Bullets Fever

A blog and community website for the Washington Wizards and their fans.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Why Rebounding Matters and Why Small-Ball Needs It

2007 was supposed to be the year where small-ball revolutionized the game of basketball, but so far, there is a stigma that it's failing. Already, we're seeing analysts like Scoop Jackson and Charles Barkely calling out the Phoenix Suns for their failure to make small-ball work.

So far, we've mostly seen speculation about Phoenix's lack of chemistry and inability to defend. The Amare situation is screwing with their heads, Boris Diaw is out of shape, they don't like playing together anymore, Jalen Rose does nothing, etc. It's this humble bloggers' opinion that all this gibberish is worthless, and the real problem lies is something much more simple.


6 games does not signify a trend, but this was staggering to me.

Top 5 Rebounding Margins:

1. Cleveland: +10.5 (5-2)
2. Utah: +10.1 (6-1)
3. Houston: +6.1 (5-2)
4. NOOCH: +5.9 (4-3)
5. Orlando: +5.7 (5-3)

Bottom 5 Rebounding Margins:
1. Golden State: -8.0 (4-3)
2. Phoenix: -7.4 (2-5)
3. Milwaukee: -6.6 (2-5)
4. Minnesota: -6.5 (2-4)
5. Toronto: -6.0 (2-4)

What can we learn from this? Good teams need good rebounders. Even the good top scoring teams, excluding Golden State, rebound the ball decently. Atlanta is -0.3, Seattle is only -1.9, the Clippers are +2.6, and the Lakers are +2.1. The three teams doing poorly in the top 10 in scoring (Phoenix, Denver, and Milwaukee) all have negative rebound margins. Phoenix doesn't rebound well and it's killing them, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

Then, there are the Wizards, who are 3-3 with the sixth worst rebounding margin (-5.5) and the league's highest scoring offense (107.8 points per game). Washington has been a painfully average team all year, save for their blowout against Indiana. Take away that game, and the point differential has been -6.
As mentioned above, other up-tempo teams that succeed are ones that have rebounders. Atlanta has Zaza Pachulia and Josh Smith, two athletic, strong rebounders. Seattle has Nick Collison, a consumate tough guy and rebounder. The Clippers have two great big guys, and the Lakers are getting a ton of rebounds from Andrew Bynum.

The Wizards? Well, Etan Thomas is a good shot blocker and a tough guy, but he's not a great rebounder. Brendan Haywood is a taller version of Thomas, and Michael Ruffin plain sucks at everything. The end result has been that the Wizards go as Gilbert Arenas goes this season. When he's feeling it, the Wizards win; when he's off, they lose. If this happens all year, Washington will go 41-41 and miss the playoffs.

The team needs to find a consistent rebounding presence. If no trades are made, I'd advocate more playing time for Calvin Booth, as he at least will rebound better than Michael Ruffin. However, there's a trade that can happen, in my opinion.

Commenter Josh mentioned this briefly, and I'll add to it. Wait a month, and then trade Haywood to Denver for Reggie Evans and DerMarr Johnson. Haywood gives Denver insurance when Marcus Camby inevitably goes down, and Evans and Johnson are simply bit parts for them that they can afford to give up.

Would this work now? Hell no. Denver has no reason to do this, and they actually can't until December 15 anyway. But what happens when Camby goes down? Francisco Elson is in San Antonio, and Nene is still rehabbing his knee. They should be desperate for size, and Washington has it. So while this trade is not going to happen now, and may not happen in the end, I'm a fan of it.

For his efforts, Josh will be posting on here later this week. This doesn't mean other offers weren't good by any means (Haywood for Steven Hunter and parts intrigued me, as did Haywood for Dan Gadzuric). Still, rumors and speculation make this stuff fun, even if it's probably not plausible. So please, if you have a trade idea, shout it out, and I'll put up a post about it if I feel so inclined.

Do you think this trade work? Do you think the Wizards even need rebounding as bad as I think they do? Is a trade the answer to solve the problems, in your opinion?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ruffin does not "suck at everything." He was singled out by Arenas as his All Star the first year Gilbert was voted in. He plays good position defense (takes charges), sets a very solid screen, and doesn't need the ball on offense (nor does he deserve it). He's not a great rebounder, but he's better than you are giving him credit for. The Wizards lack toughness, and Ruffin should rarely get double-digit minutes, but he is a good role player who knows he is paid to do what most NBA players see as beneath them.

9:36 AM

Blogger Pradamaster said...

It's not that Ruffin "sucks at everything" per se, it's just that he's not really good at anything important, and therefore should not see the floor much.

82games.com says that the Wizards are -24 points when Ruffin is on the floor. Combine that with teh fact that they are +45 when he's off the court, and Ruffin has a net rating of -69 points per 48 minutes. If you extrapolate that out to the 8 minute average Ruffin has, the Wizards give up more than 8 points per game when Ruffin is on the floor.

Ruffin doesn't really play good defense, to be honest. Wizard opponents shoot nearly 55 percent when he's in the game, attempt 8 more free throws. He's also not a shot blocker, having blocked only three shots all season.

Setting good screens in and of itself shouldn't be the criteria for someone playing over 20 minutes in a game like he did against New Jersey.

He's also not really much of a rebounder: he averages only 5 rebounds per 40 minutes this year. That's not a historic trend; he's usually around 10.5 per 40 minutes, but it's still a problem.

Basically, Ruffin is best served to sit at the end of the bench and play only in an emergency. With the Wizards lack of depth and toughness, he's basically the only choice the team has. That doesn't mean he should play as much as he has this year. I'd play Calvin Booth over him in a heartbeat, and I'd encourage Eddie Jordan to do the same.

5:18 PM


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