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Steals + Blocks, a Statistic of Havoc

Syndication: The Montgomery Advertiser Jake Crandall / USA TODAY NETWORK

One of my favorite things to do in a game is watch an opposing team attempt to figure out Kessler in real time. His lean 85” figure moves with surprising grace and agility. He’s able to adequately defend 1-5 against even the strongest opponents. His game has evolved significantly since the season began in November.

Offensively, he is almost unstoppable with the pick and roll. Opposing coaches have burned several timeouts as a direct result of consecutive Auburn possessions that ended with an easy Kessler basket, surrounded by defenders that seem genuinely puzzled at how Kessler got to the rim.

On defense, he is confident, decisive, and efficient in conference play through nine games. I’ve watched every single minute of his season so far, and even I am surprised by some of the blocks he’s able to pull off. Referees seem stunned by his abilities, as well - for example, two of his fouls against Alabama looked awfully clean upon replay (those two blocks would have given him his second triple double of the season). He’s a machine, y’all. A shot blocking machine. He leads the nation in blocks (93, as of the Alabama game) and block percentage (19.4%).

His teammate, KD Johnson, is a different animal. The 6’0” sophomore is T15th nationally in steals (46) and 28th nationally in steal rate (4.41%) thanks to hands that never rest. KD Johnson hasn’t taken a second off in a game, ever. If you’re an opposing guard, and your eyes are elsewhere, scanning the court, it’s too late. KD Johnson has already swiped the ball. Even if he doesn’t end up with the steal, he’s disrupted the offense. I can’t imagine how frustrating it must be to constantly have to go up against him.

Put these two individuals on the same roster. Put them on the court at the same time. Surround them with teammates that defend ferociously. Congratulations, you’ve created a monster. Through 22 games, Auburn has a steal rate of 12.6% (approximately 1 in 8) and an absurd block rate of 22.6% (approximately 2 in 9). A defense that lives to create Havoc.

Introducing STOCKS. I believe Rob Perez first coined the term to mean “a steal and a block in the same motion” but I’m using it a bit differently. STOCK% = Team Steal% + Team Block%. Auburn has a nation-best STOCK% of 35.208%. Over 35% of defensive possessions ending in a steal or a block is, well, it’s just insane. It’s also currently the best in the country.

Top 25 STOCK%, Division 1

Season TeamName StlRate Block% STOCK % STOCK Rank
Season TeamName StlRate Block% STOCK % STOCK Rank
2022 Auburn 12.62 22.59 35.21 1
2022 Rhode Island 11.26 20.61 31.87 2
2022 LSU 15.77 15.97 31.74 3
2022 Houston 13.02 18.61 31.63 4
2022 Memphis 11.67 17.33 29.00 5
2022 St. John's 12.97 15.71 28.68 6
2022 VCU 13.64 15.04 28.68 7
2022 Florida 13.58 14.89 28.46 8
2022 Oklahoma St. 13.52 14.73 28.25 9
2022 Tennessee 14.18 14.03 28.21 10
2022 San Diego St. 12.29 15.40 27.69 11
2022 Western Kentucky 11.59 15.61 27.19 12
2022 Florida St. 13.30 13.78 27.08 13
2022 Connecticut 9.57 17.29 26.86 14
2022 Texas A&M 14.40 11.76 26.17 15
2022 West Virginia 11.63 14.19 25.82 16
2022 Merrimack 13.86 11.89 25.75 17
2022 Virginia 9.90 15.84 25.73 18
2022 South Carolina 11.12 14.04 25.17 19
2022 Michigan St. 8.91 16.10 25.02 20
2022 Stephen F. Austin 11.64 13.29 24.92 21
2022 Iona 9.12 15.80 24.92 22
2022 Arizona 9.63 15.29 24.92 23
2022 Wichita St. 10.81 14.06 24.86 24
2022 UAB 13.72 11.03 24.75 25

Some observations:

If these numbers look staggering/wild/bonkers/etc., it’s because they are. There have been 7,215 men’s basketball teams in the Kenpom Era of hoops (2002-present). I looked at the STOCK% of each one of them.

In this first chart, I simply plotted block% and steal%. 2022 Auburn immediately jumps out as an outlier.

Now STOCK%, broken out by season.

Yes, you’re reading that correctly. Auburn’s 2022 STOCK% is higher than any STOCK% in the last 20 years. By a pretty significant margin. The next closest teams are 2012 Syracuse, who finished the season with a STOCK% of 33.29 and made it to the Elite 8, and 2013 Syracuse, who finished the season with a STOCK% of 33.03 and made it to the Final 4.

W I L D

One more chart, plotted in a format more of you may be used to:

That far left column is so, so much taller than the others.

Is Auburn going to set the record* for highest STOCK% ever? Perhaps - but it’s a little early in the season. According to Kenpom’s “Division 1 Trends” page, Block% and steal% are up a bit this season compared to the most recent few seasons, but definitely aren’t as high as they were several years ago. Additionally, 4 2022 teams (Auburn, Rhode Island, LSU, and Houston) being in the top 10 all-time STOCK rankings leads me to believe that NCAA and conference tournament games significantly impact these stats.

Or maybe 2022 Auburn is just that good.

*Would be cool if the NCAA tracked STOCKS but alas