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An Inconvenient Basketball Truth: Blocks Are The Most Overrated Stat In The Game

You know it’s sad but true.

NCAA Basketball: Jimmy V Classic-Illinois at Texas Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

As I was writing up a preview for tonight’s Illinois game against Indiana, I found myself once again confronting one of the saddest revelations I’ve had in recent years:

Blocked shots are overrated as hell.

I viscerally love to see a blocked shot. It rules. It’s genuinely hard to say if a block or a dunk will get a bigger crowd reaction. Blocking a shot is the defensive equivalent of making a dunk in that it can demoralize your opponent, fire up the crowd and give you some shit-talking rights, and if you execute it right it can even draw a foul. Of course, like dunking, you can also get called for a foul. In any case, my central point is that blocking shots is bitchin’. is not a very effective strategy. Blocks are the single most overrated stat in basketball because they’re no different than any other missed shot. Blocked shots frequently lead to offensive rebounds and second chance points, and some of the most emphatic blocks happen when the ball is swatted out of bounds...preserving possession for the other team.

I will admit that playing NBA 2K as a center may have contributed to this observation, but I also noticed it with Buff Illini Skyscraper Kofi Cockburn the last several years. As a seven footer with gigantic hands, it would seem natural that Kofi should block shots. However, he was more effective when he was NOT trying to block shots and was instead just denying space vertically.

I’ve seen it often when trying to challenge for a block in the lane takes someone out of the play even if they make the block! If an offensive player is there to grab the ball, now the shot blocker has to land and can’t defend the lane. Even crazier is when the block goes right back to the shooter, who goes around the guy who just blocked him for a layup.

I’m not suggesting that avoiding blocks is a good strategy, just lamenting the fact that as much as I love blocks, they’re nowhere near as useful to winning a game as an offensive rebound. You have to close out on a shooter and if you time it right, you earn not only a block but the glory that comes with it (which should include the right to say “[get that] shit outta here” without getting a technical, just as getting a contested rebound should grant you immunity when you say “gimme that shit!”). Additionally, the value of getting your crowd and your teammates fired up is certainly more than nothing.

After all, they may be ineffective but I’m still going to jump out of my seat and Mutumbo-finger-wag every time they happen.