I mentioned in the 3-on-3 for the Lakers game that the Clippers have not been a good rebounding team. So far this season (and even after last night’s solid effort on the boards), the Clippers are next-to-last in offensive rebounding rate differential (percentage of available offensive boards collected minus percentage of available opponent offensive rebounds surrendered). I have also mentioned that this has pretty well baffled me, because the Clippers were a top-5 team in this same category last season.
So who are the culprits in terms of the rebounding statistics? Well, so far Blake Griffin’s defensive rebounding (by percentage, always by percentage) has fallen off by slightly more than 2-percentage points. His offensive rebounding is right where it was last season. It’s no secret that Blake has a bad habit of out-jumping opponents for rebounds rather than boxing them out first, and teams have taken greater advantage of this than they did last season.
In even worse news than Blake’s single category drop-off, DeAndre Jordan’s offensive AND defensive rebounding rates have fallen 2-percentage points so far this season. In my video post, I mentioned that DeAndre has been a victim of a his role a bit this season, being forced to help even more than last season and having bigs slip in behind him for offensive boards as his teammates do a bad job gang rebounding. On offense, I’ve heard mentions of DJ showing less aggressiveness than we’re used to, and I think I agree with that. But I think DJ has also suffered from the fact that the team as a whole has been less aggressive than last season, at least in terms of shots at the rim. A lot of DJ’s putbacks last season came off drives/Blake post-ups that forced defensive rotations away from him. Last season the Clippers took 30.7-percent of their shots at the rim. This season that’s down to 27.7-percent.
If you add in the fact that Caron Butler and Chris Paul are both on track to have their worst-ever rebounding seasons, and Brian Cook playing back-up center minutes, we can see why the Clippers are one of the worst rebounding teams in the NBA so far this season.
But wait, the title of this post is “Return of Rebounding,” not “We’re Really Bad At Rebounding.” So I’ll focus on the fact that the Clippers won the battle of the boards against the Lakers last night, who are an excellent rebounding team.
Last night, the Clippers outrebounded the Lakers 35.4 to 25 by offensive rebounding rate. On the season, the Lakers’ offensive rebound rate is 28.87, good enough for 5th in the NBA. Their opponent rebound rate is only 23.84. That’s 3rd in the NBA. Now, the Lakers were on their 4th game in 5 nights, and the Clippers were well-rested. Also, this is just one game. And one game does not mean the Lakers have outperformed their skill level in terms of rebounding, nor does it mean the Clippers are going to be as good of a rebounding team as last season. But account for the fact that Reggie Evans is going to be taking up a lot of those Brian Cook minutes from earlier this season, and the fact that Blake and DeAndre won’t likely both continue to under-perform in regards to their established ability to pretty well dominate the boards, and there’s some hope that this team can work their way out of the NBA’s basement in regards to team rebounding.
With the amazing jump from worst in the NBA in turnover rate differential to a top-5 team this season in that category, the Clippers are already limiting bad offensive possessions/easy layup opportunities on fastbreaks for opponents. If the Clippers return to form in regards to team rebounding, we’ll be seeing more offensive possessions and putback baskets, AND further improved performance on the defensive end — both in transition (teams having to keep more players back to protect from offensive rebounds) and in the halfcourt (fewer extra possessions).
In a lot of ways, I think we take extra possessions for granted until we’re not getting them any longer. But it’s undeniable how important they are, and if the Clippers’ performance against the Lakers is a sign of a return to form on the glass, we might be looking at a team that could legitimately live up to the massive preseason hype.