Why Retain Chuck Hayes? A Statistical Look At Individual Post Defense

Data for this post was obtained using Synergy Sports technology.

Three days ago, Jonathan Feigen reported that the Rockets are planning on retaining Chuck Hayes for the 2010-2011 season. Hayes has a player option and is due to make $2.3 million this year. In other words, it won't cost the Rockets much to keep their captain, which is nice.

Often times, we credit the Chuckwagon as being one of the best individual post defenders in the league. Though Chuck's presence in the lane is often transparent, as teams made and attempted far more shots at the rim this season than in years past, his reputation as a one-on-one post defender is legitimate. However, we've largely gone along with this assumption based on what we've seen here and there, or just because we read it somewhere and decided to agree. So, I figured, why not take a look at the statistics, as they have recently become available to me.

After the jump, I'll be taking a look at Chuck's individual post defense statistics in comparison with many of the NBA's top starting centers, as well as low-post players who serve as defensive options off the bench. I may have left a few names off the list (Anderson Varejao does a little bit more than just post defense), but I figure that these are the most prominent names that should be considered. Then, for kicks, I threw Luis Scola on the list, which may not have been such a good idea. And I referenced Chris Bosh, too, because I basically have to.

Before we look at the numbers, we have to take into consideration the role that the player has on a specific team. Guys like David Lee and Scola aren't necessarily on the court for their defense, so, later, when we look at salaries, these players may not apply in the same way that Chuck does. Nonetheless, here are the stats.

Player

Chances
David Lee 321
Al Horford 310
Nene 301
Chuck Hayes 287
Brook Lopez 261
Carlos Boozer 257
Kendrick Perkins 254
Jermaine O’Neal 238
Amare Stoudemire 236
Mehmet Okur 233
Tim Duncan 231
Dwight Howard 229
Spencer Hawes 219
Luis Scola 215
Al Jefferson 212
Sam Dalembert 206
Roy Hibbert 205
Joakim Noah 201
Pau Gasol 198
Chris Bosh 191
Andrew Bynum 185
Marc Gasol 184
Andrew Bogut 175
Chris Andersen 140
DeJuan Blair 137

First, we have the total number of post-up "chances" that each of the players above guarded during the 2009-2010 season. A post-up chance is not the same as a shot attempt - a chance begins as soon as the offensive player receives the ball. He may shoot it, or, due to good defense, he may commit a turnover. Turnovers are the only alternative considered here; passing out of the post is not. These are possessions that end after the post player receives the ball. In this regard, Chuck faced the third-most post-up chances of anyone on this list. Keep in mind that Marc Gasol's season was cut short by an injury.

Note (5/12): Tisbee makes a great point in the comments: the fact that Chuck faced so many "chances" sheds light to how confident the Rockets are in leaving him in a one-on-one situation and holding off the double team. Many players on this list with fewer "chances" most likely received more help (in the form of double teams) than Chuck did. Leaving Chuck by himself allows for the defense to close out quicker on the perimeter in the event of a kick-out pass.

Player % Score Chances
Dwight Howard 35.80 229
Mehmet Okur 36.10 233
Kendrick Perkins 36.20 254
Al Horford 37.40 310
Andrew Bynum 38.90 185
Tim Duncan 39.40 231
Jermaine O’Neal 39.90 238
Nene 40.20 301
Brook Lopez 42.50 261
Pau Gasol 42.90 198
Chris Bosh 43.50 191
Sam Dalembert 43.70 206
Joakim Noah 43.80 201
Amare Stoudemire 44.50 236
Roy Hibbert 44.90 205
Chuck Hayes 45.60 287
Andrew Bogut 45.70 175
Al Jefferson 45.80 212
Carlos Boozer 45.90 257
Marc Gasol 46.20 184
Spencer Hawes 47.90 219
Chris Andersen 49.30 140
David Lee 51.10 321
Luis Scola 54.00 215
DeJuan Blair 54.00 137

"% Score" is the money stat. It's pretty self-explanatory, as it measures the percentage of post-up chances that result in a made basket. Hayes is slightly below average when it comes to % Score among the players on this list, and it's a testament to Dwight Howard and (gasp!) Mehmet Okur that they are ten percentage points below Chuck. Keep in mind, we are still only looking at a handful of NBA big men here. Chuck is far better than many players who still get paid more than him.

