By Henry Abbott
Chuck Hayes is starting in place of Yao Ming, and the Rockets are 3-2 out of the gates, which makes them just one of 10 NBA teams with a winning record. They've beaten Golden State, Portland and Utah, and lost to the Lakers by a single point. Tonight they play the Thunder, which will be the first time all season Houston has been favored to win.
How have they had this surprising starless success? At 6-6, Chuck Hayes is tiny for an NBA center, but he's a huge part of the reason.
Jason Friedman of Rockets.com is kicking off a campaign to get Chuck Hayes on the NBA's All-Defense team. I'll second that. Friedman writes:
“I may not be top in the league in blocks but if I’m guarding, say, LaMarcus Aldridge and I make him shoot a bad percentage, then I hope they pay attention to that,” says Hayes. “I just wish there was a stat for keeping your man to the lowest field goal percentage.”
Well guess what, Chuck? You just so happen to work for the most number-crunching team in the league. Of course there’s a stat for that!
Consider these numbers (courtesy of the Rockets’ Basketball Operations department):
Steals: Hayes ranks 2nd (out of 303 players; behind only Rajon Rondo) in the entire league in Steal% (Steals per defensive possession). Keep in mind, the top spots in this category are typically reserved for point guards and wings, as illustrated by the fact that Hayes currently is the only big in the Top 10.
Lest you think his lofty status is simply a byproduct of a small sample size, since 2007, Hayes ranks 14th in the entire league in Stl% and is by far the best big (1st out of 127). No other post player is even in the top 35.
Charges: (Offensive Fouls Drawn per defensive possession) Since 2008 Hayes is top 10 (6th out of 265) in the entire league in drawing offensive fouls.
Team Defense: Since 2005, Hayes has the best Defensive Efficiency Rating (Based on team points allowed per defensive possession while the player is on the floor) regardless of position in the entire league.