One of the first concrete plans Keith Smart laid out after ascending to the head coach position last season was that he wanted the Kings to be a "rebound and run" team. Did he get his wish?
Well, he got half of it.
The Kings had the top pace in the NBA at 94.7 possessions per game. They edged the No. 2 Nuggets by half of a possession per game, and No. 3 Milwaukee by one possession per game. The team met Smart's call to play fast, to get up the court quickly and execute.
What about the rebounding?
The Kings finished No. 29 in defensive rebound rate, beating only the undersized Golden State Warriors. Defensive rebound rate measures the percentage of all defensive rebound opportunities taken by the team. League average last season was 73 percent. The Kings came in at 70.5 percent. An average team will miss 48 shots in an average game. The difference between a 70.5 percent rebound rate and a 73 percent rebound rate is about one or two second-chance opportunities for the opponent. That's also 1-2 points, based on typical conversion rates on offense. So while the Kings were far below average in the rankings for defensive rebounding, it only cost them 1-2 points defensively per game.
By contrast, the Kings finished dead last in shooting defense. The Kings' opponent effective field goal percentage was .515; league average was .487. With an average of 81 FGAs per team per game, the difference constitutes about 4-5 points on defense per game. So while the Kings ranked poorly in both shooting defense and defensive rebounding, the shooting defense was a much, much bigger problem.
Besides, "rebound and run" is primarily an offensive strategy. There's little doubt that the "run" portion of the strategy affects the "rebound" portion -- if you know the coach needs you to leak out and you're not in box-out position, you're not going to hang around to ensure DeMarcus Cousins or whoever captures the board -- you're going to trust them and bolt. That's the gameplan.
So I think that even without improvement in the rebound category* the Kings will continue to rely on the strategy and see some offensive success. (As we've noted, the offense did improve as the season went on. Isaiah Thomas also seems to be a much, much better fit at point guard in the system than Tyreke Evans had been.)
So ... all hail REBOUND AND RUN, a successful strategy even when it doesn't look quite right!
* I do think there will be some rebounding improvement regardless. James Johnson is a much better rebounder than John Salmons, Salmons is a good rebounder at guard (not SF), Tyreke is a good rebounder at guard (not SF), we have Thomas Robinson now and the big man rotation starts with three strong rebounders (Cousins, JT and T-Rob). There will likely be stronger rebounders overall at positions 2-4 than there were last year.