Brook Lopez and The Ten Elusive Rebounds

In an interview with the New York Daily News, Nets GM, Billy King said that he doesn’t think Brook Lopez will ever average 10 rebounds a game. Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk was of the opinion that this could be a motivation ploy on King’s part. I certainly hope it’s a motivation technique because the statement seems pretty unrealistic. Here’s the quote:

“I don’t think Brook is ever going to be a 10-rebound guy. Rik Smits, I think, at his best was a seven-rebound guy. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, as great a scorer as he was, he wasn’t a great rebounder. Some guys have a knack for it. Some guys don’t,” King said. “I think he could get better at it, I just don’t think it’s something where he’s going to be a 10-, 12-rebound guy a night. I just don’t think it’s in him.”

Lopez’s rebounding has declined and been a source of repeated frustration for Nets’ fans. He’s averaging just 6.2 per game this season, down from 8.6 last season and 8.1 his rookie year. If we look at his rebounding numbers per 40 minutes we also see a steady decline from 10.6 as a rookie to 9.4 last season down to 7.0 this season. His Total Rebound Rate tells the same story dropping from 15.8% as a rookie to 13.5% last season to 10.3% this season.

Despite the downtrend it seems ludicrous to assume he’ll never be a 10 rebound a night guy. Part of the issue is the Nets coaching staff is allowing him to play a more perimeter oriented role on offense. His Offensive Rebound Rate has fallen from 10.6% as a rookie to 9.9% last season and to 8.1% this season. This decrease corresponds directly with an increase in his shot attempts from the perimeter. He has gone from averaging 3.6 FGA from beyond 10ft. per 40 minutes, to 4.9 last season, all the way up to 7.0 this season. More time away from the basket means less opportunities for offensive rebounds.

While his declining offensive rebounding seems to be largely a function of his role, he definitely lacks that innate defensive rebounding talent that Helin references with regards to Kevin Love. He might not be elite in this regard but this discouraging downward trend in his rebounding can be reversed. As a Pacers’ fan Roy Hibbert springs to mind as an example of a below average rebounder who was able to improve fairly significantly. He’s certainly not the only example. Antawn Jamison had a Defensive Rebound Rate under Lopez’s 12.6% twice in his first five seasons. In his last six seasons his Defensive Rebound Rate has never fallen below 19.0% and he averaged 10.2 rebounds per game in 07-08.

Finally there is the tricky issue of diminshing returns. In Lopez’s rookie season, most of the power forward minutes were played by Yi Jianlin who had a Total Rebound Rate of 13.7%. Last season the minutes were split between Yi and Kris Humphries who contributed a Total Rebound Rate of 18.0%. This season three different power forwards are playing alongside Lopez, Humphries, Derrick Favors and Troy Murphy. Humphries’ TRR this season is 21.6%, good for 6th in the league. Favors’ is 16.3% and Murphy’s is 15.0%. While it is difficult to pinpoint the exact size of this impact, playing alongside very good rebounding power forwards undoubtedly brings Lopez’s rebounding numbers down.

I haven’t seen enough of the Nets this season to know how big a role effort and motivation have played in dragging down Lopez’s rebounding numbers, and that may be exactly what Billy King wanted to address. However, I think it’s pretty apparent that his offensive role and quality frontcourt teammates are having an effect as well. I am well aware that I may be putting to much thought and analysis into King’s comments, but when looking at those issues in combination it seems ludicrous to argue that he is incapable of being a player who averages 10 rebounds a game.

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4 Comments

Filed under NBA, New Jersey Nets, Statistical Analysis

4 responses to “Brook Lopez and The Ten Elusive Rebounds

  1. Chicago Tim

    Also, Abdul-Jabbar averaged over 10 rebounds a game from age 22-33.

    • Yeah, it seems so ludicrous you have to imagine he was just trying to light a fire under him. But does Billy King really have the forethought to plan that out?

  2. sportsfanatic613

    Living in the NY area, I do to watch almost all of the Knickerbockers and Nets games. I concur wholeheartedly with your analysis as that is exactly what I’ve been seeing. Lopez is too far away from the basket offensively and with the additions of Humphries, Favors and Murphy, there are fewer rebounds for Lopez to get. Yi Jianlian was never a power forward even though he was called that. I did figure that with Avery Johnson taking over as head coach, he would force Lopez to move closer to the basket and stop trying to be a jump shot player since he is close to 7′ tall. Unfortunately for the Nets, Avery Johnson has not done that job and instead Lopez has moved even further away from the hoop. Great analysis on your part.

    • I was skeptical about how much diminishing returns have to do with a players rebounding numbers. However, as a Pacers fan I’ve seen it first-hand this season with Hibbert’s improvement on the glass since Murphy left. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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