Tag Archives: rebounding

Loose Ball Fouls and Rebounding Rates in the Finals

Five games into the NBA Finals, the rebounding has leveled out with Cleveland holding about a two percent edge over Golden State on both the offensive and defensive glass. That’s meant a bit more for the Cavaliers, the underdog that could use every possible chance to score.

Cleveland’s attempt to dominate the offensive glass has been noticeable, as well as the effects. Among them, sometimes Golden State has struggled to get out in transition partly because of the threat of a rebound by either Tristan Thompson or the recently reduced presence of Timofey Mozgov. Over the last two games that’s felt like less of a problem for the Warriors, and they’ve looked to score quickly when catching Cleveland with poor floor balance. Below isn’t the greatest example regarding crashing the boards, but Andre Iguodala has feasted on some of these opportunities where Thompson is around the rim and multiple players are around the corner three:

Arguably the least flashy effect of Cleveland’s rebounding has been drawing the loose ball foul. Those are like the rebounder’s version of the and-one, and they happen almost as frequently, or in this case rarely with loose ball fouls occurring 1.3 times per game this season compared to 1.9 times for and-ones. Cleveland drew 1.5 loose fouls per game over the season, and 1.3 in the playoffs until the Finals.

Exciting to read about something that happens not even twice per game, right?

Those versions of the Cavaliers weren’t like the current, though, and in the last five games they’ve drawn an average of 3.8 loose ball fouls, or 16 percent of Golden State’s total committed fouls. That’s a small, but consistent sample size as Cleveland’s drawn between three and five each outing. It’s not like David Blatt is telling their players “go out there and draw some loose ball fouls,” but given the rebounding edge they’ve had to lean on to give them a chance this series, Cleveland’s rate seems sustainable not for 82 games but at least two more. It’s a little thing, one of several, that they wouldn’t mind going their way during their quest to win two straight games.

Should that rate of drawing loose ball fouls continue, it’ll also impact the rebounding rates of Thompson and Mozgov, who have drawn 18 of those 19 fouls for Cleveland. Unlike at the college level, the NBA rarely credits the player drawing those fouls off a missed shot with the rebound, logged instead as a board by the team. Something tells me Thompson and Mozgov wouldn’t mind more appreciation for their efforts.

With that in mind, I looked at their current rebounding rates and what they would look like if we gave 18 of those 19 team rebounds to Cleveland’s starting bigs through the first five games.

timotom

That’s a pretty noticeable difference so far, especially for Mozgov. His per game numbers and overall performance in the Finals took a hit after what happened in Game 5, but Mozgov’s rebounding woes were patched up after adjusting for minutes and the three loose ball fouls drawn on Sunday. He’s done a good job getting position for a rebound after running pick and rolls with LeBron James, and Festus Ezeli has often been the player to foul Mozgov on those plays.

Thompson’s speed has been a problem at times for some guy named Andrew Bogut while he’s drawn a few fouls on Harrison Barnes partly from his strength, though Barnes has gotten his fair share of offensive rebounds too. Thompson seems to both have a knack for where the ball will deflect off the rim and a refusal to let his opponent box out a zone. He never stops moving, and it takes ridiculous endurance to do that for over 40 minutes a night like he has during the Finals.

Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, those drawn fouls haven’t exactly propelled them to four straight wins. How shocking that just one part of a basketball game hasn’t shifted an entire seven-game series, but among other loose ball fouls, the one David Lee committed against Thompson near the end of Game 3 stuck out. It looked like it sealed the Warriors’ fate, but Lee’s foul was also sneaky smart and I think he knew it, never objecting to the call. He used the foul as soon as Thompson was a near-lock to get the rebound, so either Lee gets away with that foul and has another chance at the rebound or he puts a mediocre free throw shooter in Thompson at the line, who was fouled instantly to give the Warriors an extra possession to cut into the 80-87 deficit.

I could be giving Lee too much credit, but it’s a good example of why context matters and how we still don’t have much of it to work with when looking at fouls. At the same time, I don’t think it hurts to try to look at them on paper anyway.

All statistics are from Basketball-Reference. Rebounding percentages were calculated at SacTown Royalty

LaMarcus Aldridge’s rebounding compared to Rasheed Wallace’s

Tiago Hammil | Flickr

Tiago Hammil | Flickr

Over the last decade or so, a few of the NBA’s premier forwards have been with the Portland Trail Blazers. Rasheed Wallace was traded when Zach Randolph‘s career was just getting started, then Randolph was traded just when LaMarcus Aldridge became (and remains) a building block for Portland. Of the three forwards, Aldridge is the only one who’s kept his head on straight through the first half of his career. Let’s hope that doesn’t change.

And last night against Houston, Aldridge became the only one of the three to accomplish the statistical feat of 30+ points and 25 rebounds as a Blazer. No player in the franchise’s history had accomplished that. One particular offensive rebound — leading to a bucket and a foul — triggered memories of Wallace a decade ago. Where was this when ‘Sheed was in his prime? He’s one of my favorite players ever, but I can’t get past him never averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds (let alone nine) for a single year. More on his rebounding in a bit.

