A common complaint among Blazers fans has been that LaMarcus Aldridge doesn’t rebound enough for his size. Recently, an column at Rip City Project was published remarking that Aldridge had room for improvement in the rebounding department. The argument, in part:
…with his 6 feet 11 inch size and long arms, Aldridge should be a better rebounder. Aldridge has improved his rebounding every year in the league and averaged 9.1 rebounds a game in the 2012-13 season but he still ranked 16th in total rebounds a game.
Ranking 16th in the league is very good at first glance, but I wanted to take a closer look at how Aldridge gets his rebounds. I watched a sizable sample of video from Aldridge’s 670 rebounds last year and paid attention to positioning, effort, and play type. I put them into three categories that made the most sense for this exercise:
Boxouts and effort positions where he clearly boxed out a defender, held a position, or moved to the ball with effort to rebound.
Open rebounds, which simply plopped into his hands when teams were out of position (ex. when teams simply rushed back on defense after a shot).
Other which accounts for transition plays, tips, and on plays like free throws.
From the viewing sample (about 12% of his total rebounds from multiple games throughout the year) it resulted in the following numbers:
Roughly half of Aldridge’s rebounds came from open opportunities with little effort. The other half were from set half-court situations (Boxout) and miscellaneous effort plays (Other). So what’s there to glean from this data?
Well, that depends on the context.
If Aldridge was lackadaisical on defense, slow to rotate, fickle in effort, and lacking production outside of another key statistic, it would be easy to say his rebounding numbers should improve. However, Aldridge is the star player on an otherwise slightly-under performing team. He’s their lead offensive weapon, and he’s no slouch on defense. Due to the Blazers’ lack of a true center, Aldridge has often been left exerting effort on the defensive end against the opponent’s best post player.
He played in one of the only positions for the Blazers last year that had positive differentials in advanced statistical areas. He produced more rebounds on a +/- basis for his position than did JJ Hickson, who finished tied for 7th in the NBA last year (which should tell you the value of defensive ability).
Put simply, Aldridge doesn’t need to improve his rebounding.
No player is complete, which is why coaching, schemes, and teammates matter. Aldridge isn’t a star rebounder the way Kevin Love or Zach Randolph is, but he brings so much more to the table it’s a misunderstanding of who he is as a basketball player to do so.
Neil Olshey went out and beefed up the Blazers’ front line with Robin Lopez and Thomas Robinson. Aldridge asked for a true center to play with this summer not only to help guard the post, but to help box out on the league’s best big men. Olshey knows that. Aldridge knows that. Lopez knows that.
Asking Aldridge to battle even more for position on rebounds is going to wear him down, and reduce his effectiveness on the offensive end. Aldridge is a unique player, an above-average post defender who can shoot long and has post moves inside. He can’t dribble or shoot threes like Dirk, and he is a better post defender than Carlos Boozer. And yes, he is an average rebounder. But there’s nothing within Terry Stotts’ scheme that insists that Aldridge needs to become a better rebounder for the Blazers to succeed.
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