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Wednesday, September 14, 2005
Add This One To The Pile. . . . .
of write-ups that are sure to surface this year (if they haven't already) comparing Duke's Shelden Williams to former UConn big man Emeka Okafor. Yes, both are high percentage shooters who block a lot of shots for major college programs. But the similarities run even deeper. . .

Comparison of Junior Seasons
Player Height Weight O Rtg %Poss TS% TO% FT/FG oReb% dReb% Reb% Blk/40
Okafor, 03-04 6'10" 250 115 24.6 59.7 17.1 0.500 13.1 22.1 17.9 5.0
Williams, 04-05 6'9" 250 117 22.4 61.8 19.9 0.604 13.1 22.1 17.9 4.4

O Rtg measures a player's points produced per 100 possessions.
TS% measures scoring efficiency based on points, FGA and FTA.
TO% = turnovers per possession.
Reb% = ratio of rebounds grabbed to rebounds available.
[Need more? Check the always handy Stats Primer.]

Williams's stat line is basically a carbon copy of Okafor's junior year. Williams turns it over a little more, but he gets to the free throw line often enough to arrive at about the same offensive rating. However, as Ken noted, Okafor drew far more attention in his junior season. He left after that year to be the #2 pick in the 2004 draft, while I don't think Williams would've been taken as seriously if he had come out this year. One mock draft site lists Williams as only a fringe lottery pick for next year.

I became interested in these two players because I was testing a little hypothesis. It seems that teams with a center who can block a lot of shots and grab defensive rebounds tend to have very solid defenses. This might sound like common sense to you, the reader, but I'm never satisfied without at least a few numbers for validity. A look at Ken Pomeroy's defensive leaders from 2005 gives the theory some support - most of the teams near the top meet the criteria of having a player who can block and rebound. Big guys like Williams, Jason Fraser (Villanova), Jared Homan (Iowa State), Josh Boone (UConn), and Jeff Hagen (Minnesota) made life difficult for opposing teams in the paint, and the resulting defensive efficiency numbers look very nice.

Both Williams and Okafor follow the trend - their blocking and rebounding skills are at the core of top-notch team defenses. The 2004 Huskies were the country's third-best defense, while Williams anchored last year's second-best. Okafor already led his team to a national championship. Can Williams maintain the pattern?
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