Offensive rebounds come with a cost

October, 10, 2012
10/10/12
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Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
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Last year the Celtics, John Hollinger tells us (Insider), were the worst offensive rebounding team in NBA history.
Boston rebounded only 19.7 percent of its misses, which was the worst offensive rebound rate of all time. Yes, ever.

With both big men usually spotting up on the perimeter, if not outright retreating on defense, the Celtics rarely had a player in position for a second shot. When they did, it was often the point guard. Between that and an above-average turnover rate, the Celtics averaged fewer shots per possession than any team in basketball, and you can't very well score if you don't shoot. They shot the ball just fine; in fact the Celtics were well above the league average in shooting and TS%. They just didn't generate nearly enough attempts.

So those big men were getting back on defense all the time, huh? Instead of crashing the offensive glass?

I always wonder about that bit of coaching. Let's say Doc Rivers told his bigs to crash the offensive boards more. They would certainly get more easy putbacks in particular and more field goal attempts for their team generally. More shots per possession. Better offensive efficiency overall.

But at what cost? How much would the team be giving up on all those possessions where the bigs didn't get the rebound. That's the most common outcome, right? In those cases, the bigs would simply not be back which hurts the team, for sure. Does it hurt the team more than now-and-again offensive rebounds are worth?

It's a discussion for the ages, and it depends on personnel, opponents, element of surprise, opportunity and everything else.

But Hollinger's same story has a fascinating chart. You know which three teams got the fewest shots per possession last year?

Worst by a country mile was the Celtics. Second was the Thunder. Third was the Heat.

In other words a good chunk of the very best teams in the league, including both Finals competitors, simply don't seem to place much of a priority on the offensive glass. Presumably those were the teams where opponents almost never got to start their attacks with big men struggling back down the floor after a failed attempt to grab an o-board. Presumably, it's a hassle to miss out on those easy buckets.

As a Blazer fan, I'm also mindful that Nate McMillan's teams always slaughtered on the offensive glass, and would get something like 490 field goal attempts (or so it seemed) on some possessions. Their attempts per possession were all-timers, and the offense was notably efficient because of it.

But the defense, over six-and-a-half seasons, was never once in the NBA's top ten.

Henry Abbott | email

TrueHoop, NBA

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