I'll use the league average (2.2 Makes, 61.6 At-Rim FG Percentage, 1.8 Misses, 3.6 Attempts) as an example:
((2.2 x 61.6) - 2.8) divided by 3.6 = 37
All stats are from the 2009-10 season and minimum requirements for consideration are an average of at least three at-rim attempts per game, at least 65 games played and an average of at least 25 minutes a game. That way there is a large enough sample size.
I hope you enjoy this statistical look at ARFA and, again, feel free to comment.
Not surpisingly, the average ARFA for points guards (31.2) is the lowest in the league. They are normally the smallest guys out there after all.
Here's a quick look at the top five:
- Rajon Rondo, 40.9
- George Hill, 40.7
- Deron Williams, 39.8
- Tony Parker, 38.1
- Andre Miller, 35.6
I, for one, was expecting to see Derrick Rose's name up there, but I came to find out that his FG percentage on at-the-rim shots is just 55.1 percent.
For comparison, no one in the top five was below 60.2 percent.
The argument was raised in my last article about double-teams and how they make the shots more difficult.
What does a double-team mean, though?
In order to double-up on a guy, a defender has to leave his man, which means that someone is open. In its purest form, basketball is about using player and ball movement to create open shots.
Rose was second behind Tyreke Evans (who was also under 60 percent) in at-rim attempts for point guards. Maybe he needs to develop a better awareness of double-teams and which of his teammates has come open.
How do you think Rondo gets all those assists and also has a very high (64.2) FG percentage on at-the-rim shots? He knows when to take the shot and when to dish-off.
In time, hopefully for their teams, guys like Evans and Rose will develop a better ability to do that.
The average ARFA for shooting guards last season was 35.6, with Andre Iguodala leading them all at 46.8.
Here's the top five:
- Andre Iguodala, 46.8
- Dwyane Wade, 43.7
- Jason Richardson, 41.4
- O.J. Mayo, 40.6
- Brandon Roy, 39.6
Another surprise here with Wade not being at the top.
Consider, though, that Iguodala hit on 68.5 percent of his at-rim attempts while Wade was at 67. Wade does have better assist numbers (6.5 a game compared to Iguodala's 5.8) which means he likely gave up some attempts to feed open teammates. That's just good basketball.
Iguodala is also taller than D-Wade, which likely helped him finish at a higher rate. He also played in more games and saw more floor time than Wade.
Who didn't see this one coming?
Quickly, the top five are :
- LeBron James, 53.4
- Kevin Durant, 48.1
- Wilson Chandler, 45.7
- Richard Jefferson, 45.2
- Corey Maggette, 43
LeBron's numbers are ridiculous. Not only does he attempt 6.8 at-rim shots a game, he connects on 73.3 percent of them.
He has such great size that defenders are reluctant to step up and try to stop him, and even when they do try to prevent him making baskets, there aren't many guys capable of doing so.
Durant is no shocker, but Chandler and Maggette are not exactly household names.
By the way, did you notice that the Spurs have three guys in the top five in their respective positions in Tony Parker, George Hill and Jefferson?
They really know what they're doing in San Antonio.
If you're wondering, the average ARFA for small forwards is 38.5.
Luis Scola is a severely underrated player. The guy knows how to get it done and isn't afraid to do some of the dirty work.
The top five power forwards (average ARFA of 38) are as follows:
- Luis Scola, 51.2
- LaMarcus Aldridge, 50.2
- Anderson Varejao, 48.2
- Carl Landry, 47.1
- Carlos Boozer, 44.9
Actually, all five players on here, aside from Boozer, are largely underrated. Varejao got some publicity over the past few seasons when he was playing with LeBron James, but he's viewed more as a defensive pest than a good finisher.
Aldridge could stand to get down-low more often and Landry is a guy you hardly ever hear about, despite the fact that he is a solid player.
Flash is what gets attention, however, and none of these guys are particularly good with style-points.
If Dwight Howard develops a true post-game with a good variety of moves, how unstoppable will he be?
He spent some time this summer working with Hakeem Olajuwon, and it's not like he needed much help finishing around the rim.
The top five centers:
- Dwight Howard, 56.2
- Kendrick Perkins, 55
- Al Horford, 49.2
- Jermaine O'Neal, 48.9
- Marc Gasol, 47.1
Not the Gasol you were expecting to find on this list, eh?
An interesting aspect of this centers list, Horford and O'Neal aren't really centers. They're more like power forwards, but Horford has been thrust into the center role for Atlanta since they already have Josh Smith and O'Neal has been used as a center by various teams for some time now.
They likely have a bit more quickness than the men they are going against, but Horford does not have true center size at 6'10". I could spend a lot of time wondering why the Hawks have so many players that are very similar, but this is not the time or place for that.
Perkins was a bit of surprise given that I've always thought of him as more of a defensive player, but you learn something new everyday.
The ARFA average for centers is 42.1. The highest average number goes to the guys who are usually the biggest. Natural selection at its finest.
Now for a look at some of the worst, the most mediocre and the best at-the-rim finishers in the NBA, weighted by position.
I won't waste too much time introducing the 10 worst finishers in the league.
From here on out, all the numbers will be weighted by position and given a plus/minus score based on how far above or below the position average a player is. That way there's no real bias given to guys who naturally are bigger and should have a far easier time getting the ball in the basket.
The worst will be a countdown starting with the least-worst and ending with the worst-worst. I hope that makes sense.
This is the guy that's supposed to lead the Pistons back to prominence?
Stuckey had 5.6 at-rim attempts per game, but connected on just 49.3 percent of them.
Time to start passing the rock.
