2010 season preview: Curtis Kelly and the art of the blocked shot
This is a combo post of sorts, as I will be looking at Curtis Kelly but also showing how to be an effective shot blocker. Kelly is one of the best returning shot blockers and the reasons for that add up pretty nicely to a how-to post on blocking shots.
Kelly was the 51st ranked defender in terms of block percentage. With names like Hassan Whiteside and Jarvis Varnado moving on, Kelly is a top 10 returning shot blocker. At only 6’8″, how does he block 2 shots per game on average?
Kelly is athletic enough and has quick enough feet to contain most of the guards in college when he plays help defense on them. Watch the following clip of a pick and roll that features Kelly dropping off and staying with the ball handler on his way to the basket.
This athleticism allows him to be in perfect position to get a block shot on a smaller player. Since he is able to move his feet well enough to stay in position on defense, Kelly is then able to use his height to get the block shot.
Even when an offensive player gets by Kelly, his length is adequate enough to allow him to come from behind and block shots without fouling. A good reach is necessary to block shots on a consistent basis, as you need to be able to deflect shots that others cannot.
Kelly shows this in the following clip, as the Xavier offensive player gets by the defense, but Kelly comes from behind and deflects the shot.
In this second clip, Kelly is fooled by Gordon Hayward’s pump fake but he recovers and is long enough to get a piece of the jump shot. The key to this play is that when Kelly bit on the pump fake, he went straight up in the air with his arms extended straight up. The defender is allowed that space and even if Hayward would have leaned in, a foul may not have been called on Kelly.
Help Side Defense
Help side defense is probably the best way to block shots consistently. When the ballhandler gets by the initial defender, they can either let up on their way to the basket or they may not see the help defense. This gives the defense the advantage and can allow a good shotblocker to earn a few blocked shots.
It is a fine line between being smart in going for a blocked shot and being reckless. Start your leap too soon and the offensive player can dump the ball off to the open man vacated by the shotblocker. They need to pick their spots and challenge shots they think they can block, not just any shot.
Here, Kelly provides great help D as he realizes his teammate is beaten and anticipates the shot at the perfect time to get the block. The one thing I would like to see is to learn to block shots to teammates instead of volleying them out of bounds, but it is a minor critique.
Off the Xavier offensive rebound, Kelly again provides great help defense for Kansas State and protects the rim. The point to notice here is how he anticipates the shot and times his jump at the appropriate time to secure the block.
Kelly showed that he can block shots using several of his talents, from his adequate amount of quickness to his length to his ability to read the situation and time his block attempts. This paid off as he was one of the best shotblockers in the country for a very strong defense.
He did this all without getting in too much foul trouble. He committed 4 fouls per 40 minutes, while playing 62.5% of KSU’s minutes (25 per game). There is no point to be a good shotblocker if you foul at a high rate and cannot stay on the floor, but that is not the player Kelly was last year. He fouled out of zero games and was able to stay on the floor.
Is it sustainable?
I think that Kelly’s block rate will be sustainable this season. Looking through his blocks, he looks impressive in the variety of ways he can block shots, not just relying on his height and length. As long as he continues to be smart about not fouling, I think Kelly will be a premier shot blocker for Kansas State yet again in 2010-2011.