Using NBA.com’s player tracking tool, I wanted to find how Donatas Motiejunas was faring defensively in holding down the center position in Dwight Howard’s absence. The Rockets, miraculously, have maintained their defensive efficiency, even without the former defensive player of the year. To eliminate noise and guards who engage in few conflicts at the rim, I set the filters on the tool for a minimum of 25 minutes per game, and a minimum of five field goal shot attempts against per game. The results show opponents are shooting 43.9% at the rim against Motiejunas, tied for #7 in the league with defensive phenom Serge Ibaka. The top six are, in the following order: Andrew Bogut, Dwight Howard, Roy Hibbert, Tim Duncan, Omer Asik, and DeMarcus Cousins. Impressive company.
I’ve been writing for some time now that Motiejunas’ defensive abilities have largely gone unnoticed for the past season by the basketball commentariat. He’s strong against the post, and most importantly, makes quick and smart defensive rotations. But even I hadn’t realized how valuable he’s been at protecting the rim. It makes sense given the team’s overall success. Upon Dwight Howard’s return, Houston will legitimately have four very good to elite defenders in its starting lineup.