We'll address this right off the bat. Yes, referencing per/48 statistics can be a dangerous thing. We get that. All it takes is for the last man off the bench to get into one game for the final minute of action, score a bucket, and boom, he's averaging 96 points per 48 minutes.
However, after watching reserve Pistons center Joel Anthony block three shots in nine minutes during Detroit's 109-102 loss to the Miami Heat Sunday night, just two days after blocking four shots in a win over Orlando, that got us thinking. With the amount of shots he blocks in limited minutes, what was this dude's block rate?
On the surface, Anthony's numbers are unimpressive - he's averaging just 0.9 blocks per game in 2015. But one must account for the fact that he's only playing 7.8 minutes per game. That's nearly one block a night in eight minutes of work. Sure enough, that'd work out to nearly four blocks for every 32 minutes of playing time and it evokes a league-leading set of digits when compared to all players when adjusted for 48 minutes (minimum 40 games played):
Granted, it's worth reinforcing that per/48 minute statistics have their caveats. Still, amongst shot blockers, that's elite company.
Anthony was originally brought on board this past preseason to be a backup's backup. Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe, and Josh Smith (remember him?) had the four and five positions on lockdown. Even after the departure of Smith, Anthony has mostly seen spot minutes, filling the void most frequently when Drummond experiences one of his plentiful foul spells.
Still, the sparse playing time (he's appeared in 41 of his team's 73 games) has not slowed the 32-year-old center's effect on the game when he's actually on the floor. Sure, losing Drummond to foul trouble may mean the "throw it wherever you please" alley-oops begin to slow, and virtually no one in the NBA can match Andre's rebound rate, but there's a noticeable difference in at least one realm once Anthony hits the hardwood: shots start getting swatted.
Interestingly, despite Andre Drummond's size, hops, and length, his blocks per game stand at a respectable, though not overwhelming 1.81 (still good enough for 10th in the league). Still, he's got nothing on Anthony's ability to alter and flat-out deny shot opportunities inside.
Anthony's professionalism and impact in such a limited role has been a pleasant surprise in Detroit this season, and along with head coach Stan Van Gundy, he's earned our respect.
"Joel's a pro's pro," Van Gundy said following a 10-point, 9-rebound performance against the Jazz earlier this month. "He's played, I don't know, less than 200 minutes all year. He's the first guy in the building every day, does his work, stays ready. He's had a couple of games like that for us this year. He's the kind of guy you want on your roster because he's always ready when called upon, he doesn't check out. It's truly an honor to coach a guy like him."
Play on, player.