REBOUNDING RATES KEY TO UNDERSTANDING NBA SUCCESS
REBOUNDING RATES KEY TO UNDERSTANDING NBA SUCCESS
by Mathew Hurley, Managing Editor
For years we've been reminding you that DEFENSE AND REBOUNDING WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS here on the pages of the NOTEBOOK. That's true in all pro basketball just as much as college basketball. In fact, Bill Russell basically taught this to everyone back in the 1960's. It's amazing how some players, coaches, and announcers have to re-learn this from time to time. It's probably the most basic fundamental of the sport.
If you're a handicapper trying to pick winners, you have to understand the basic fundamentals! How can you try to pick winners in the NBA or the colleges without knowing who the best rebounding teams are? Are you just trying to ride hot streaks...short term angles...or something one of your buddies at the bar noticed? Study rebounding stats, and you'll pick more winners.
We've talked some about NBA defense in one of our past features this season. We haven't had a chance yet to focus on rebounding. We'll definitely put the two together more often when we get closer to the NBA playoffs. Right now, our Friday NBA reports will work our way toward building a league-wide understanding of what's going on.
Today, let's run through who the best and worst rebounding teams are in pro hoops. We've gathered up "rebound rate" data for all 30 teams through Wednesday Night's action. You'll note that, to a degree, EVERYBODY at this level knows how to rebound. The very best rebounding teams snare 53% of the loose balls. More than a third of the league rounds up or down to 50%. The soft spots who don't put out quite enough effort are still fairly close to 50/50. We're dealing with a matter of degrees here. On the floor in crunch time, those degrees often determine who wins and loses.
Let's run through the elite teams first. Some of these will surprise you. Some won't.
San Antonio: 52%
LA Lakers: 51%
Oklahoma City: 51%
Memphis has made great strides this year. Now you know why! This is a team that does a good job of crashing the boards. We should note that they prefer offensive rebounds to defensive rebounds. This is a team that has a lot of shooters on it! They want the ball, and they'll go get it if a teammate isn't going to pass it to them. As long as it ends up with a made bucket, all's good.
Cleveland's coached by a former San Antonio Spurs assistant...and the SA coaching line emphasizes rebounds. That was the heart of the Tim Duncan dynasty. It's one of the reasons LeBron James was able to make postseason headlines as such a young man. He was on a team that emphasized rebounds...and he himself knew the value of a board. Note that San Antonio is just behind them on the chart above...and unheralded Chicago coached by Vinny Del Negro is tied for third in the league with San Antonio and a few others. Smart teams rebound!
Orlando and the Lakers played for the NBA championship last season. They clock in amongst the top third of the league. Orlando has such big bodies that you get the sense 51% is a little disappointing. The Magic may be pacing themselves for the playoffs and it's showing up here. Phil Jackson coached teams rebound...that's why he has so many rings. Talk all you want about Michael Jordan, Shaq, and Kobe. Nobody here will make the case they weren't superstars. A lot of superstars don't win championships. Defense and rebounding wins championships. Those stars contributed in ways other than scoring.
THE REBOUNDING PARITY HUNK
LA Clippers: 50%
We didn't want to bury you in numbers today, so everyone from 50.4 % to 49.6% shows up right at 50% on the chart. That's more than a third of the league as we mentioned above. We did list teams in order of their actual rate though...so Boston really is at the bottom of this hunk...and Larry Brown's Charlotte group isn't that far from breaking free and jumping up to the elite.
We'd have to say seeing Boston this low is the biggest surprise of the study. Everyone knows they're getting old fast. We didn't think it would show up this dramatically on the boards. Kevin Garnett started so young...he's got old man's legs already. The dominant defense and rebounding force that won the title two seasons ago is now being outboarded by almost two thirds of the NBA. An astounding development. We do expect Boston to pick up the pace in crunch time. Will they pick it up enough to win the East in the playoffs? Go back up top and see what Cleveland and Orlando are doing!
Dallas and Denver are both Western Conference hopefuls who show up here in the middle of the pack. How are they going to beat the Lakers if they don't have a star who can counteract Kobe Bryant, AND they're going to lose rebounds? It's very hard for us to take either Dallas or Denver seriously as a true championship threat as long as they only register in the middle of the pack on the boards. They'll have to prove us wrong. And, frankly, there just aren't many teams in the past 20 years (or ever) who proved the theory about rebounding winning championships wrong.
AS EASY AS A-B-C
The NBA handicapping division of the Jim Hurley Network is in playoff form ahead of time! We've won four straight in the pros and now we're primed for the biggest day of 2010, with a huge Sunday doubleheader on ABC! It starts with the Nuggets-Spurs, where our experts have a strong opinion on whether Denver can contain Tim Duncan on the glass, and if the Spurs' defense rotates well enough to contain Carmelo Anthony. Then the second game is a real treat! The Celtics and Lakers renew their rivalry and our on-scene sources have given us all the right information on which team is ready to snap out of their January doldrums. It's a great day of NBA hoops, and you can win this nationally televised twosome as easy as spelling A-B-C!
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STRUGGLING ON THE BOARDS
New Orleans: 49%
New York: 48%
New Jersey: 47%
Golden State: 45%
Note how the Phoenix "line" of coaching or management shows up here. The Suns themselves are below 50%. The Knicks, led by a former Suns coach, rank even worse. Toronto, which is trying to be the Canadian version of Phoenix, is also poor on the boards. If you're trying to sell tickets, then this style can get you some fans for awhile. If you're trying to win championships, it ain't going to happen! You'll win one or two rounds at the most until the top rebounding teams fight it out amongst themselves to earn the trophy.
Let's also note that teams who celebrate their point guards often have rebounding issues too. Chris Paul of New Orleans, Brandon Jennings of Milwaukee, they're down here with Steve Nash on the wrong end of the spectrum. We're not saying those guys aren't studs (or a potential future stud with Jennings). Point guards don't win championships unless they're taking outlet passes from their rebounding teammates!
As you handicap tonight's card, try to pay more attention to the rebounding numbers. If you're thinking about a dog, make sure you're not taking a soft squad that will HAVE to shoot lights out for you to get the money. Are there any cheap favorites that will own the boards? Admit it, you haven't handicapped a basketball game thinking about rebounding, maybe EVER! It's time to start tonight.
JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK has some very special stuff planned tonight. In addition to an Ivy League shocker, you can look forward to an NBA MONSTER. Among the games we're studying closely tonight:
LA Lakers at Philadelphia
Boston at Atlanta (potential playoff preview)
Denver at Oklahoma City (Thunder still making noise!)
Chicago at New Orleans (Bulls surging lately)
Memphis at San Antonio (rebounding clinic)
Portland at Houston
What a great schedule. And that's only half the games on the card!
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