Last week, I analyzed the Dwight Effect, or the total number of points Dwight Howard’s ability to protect the rim saves his team on average each night.
Surprisingly to many, while Dwight Howard’s simple presence alone was a positive for the Lakers as many offensive players decided against attacking the rim with Howard on the floor, his actual defense on shots around the rim had declined. While in Orlando, Howard saved his team over 5 points per 48 minutes over his last 4 seasons. This season, the Dwight Effect was negative, meaning for the first time in Howard’s career he was unable to protect the rim well enough to mask the defensive deficiencies of his teammates. For some, this confirmed prominent observational theories that Howard didn’t look to be the same player he was in Orlando and was likely injured.
Although, Howard was unable to keep shooting percentages at the rim down while he was on the floor, he was able to deter opponents from trying to score at the rim. This alone has significant value. The league average eFG% of shots at the rim is approximately 60%, compared to just 44% on all other shot locations. The simple act of scaring would-be slashers away from the rim is very valuable. In fact, in an average pace NBA game, if a team were able to keep their opponents from shooting any shots at the rim at all, they can expect to see a 25 point per game improvement on defense! Conversely, if a team was unable to affect where their opponents took their field goal attempts and wanted similar results, they would have to lower shooting percentages around the rim by about 16%, which is of course more plausible. The moral is that while ideally a team wants big men who defend the rim well, bigs who have the reputation for doing so and are consequently not tested as often are also valuable. I refer to these two components of interior defense as Bark and Bite.
Bark is the fear a defender’s reputation has on the opponent’s shot selection, manifested in changes in the percentage of shots taken at the rim normally versus percentage taken with that defender on the floor. Bite is the defender’s ability to lower the opponent’s success when attacking the rim, measured by typical shooting percentages at the rim versus shooting percentages with that defender on the floor.
With that said, here are this season’s Bark and Bite leaders:
The Bark-Bite matrix groupings are below. I hope you find your team’s big man in the top-right, or at least, not in the bottom-left.