Interesting factoid about the 14 lottery teams in the 2011 NBA Draft: nine of them are above average in offensive rebounding but only five of them are above average in defensive rebounding. The Cleveland Cavaliers and Phoenix Suns are below average in both.
Do these lottery teams need help on the glass to win? There has been significant debate regarding the statistical value of the rebounds in the discussions on the Wages of Wins Network (a group of sports blogs that focus on statistical models to measure the wins produced by players). For example:
- The Rebounding Myth
- Re-examining myths and explaining how regression works
- A Few Replies
- The Rest of the Story
- Contested vs. Free Rebounds
- Frequently Asked Questions and Comments
But is rebounding really that complicated? Do rebounds just fall into the hands of the closest player? Chris Bosh said after a game this season that rebounding is really just about "going to get it." So why are some players better at getting them than others? I think there's a big factor in rebounding that's pretty simple.
This article will use Win Score, a statistical model created by Professor David Berri from the Wages of Wins Journal, to measure how much a player's box score statistics contributed to their team's efficiency differential and wins. More information on these stats can be found at the following links:
Simple Models of Player Performance
Wins Produced vs. Win Score
Before explaining what I think is a key factor for a great rebounder, I need to vent a little...
There are a lot of things I don't like when it comes to sports and a lot of them are documented on the Heat $#!t List page and by the Dead Basketball Poets Society (or DBPS for short).
One of the things I don't like about professional sports are the drafts. I don't like them for several reasons: 1) They should be illegal and 2) They tend to be over-hyped. Another thing I don't like about sports is the worship of the NFL and the tendency to view everything in relation to "The Shield." I think the NBA should be doing everything it can to differentiate itself from the NFL, and in effect I was a little disappointed that the NBA's pre-draft camp in Chicago was re-named the pre-draft "Combine."
Anyway... the only thing that I ever find interesting about the draft is the measurements of the players. I find this interesting because the pre-draft camp in Chicago always publishes each player's true height and weight, not the fudged numbers that appear in a team's media guide once the season starts.
The measurements for this year's attendees were released on Monday: 2011 NBA Draft Anthropometric Measurements | NBA.com
What jumps out in these measurements is that Kenneth Faried, the college player with the highest Win Score in the draft, stands 6'6" tall in socks but has a standing reach of 9'0"!
Here's a list of the players with a greater standing reach than that of Faried:
- Keith Benson — Height: 6' 10", Reach: 9' 1.5"
- Enes Kanter — Height: 6' 9.75", Reach: 9' 1.5"
- Tristan Thompson — Height: 6' 7.5", Reach: 9' 0.5"
- Jeremy Tyler — Height: 6' 9", Reach: 9' 2.5"
- Nikola Vucevic — Height: 6' 10.25", Reach: 9' 4.5"
Thompson is 1.5 inches taller than Faried but his reach is only half-an-inch longer. The rest of the players with a longer reach than Faried are at least three inches taller than he is. The player projected to be the #2 pick in the draft, Derrick Williams, is 1.25 inches taller than Faried but has the same reach.
What does any of this have to do with rebounding? Well, Faried led the NCAA in rebounding this season and broke Tim Duncan's NCAA record for career rebounds during the modern era (i.e. post-1973 when freshmen were allowed to play). He averaged 14.5 rebounds per game, and that's a big reason why he has the highest Win Score in the draft. It's also a big reason why Berri, a sports economist and Pistons fan, wants him on the Pistons so badly.
Perhaps a big reason Faried is so good at rebounding is that he simply has a longer reach than his opponents. Do the rebounds just fall into his hands? If they do, it's probably because his hands are a lot closer to them than most players. Rebounding doesn't seem that complicated to me at all.
What does seem complicated is whether or not a great rebounder like Faried will be a lottery pick. Rebounding is a skill that tends to translate very well from the NCAA to the NBA, but that translation tends to be stronger for players from major programs. With his physical gifts, however, it seems that Faried's rebounding should translate to the pros as well.
The Cavaliers played most of the season without their leading rebounder, Anderson Varejao, and so even with two lottery picks, they may not feel the need to pick Faried. The Suns have not had an elite rebounder since they traded Shawn Marion, and things got worse after Amare Stoudemire left through free agency. Faried could change that, but DraftExpress currently has him falling out of the lottery to the New York Knicks with the 17th pick.
Only time will tell whether the Suns take the simplest route to finding their next great rebounder, or, maybe rebounding is more complicated than it seems.