Oh, Trevor. You severely over-estimate your value and buy yourself a ticket out of LA and now look where you are. Listed as one of the worst finishers in the game.
Ariza had just a 56.3 at-rim FG percentage while chucking it up there 4.6 times per game.
I think he needs a new offensive strategy.
The definition of a journeyman player, Gooden attempted 4.5 at-rim shots a game and ended up with a 55.2 percent at-rim FG percentage and an ARFA of 29.8.
The league average for power forwards was 63.2 percent and their average ARFA was 38.
Maybe he would be able to stick around in one place for longer than a season or two if he learned how to finish.
How much you want to bet Hibbert missed that dunk?
I don't know whether he did or not, but his 3.3 at-rim attempts per game and his 59 percent at-rim FG percentage (league average for centers was 65.7) leads me to believe there's a chance he did.
At least the Pacers whooped the Heat in that game.
Aaron, my man, you've got to get the ball to Scola more often. Your 48.6 at-rim FG percentage and 22.2 ARFA aren't good for anyone, especially your team.
You also had Landry for 52 games last year, making your numbers even worse.
Maybe you should be more of a distributing point guard.
When a 12-70 team doesn't feel they need your services anymore, have you hit rock bottom?
CD-R shot a measly 54.7 percent and had an ARFA of 29.3, both far below the averages for shooting guards.
Having been a Nets fan for quite a while, I'm not at all surprised that one of their players is up here.
And it was supposed to be a big loss when this guy missed the playoffs last year.
Okur attempted just 3.8 at-rim shots a game, but had a terrible connect rate of 57.8 percent.
His 32.2 ARFA is far below par for centers.
You ready for this?
Jennings hit on just 42.7 percent of his at-rim shots a year ago, not only the worst mark for any of the point guards, but for every player who qualified for this piece. His ARFA of 17.2 is just terrible.
If only they had the split-stats for when he rocked the Gumby haircut. I wonder if it helped him or hurt him.
Do you have any idea how much it's killing me to have a UConn guy in this spot? Way to represent the program Caron.
Butler had an ARFA of 23.6 and connected on just 49.2 percent of his shots.
This never would have happened if the league just let him chew on his straws, but at least he's not the worst guy.
He's not even the worst small forward. That award is reserved for someone we all know.
(By the way, Huskies, nice job beating Michigan State.)
Okay, so he's only slightly worse than Caron Butler thanks to averaging 0.2 less makes and 0.2 less attempts per game.
Ron, you may be the worst at-rim finisher in the game, but you do have a ring and you could be on your way to another one. I'm sure that will make you feel better.
I won't spend much time on those who are mediocre as it's not nearly as much as looking at greatness or a lack thereof, but here's a quick look at 10 guys who are right in the middle of the pack:
- David Lee, +1.3
- Chris Bosh, +1.3
- Matt Barnes, +1.3
- Brendan Haywood, +1
- Emeka Okafor, +0.1
- Darren Collison, 0
- Andrew Bogut, -0.1
- Tim Duncan, -0.2
- Jameer Nelson, 0.2
- Manu Ginobli, -0.3
How about Collison's nice, even zero, the only guy with that distinction.
Has anyone else noticed that score-first point guards aren't doing so hot in this ranking?
Enough, already. Let's get to the 10 best at-rim finishers in the NBA.
Someone needs more playing time.
Coming off the bench, Hill averaged just 3.1 at-rim attempts per game but hit on 64.1 percent of them, giving him an ARFA of 40.7.
It shouldn't be long before he comes into his own.
Is there anything not to like about Kevin Durant unless you're from Seattle?
Durant connected on 69.8 of his 5.2 at-rim attempts, finishing with an ARFA of 48.1.
Low-key and team oriented, it seems it's only a matter of time before Durant is the face of the NBA.
Rondo may not be No. 1 on the list, but he is the No. 1 point guard.
It shouldn't be any kind of a surprise. He has a good team around him, knows when to pass and knows when to shoot.
There's a very strong argument for him as best point guard in the NBA, period.
Varejao deserves more credit for being an all-around player.
His poofy hair and flopping is somewhat annoying, but he's still a fine talent.
He's helping the King-less Cavs have a better season than expected.
It's been rumored that Iguodala will want out of Philly if the team doesn't improve fast, but the Sixers will likely want some big pieces in return, especially after they check out this list.
Iggy could stand to take more shots around the basket, but who's going to complain about him being the highest ranked shooting guard?
This guy is pretty good.
Aldridge has an ARFA of 50.2 thanks in large part to his 70.7 shooting percentage on at-the-rim shots.
He and his team should make an effort to get him more shots down there as he attempted an average of 3.9 last year.
The Celtics are really good. That's really all I have to say about this.
Perkins hit on 74.7 of his at-rim attempts, an incredibly good number for a guy who's considered a defensive player.
How different would Game 7 have been if he was in there?
I've never considered myself a huge Luis Scola fan, but I want to watch this guy play now.
Scola averaged nearly four at-rim makes a game and had an ARFA of 51.2.
Argentina produces some fine basketball players.
It's not often you get a guy with Howard's defensive ability mixed with a good offensive game.
He's considered the best center around for a reason and his number should only improve with the emphasis he placed on his post-game this off-season.
Who could he be looking up at, though?
Come on, you knew this was coming all along.
James attempted 6.8 at-rim shots a game and had an at-rim FG percentage of 73.3, giving him an ARFA of 53.4. That's pretty amazing stuff.
Even if Miami's season goes completely up in flames, James will still have the honor of being No.1 on this list.
Thank you for sharing your talents with us, LeBron.