So perhaps Hayes isn't among the elite individual post defenders in the league when it comes to preventing made shots. But there are two other factors that need to be assessed that lie in Hayes' favor.

Player % Turnover % Score Chances
Nene 16.60 40.20 301
Andrew Bogut 16.60 45.70 175
Marc Gasol 15.80 46.20 184
Carlos Boozer 15.60 45.90 257
Mehmet Okur 15.50 36.10 233
Al Jefferson 14.60 45.80 212
Al Horford 14.50 37.40 310
Chuck Hayes 14.30 45.60 287
Roy Hibbert 13.70 44.90 205
Sam Dalembert 13.60 43.70 206
Amare Stoudemire 13.60 44.50 236
Brook Lopez 13.00 42.50 261
Chris Andersen 12.90 49.30 140
Dwight Howard 12.70 35.80 229
Joakim Noah 12.40 43.80 201
Pau Gasol 12.10 42.90 198
Jermaine O’Neal 11.80 39.90 238
Andrew Bynum 10.80 38.90 185
Tim Duncan 10.80 39.40 231
Chris Bosh 10.50 43.50 191
Kendrick Perkins 10.20 36.20 254
David Lee 8.70 51.10 321
Spencer Hawes 7.80 47.90 219
Luis Scola 7.00 54.00 215
DeJuan Blair 6.60 54.00 137

"% Turnover" is another self-explanatory stat, as it measures the percentage of post-up chances that end in a turnover. Hayes instantly shoots up the list, which is no surprise, as he has become quite good at swatting the living crap out of the ball as soon as an opponent turns to score. I'm not sure if this takes into account the number of strips that Chuck actually made in the post, as in, the number of loose balls that he caused that the Rockets did not pick up for a turnover. Also, the fact that Hayes' turnover rate is high means that opponents' field goal percentage against him in the post is high as well - in other words, Hayes makes it tougher to get a shot off, but if an opponent can manage to do so, it's easier for them to score on Chuck than it is against most of the post defenders on the list. Either way, Hayes' % Turnover is an impressive statistic, as the turnover battle is often a major player in deciding the outcome of a game.

Player 09-10 Salary* % Turnover % Score Chances
Jermaine O’Neal $22.90 11.80 39.90 238
Tim Duncan $22.20 10.80 39.40 231
Pau Gasol $16.50 12.10 42.90 198
Amare Stoudemire $16.40 13.60 44.50 236
Chris Bosh $15.70 10.50 43.50 191
Dwight Howard $15.30 12.70 35.80 229
Andrew Bynum $12.50 10.80 38.90 185
Carlos Boozer $12.30 15.60 45.90 257
Al Jefferson $12.00 14.60 45.80 212
Sam Dalembert $12.00 13.60 43.70 206
Nene $10.50 16.60 40.20 301
Andrew Bogut $10.00 16.60 45.70 175
Mehmet Okur $9.00 15.50 36.10 233
David Lee $7.00 8.70 51.10 321
Al Horford $4.30 14.50 37.40 310
Kendrick Perkins $4.30 10.20 36.20 254
Chris Andersen $3.60 12.90 49.30 140
Marc Gasol $3.30 15.80 46.20 184
Luis Scola $3.30 7.00 54.00 215
Brook Lopez $2.50 13.00 42.50 261
Joakim Noah $2.50 12.40 43.80 201
Spencer Hawes $2.30 7.80 47.90 219
Chuck Hayes $2.10 14.30 45.60 287
Roy Hibbert $1.60 13.70 44.90 205
DeJuan Blair $0.85 6.60 54.00 137

*Salary recorded in millions ($2.10 = $2.1 million)

Here's where Chuck is most valuable: the wallet. For what the Rockets pay him, Hayes gives the defense a very effective individual post defender. As I said earlier, many of these players aren't necessarily asked to defend as much as Chuck or Chris Andersen, so take that into account. But for the Rockets, Chuck fills an important role, and it's nice that he comes so cheaply. If I were to do a similar list of players who fill the same special role that Chuck does, I'm convinced that he'd be at or near the top of each category. This is a prime reason why Daryl Morey and Houston will likely bring him back. And don't forget, he also provides some much needed comic relief at the free-throw line. Sure would hate to lose that.

Hope this helps explain Chuck's value to those who may have questioned it. And just in case anyone forgot, Chuck Hayes is still 6 foot 6. Value to the Rockets aside, this man is incredibly good at what he does.

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