Aldridge has been on an absolute tear recently, averaging 13 rebounds in his last 10 games along with 25.9 points, 2.9 assists, just 1.3 turnovers, and 1.5 fouls. The rebounding numbers are a little misleading since Aldridge is the only rebounder in the top 25 to grab less than 30 percent of contested boards, according to SportVU, but it’s nonetheless impressive.

We know now that Wallace never became elite on the glass, but Aldridge had only been an average rebounder going into this season, similar to ‘Sheed at the same stage of his career. Because of that, I wanted to look at the two forwards who came to Portland ten years apart and their rebounding, specifically between the ages of 25 to 28 when both came into their own as players. 

We’ll start with their rebounding stats per-36 minutes:

Player Season ORB DRB TRB PTS
Rasheed Wallace 2000-03 1.7 5.8 7.4 17.8
LaMarcus Aldridge 2011-14 2.7 5.7 8.4 20.6

Adding field goal attempts, free throws, etc. was tempting, but those stats don’t necessarily make rebounding much worse if at all. (You’ll see in the next graph that ‘Sheed’s rebounding actually improved when he started taking threes.) From the per-36 numbers, though, neither player’s rebounding stats are all that impressive. Wallace’s look quite terrible.

We can see if those numbers by either player deceive or confirm how they look in a table showing the percentage of rebounds they grab while on the court:

Player  Season Age G PER 3PAr ORB% DRB% TRB% USG%
Rasheed Wallace 1999-00 25 81 18.1 0.048 5.6% 17.2% 11.7% 21.9%
Rasheed Wallace 2000-01 26 77 20.9 0.138 6.2% 17.9% 12.2% 23.4%
Rasheed Wallace 2001-02 27 79 19.3 0.246 5.3% 20.4% 12.8% 23.7%
Rasheed Wallace 2002-03 28 74 18.5 0.281 5.1% 19.6% 12.3% 23.3%
Total 2000-03   311 19.2 0.182 5.6% 18.8% 12.3% 23.1%
LaMarcus Aldridge
2010-11 25 81 21.5 0.016 10.1% 17.2% 13.5% 25.7%
LaMarcus Aldridge
2011-12 26 55 22.7 0.012 8.6% 17.5% 12.9% 27.0%
LaMarcus Aldridge 2012-13 27 74 20.4 0.011 7.2% 20.9% 14.0% 26.5%
LaMarcus Aldridge 2013-14 28 23 23.8 0.004 6.7% 24.7% 15.8 28.7%
Total 2011-14   233 21.6 0.012 8.5% 19.1% 13.7% 26.5%

Worth noting: Last night, Aldridge nearly doubled his percentages coming into the game, getting 12.2 percent of available offensive rebounds, 45 percent of defensive ones, and 29.2 percent total.

Neither player’s total rebounding percentage over a four-year span lights up the league, though. Among the 290 forwards and centers from 2011 to 2014 (minimum 40 games played), Aldridge is ranked 119th. As for Wallace, from 2000 to 2003 (minimum 50 games), he was 163rd out of 279. Aldridge sits between the top-third and top-half of the league, Wallace lies between the bottom-half and bottom-third with a percentage less than Eddy Curry‘s, post-surgery Tom Gugliotta‘s, Keith Van Horn‘s, and Dirk Nowitzki‘s, among other players not known for their rebounding either.

What separates Aldridge from Wallace a decade ago is the offensive glass, even if Aldridge’s seems to be declining each season. Like mentioned earlier, Wallace’s rebounding percentages increased when he started taking threes, but the offensive rebounding dipped slightly. He was 226th out of 279 forwards and centers in offensive rebounding percentage while Aldridge is currently 125th out of 290, a clear difference between terrible and average.

Rasheed  Wallace in Detroit. (Keith Allison via Flickr)

Rasheed Wallace as a Piston in 2008. (Keith Allison via Flickr)

Personnel also affects rebounding totals. There’s just not as many rebounds available when playing alongside Marcus Camby and Gerald Wallace, which Aldridge occasionally did during 2011 and 2012. His rebounding improved when playing alongside J.J. Hickson and Nicholas Batum, the former replaced by Robin Lopez this season. 

It’s a similar case for Wallace, who played with Brian Grant (traded after ’00) and Arvydas Sabonis in through ’01 before improving in defensive rebounding with Dale Davis at center. Sabonis came back in ’03 to play a limited role.

Regardless, Portland was a top-10 team in total rebound percentage from ’00 to ’03, according to NBA.com. They were also in the top-eight each year in offensive rebounding and no worse than 12th in defensive boards.  The Blazers from ’11 to ’14 were hot and cold on the glass, though. In their seasons as a playoff team — ’11 and likely ’14 — they’ve been both the best offensive rebounding teams and at stopping the fast break. In their lottery-bound seasons of ’12 and ’13, however, they were a bottom-10 team in each category. Defensive rebounding percentage over those four seasons has been consistently below average, never above 18th.

In the years following ‘Sheed’s stint with Portland, his rebounding percentages fluctuated. They were often higher in Detroit but dipping in Boston. (Bill Simmons was especially not happy with his performance as a Celtic.) As for his cup of coffee with New York, I pretend it doesn’t really exist.

Meanwhile, Aldridge’s rebounding used to be something that neither jumped out nor was worth getting too frustrated about. Through one-fourth of this season, it’s helped him become an MVP candidate.

Can he keep it up?

All statistics via Basketball-Reference unless noted otherwise.

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