Will You Please Rebound, Please? How the Kings Lose Battle of the Boards

That the Kings struggle to rebound on defense is not new or surprising. Sacramento ranks 26th in defensive rebound percentage (72.4 percent), ahead of only the D'Antoni Knicks, the 7-55 Nets, the Gentry né D'Antoni Suns and the Nellieball Warriors. Given that the Kings tend to play fairly normal if somewhat larger line-ups, and have invested two lottery picks and a star two-guard (by way of trade) in the frontcourt, you can see why this problem in particular is so infuriating.

What's the root cause? Well, big men who aren't good rebounders, that's what. But really, how about some particular blame? How about some particularly liberating j'accuse!s, OK?

I looked at the line-up data from Sunday's loss to Oklahoma City. Since no one Thunder player killed the Kings on the offensive glass in particular -- Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka each had three, five others each had two -- it stands to reason that we could glean something from looking at which Kings were on the floor when OKC grabbed them o-boards.

What follows are all the Kings line-ups during which a defensive rebound opportunity was presented. (There were two other line-ups played by Paul Westphal, but there were no missed OKC shots in either short span.) The only numbers presented are each line-up's defensive rebounds, the number of defensive rebound opportunities said line-up had, and the defensive rebound percentage that shakes out to. (Note that the league average is 73.7 percent.)

Hawes-Landry-Greene-Evans-Udrih----9 defensive reb-15 opportunities, 60 percent
Hawes-Landry-Nocioni-Garcia-Udrih----0-3, 0%
Hawes-Landry-Nocioni-Evans-Udrih----2-3, 67%
Hawes-Landry-Greene-Garcia-Evans----2-2, 100%

Hawes-Thompson-Nocioni-Garcia-Evans----1-4, 25%
Hawes-Thompson-McGuire-Garcia-Evans----0-1, 0%

Thompson-Landry-Greene-Garcia-Evans----3-5, 60%
Thompson-Landry-Udoka-Garcia-Udrih----3-4, 75%
Thompson-Landry-Udoka-Evans-Udrih----3-3, 100%
Thompson-Landry-Udoka-Garcia-Evans----2-3, 67%
Thompson-Landry-Garcia-Evans-Udrih----2-3, 67%

You'll notice I've separated these out by big-man combos. (You'll also notice Westphal stayed quite big through this game -- no Nocioni or Greene at power forward.) So let's just go ahead and sum that up ...

Hawes-Landry----13-23, 56%

Hawes-Thompson----1-5, 20%

Thompson-Landry----13-18, 72%

Udoka's the best of the small forward on the defensive glass, but the difference between Ime and Nocioni isn't nearly big enough to explain why the Hawes line-ups rebounded so much worse than the Thompson-Landry ones. And the backcourts -- combinations of Garcia, Udrih and Evans -- are the same for each set of bigs.

It's hard to avoid the obvious conclusion, isn't it? The two combinations which featured Hawes stunk on the defensive glass, and the combination without Hawes was pretty good.

***

This is but one factor of a game, of the team. But as it's the factor which plainly cost the Kings a chance at the game Sunday, it's worth wringing hands over. I, for one, would like to see if a Hawes-Joey Dorsey combination would still result in bad defensive rebounding. Dorsey is an excellent defensive rebounder (with our limited data on him), and it could turn out that while Hawes is a bad defensive rebounder, and Landry is a bad defensive rebounder, each can be saved by playing with good or great rebounders. (Why Hawes-Thompson doesn't work is beyond me.)

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