The Ugly: Rebounding.
You’ve probably heard about the OKC Thunder’s rebounding woes already. The podcasts have been all over it. Even the national broadcast teams are pointing it out.
The OKC Thunder are last in offensive rebounding. They are second to last in total rebounds per game. Michael Cage might lead Oklahoma City on the glass if he decided to suit up for fun.
The lack of offensive rebounds is a conscious decision by the OKC Thunder. Rather than crashing the boards, Oklahoma City is opting to set up a strong transition defense, which has borne out so far.
According to Cleaning the Glass, OKC is the 2nd best league-wide at defending transition plays off of live rebounds. Coach Daigneault probably realized he didn’t have a team of Barkleys and Rodmans, so instead, he’s got them playing to their strengths.
Where things get ugly is with putbacks. OKC has been giving up too many offensive rebounds, resulting in easy points for the opposition. These baskets can feel excruciating following a hard-fought defensive possession.
You’ve forced the other team into a contested long two at the end of the shot clock, only for their center to fly in for an easy putback dunk. The solution seems pretty straightforward: box out more. NBA.com has OKC second in defensive box outs. So what’s the deal?
It might be as simple as the OKC Thunder needing the size to keep up with other teams on the glass. Because they lack size, they choose to play in a way that de-emphasizes rebounding, making their numbers look even worse. Kenrich Williams’s return should be a boon for OKC’s rebounding and physicality.
There may be some credence to the “put a burly big next to Chet” calls that keep popping up, but every move like that has a give-and-take. As it stands right now, the OKC Thunder are talented in so many aspects that they can afford the rebounding to be so ugly.
Throwing a big into the lineup would raise rebound numbers but negatively impact the spacing, the pace, and the fluidity that the Thunder like to play with.
The most important thing to remember is that despite this season’s success, these are still young, inexperienced players.
This OKC Thunder team is developing and will find ways to mitigate its weaknesses as time goes on. Finding ways to win is the key, which hasn’t been a problem for this team.