"I could steal rebounds from my teammates too, if I wanted to sacrifice smart play for stat-stuffing like he does!"- some stupid fan speaking on my muse, Russell Westbrook.
Shut up fan. FIRST OF ALL, my boy rebounds at a rate that's on par with some of the most versatile point guards ever, accounting for all the numbers.
SECONDLY, he is leading the charge on an OKC gang rebounding effort that is gifting our two stars with extra possessions and snuffing out any momentum the enemy tries to gather.
NOM NOM... WE EAT MISSES...
Unfortunately, *sigh*, I think it is time I make peace with the currently accepted numbers. According to The Nylon Calculus'' Seth Partnow, defensive rebounding matters more than offensive rebounding to most NBA organizations.
So let's assume that this is also one of the best defensive rebounding teams of all time (because it is). Why are defensive rebounds important for anything? I mean those must be the emptiest stat in the box score, in many cases they basically fall into your lap.
But for the same reason that offensive rebounds are hot right now because they generate some of the sexiest shots in the game (and we will get to that), defensive boards can be safeguards against those demoralizing put-back dunks and possession-extenders. You don't see an expensive condom NOT breaking and say, gee what a good investment I made. But you did make a good investment, simply because it has a lower chance of breaking than a cheap one.
That extra effort teams spend chasing down their opponents' misses is a preventative measure: it keeps the other guys from getting the ball right back, whether for a layup, to pass out for an open three, or to reset an entire offensive possession. You can't always visualize or quantify that possibility, but it's worse than getting a girl pregnant. What's the lesson here? Rebound like there's no tomorrow on defense. (And buy expensive condoms).
Lately in the data analytics community, observers and writers have bemoaned rebounds. To many, a rebound is essentially an empty stat. Some people fancying themselves intellectuals believe that sacrificing offensive rebound opportunities for the sake of better transition defense is ALWAYS the right choice. It is backed by MATHS.
If we look at this year's Grizzlies - somehow still a playoff team this season despite playing without Marc Gasol AND Mike Conley - we can see that there are always exceptions to the "rules" of punditry. They rebounded an absurd 35% of their misses in the first week of March, and have slammed the offensive boards to juice a shaky, starless offense. And don't get me started on Andre Drummond and the Pistons.
These teams suggest that like everything else in 2016, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Don't punt anything. Try to get offensive rebounds and try to play transition defense. Everyone will find some happy medium. But if OKC has some of the best rebounders in the game at nearly every position, then ideally they should sacrifice some transition defense to utilize a skill at which they excel. And boy do they excel.
Do you like quick hits? According to Synergy Sports, offensive rebounds generate elite possessions in terms of efficiency; they're prooooobably important. Offensive rebounds are most common when a shot is taken less than 10 seconds from the start of a possession, and we take more than a third of our shots that quickly. OKC leads the league in 2nd chance points with nearly 16 per game, and they top the league with an OREB rate that would slaughter records.
But that's not all... Enes Kanter is top five in contested OREBs and OREB opportunities among playoff centers; Kevin Durant snags more than half of every potential OREB bouncing his way; and you know He-Who-Need-Not-Be-Named inhales uncontested OREBs better than every guard in the league (and even better than noted bigs like Kenneth Faried, DeAndre Jordan, and Kevin Love). Okayyy...
Why do I care about this? This is where it gets sexy, and you reap rewards from reading so far into the article. Shots at the rim that follow an offensive rebound reach nearly 70% accuracy. That translates into an average bench player scoring like LeBron in the paint. Taking 3s one, three, or five seconds after an offensive rebound can turn me into James Harden.
What the f*** does that mean, Kobe Bryant? It means the Black Mamba benefited more from playing with rebounding big men than he may ever know. It also means that Russell's historic presence on the glass as a guard ignites KD's scoring.
SLEEP WELL TONIGHT, THUNDER FANS
At the end of the day, I don't lose sleep over the streaky offense of the Warriors or the stifling (and in some ways illegal) defense of the Spurs, because I support the best rebounding team ever. Those other guys better be tossing and turning with one eye open because of US and RUSS.
WHO'S ON FIRST
Based on some robots in my basement whirring late at night, we are now predicting margin of victory for Thunder playoff games, as needed. For the first two home games, the Thunder should win by an average of 9 points and 10 points, respectively. But just in case you wanted a more detailed breakdown of the percentage odds for every likely scenario, here it is: odds of winning by every point differential from -3 to 11. Use it well!
I got this number by using NBA.com data on the relative frequency of OKC field goals taken during the appropriate shot clock intervals.