Thursday, January 24, 2008

Rebounding - The Real Story

Grizzlies, 16th in the league in rebounding the basketball as Stan Van Gundy talks to Matt Bolin as offensive rebounding has been very good tonight.
Pete Pranica during the Orlando Magic game on January 23rd.
Wow, that just makes you feel better already doesn't it. Memphis is middle of the pack in rebounding after being near the bottom the last few years. We must really be doing a lot better on the boards.

Well, as with most statistics, the beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Yes, the Grizzlies are currently 16th in the league in rebounds. However we are currently 24th in opposition rebounding. We are also 24th in rebounding differential at -2.07 a game.

Why the discrepancy? We are increasing the number of possessions in the game. More possessions means quicker shots being taken and more rebounding opportunities. Yes the Grizzlies are doing a better job of getting those rebounds but it isn't like we are better than almost half the teams in the league. This is an improvement from earlier in the season when the Grizzlies were languishing at the bottom of the rankings but they haven't stepped out of the bottom 20% yet either.

As I said, statistics are in the eye of the beholder.

On a positive note (and I do still like to see things in a sunshine state of mind) the Grizzlies over the last 10 games (roughly 1/4th of the season) are dramatically improved in rebounding in every sense of the word. Over that time frame the Grizzlies are outrebounding their opponents by 1.0 rebounds a game. That is tied with Orlando for 11th best in the league. They also are 9th in the league in team rebounds at 43.1 a game. So while the team over the entire season is not really doing that well on the boards over the last 10 games they are.

What is causing the difference?

I am sure some people will say that they have played poorer rebounding teams is the one and only reason. That isn't exactly true however. Yes Miami is the worst team in the league over that time frame but the Cavs are 1st in the league over and the Lakers (who the Grizzlies played twice) are 4th. You can't explain the increase solely in terms of opposition.

Others will point out that Memphis is using their guards to rebound more and that is why the rebounding is improving. The problem with that theory is only Mike Miller is actually rebounding and his has been declining not improving over the last 10 games. So much for the rebounding by guards theory.

There is one theory however that I put forward many weeks ago in explaining the Grizzlies poor interior defense. I postulated that Gasol and Milicic had not played many consecutive games together in the starting lineup and that was probably the root cause of the Grizzlies defensive woes. The pair have now started 14 consecutive games together and over the last 10 the Grizzlies have risen from one of the worst rebounding teams in the league to a top 10 rebounding team.

Coincidence? I don't think so.

What's more since the start of January (and the Ivory Towers streak of starting consecutive games together) the Grizzlies defense has improved in opponents field goal percentage. So the team is holding teams to a lower FG% and grabbing more of those rebounds. The interesting thing is that Darko actually isn't grabbing more rebounds. Gasol and Gay are the main rebounding beneficiaries of the consistent front line. In fact Darko's personal rebounding numbers have dropped significantly in the last 10 games. Peculiar I admit but the team's defensive FG% tells the story in my opinion. Teams are not shooting as well against the Grizzlies as they were earlier in the season even including Orlando's hot shooting Wednesday night.

So Pete thanks for pointing out the rebounding story. It is a little deceiving the way you said it in the broadcast but it did allow me to discuss the issue in greater detail on the blog.

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