This morning’s scouting report of the Clippers in the Dallas Morning News notes that the Clips “are a pitiful rebounding team.” The Clippers have a rebound rate of 47.2. That ranks them 29th in a 30-team league, ahead of only New York. The Knicks have an easy excuse: Mike D’Antoni teams are notoriously small, and his better teams can overcome that disadvantage by shooting at a high percentage. But the Clippers — even before the arrival of Zach Randolph — have been featuring two legitimate big men, a rotation of big, strong guards, and a freaky small forward who can jump out of the gym. So what’s the problem?
For starters, the Clippers’ wings are killing them. The team’s small forwards and shooting guards rank dead last in rebound rate.
Al Thornton is collecting only 7.9% of missed shots. To put that in context, Gerald Wallace’s rate is 12.9%, Linas Kleiza’s is 10.6%. Among eligible shooting guards, Eric Gordon ranks 68th of 71 in rebounding rate at a paltry 4.0. The now-departed Cuttino Mobley ranks 64th.
Gordon is only 6′ 3″ and was widely regarded as a combo guard when he got to Bloomington. Most of the conversation about EJ’s NBA potential focused on whether he had the handle to be an effective point guard in the pros. What was less discussed was whether or not he had the size to compete against NBA shooting guards. Over the past week or so, we’ve seen that Gordon has the lateral quickness, strength, and hands to hold his own defensively at the 2. The next item on his to-do list is figuring out how to become a respectable rebounder at the position.
The most surprising figure on the grid above belongs to the Clippers’ centers, who rank a collective 23rd in rebound rate. Chris Kaman is enjoying the best season of his career shooting the ball from the floor, but has simultaneously seen his rebound rate drop from a career-high 19.7 last season to 15.0 this season — his lowest number since his rookie season. Kaman told the LA Times that the injury he sustained against Oklahoma City has kept him “limited in my rebounding a little bit.” The numbers bear that out: Chris averaged 13.3 rpg in the three games prior to the injury. In three games following the Oklahoma City game, Kaman recorded 9, 5, and 7 rebounds respectively, despite playing 40 minutes or greater in each contest. The following game, Chris played 12 minutes against Denver before shutting it down.
Zach Randolph is a monster rebounder at his position — 7th among all eligible power forwards — but his arrival won’t solve the Clippers’ problems. So long as the Clippers’ wings rank among the league’s laggards in rebounding, the team will continue to give up additional shots to their opponents, while forfeiting second opportunities to score on the offensive end. To win under those circumstances, the Clips are going to have to compile a better True Shooting Percentage than 49.6%.