Larry Sanders

By Alex Boeder

Everyone had something nice to say about Larry Sanders this season. Often in capital letters.

Here is a quick timeline.

By November, Zach Lowe of Grantland made it official: Sanders became LARRY SANDERS! In December, Kareem Abdul-Jabaar was tweeting his congratulations to Sanders for tying his franchise record for blocks in a game (10), Bucksketball couldn’t help but note that he was breaking out, and Bill Simmons admitted Sanders owned the Celtics. January found him featured in Sports Illustrated as the possible “Next Big Thing”, interviewed by SB Nation, and having a block party thrown in his honor by BrewHoop. February started with a headline in the New York Times calling him a “sudden sensation” and ended with CBSSports examining what exactly makes him so, so good. In March, he became the darling of the advanced stat community when Grantland’s Kirk Goldsberry proclaimed him as the NBA’s best interior defender. By April, the “fiery angel” had a full profile in the pages of Sports Illustrated via the singular Lee Jenkins as well as his own LarryBlocks.com website.

Not bad for someone who in July had struggled to stand out during Summer League (which is typically a mix of rookies, young reserves, and unsigned players).

The Numbers

May feels like the right time to reflect on Sanders. So here are 24 numbers. Some of these might be new to you.

102.4With Sanders on the court, opponents posted a 102.4 offensive rating against the Bucks. In other words, the Bucks turned into the fourth best defensive team in the NBA with Sanders on the court. This is very important, especially when considered within the context of the next number.

 

108.3 With Sanders not on the court, opponents posted a 108.3 offensive rating against the Bucks. In other words, the Bucks turned into the seventh worst defensive team in the NBA with Sanders off the court.

 

11 Sanders entered this season with a career-high of 15 points. He topped that number 11 times, including a new high of 24 points.

 

9-2The Bucks posted a 9-2 record when Sanders scored 16+ points.

 

34.7 Bucks opponents attempted 34.7 shots per game within five feet of the basket – the sweetest, most efficient scoring spot on the court. That was easily the most of any team. That was bad news for the Bucks.

 

56.1 % But those same opponents shot just 56.1 % within five feet of the basket. That was the fifth lowest number in the NBA behind the Pacers, Nuggets, Thunder, and Spurs. Not to suggest that one player was completely responsible, but this is absolutely another reflection of just how monumentally Sanders covered his own basket.

 

14 Sanders blocked 4.9 shots per 48 minutes. That was more than 14 entire teams.

 

15 He posted 15 games with 5+ blocks.

 

2nd He blocked 2.8 shots per game, second most in the NBA behind Serge Ibaka. He also ranked second in blocks per minute, behind Javale McGee.

 

7.6Sanders finished with a 7.6 Block Percentage, which is an estimate of the number of opponent two-point field goal attempts blocked while a player was on the floor. This is easily the highest number in franchise history.

 

61.8 % So there is room for improvement. But he did set a personal-best mark at the free throw line shooting 61.8 %, up from 47.4 % the previous season.

 

1937-1514 Sanders played more minutes this season (1937) than he did in his first two NBA seasons combined (1514).

 

25.8 % In his first two seasons, Sanders posted Defensive Rebound Percentages of 16.3 % and 13.7 %. Not numbers that jump off the page for an athletic big man. This season, that number shot all the way up to 25.8 %. That was elite. In fact, it was eighth best in franchise history.

 

18.6 % More rebounding. So much more rebounding. Sanders posted an 18.6 Total Rebound Percentage. It was the sixth best rebounding season in franchise history. Better than any Andrew Bogut season. Better than all but one Kareem season. Please know this: Sanders becoming an elite rebounder was his most dramatic and important development of the season, no matter how many block numbers you hear, here or there. 

 

118 He dunked the ball 118 times this season.

 

10-12-10 Sanders posted a triple-double on Nov. 30 against the Timberwolves, with 10 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 blocks.

 

-2.9 Sanders really, really cut down on fouling, which was also one of the most important progressions of the season. He went from averaging 7.4 fouls per 36 minutes last season to a career-low 4.3 fouls per 36 minutes.

 

3 He only fouled out of three games. And all three of them were in November.

 

155 That means he ended the season going 155 days without fouling out of a game, including the playoffs.

 

0 Sanders played well even on zero days of rest: 11.7 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 3.3 blocks per game in 18 games.

 

1.6 He cut down on turnovers quite a bit from the previous season, going from 2.4 turnovers per 36 minutes in his second season to 1.6 this season.

 

18.7 Sanders posted an 18.7 PER, the best mark on the team.

 

77.5 % Shot selection really helped increase efficiency for Sanders this season. To wit: 77.5 % of his shot attempts were within eight feet of the basket. Compare that to his rookie season, when just 58.4 % of his shot attempts were in that range.

 

24 Because he is just 24 years old. Which is pretty young.   

 

Hat-tips to nba.com/stats and basketball-reference.com for numbers.

 

 

Alex Boeder

My passions? Writing and the Bucks, to start. So it is good to be here. I have reported on media row for just about every Bucks home game since 2009-10 – almost all of that time writing for BrewHoop. I have also written for the Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Club, SB Nation, ESPN Milwaukee, Slam Online, etc. You can follow me on Twitter @alexboeder or email me at adboeder@gmail.com.