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Building a House of Particle Board

Rebounding will always be an issue for this team.

Last night, the Kings kept Portland off the offensive glass until a minute into the second quarter. With the starting lineup on the floor (roughly 16-18 minutes), Portland earned one offensive board. A lot of it had to do with the Blazers shooting well. But there was also a swarm of white shirts running to the ball, boxing out, tipping the ball to teammates.

The Kings aren't a good defensive team as built. The two most important positions to defend well against most teams: point guard and the low post (whether it's a center or power forward). Mike Bibby's making a valiant effort out there, but he still just lacks to the lateral quickness to effectively defend a pick-and-roll. You can't fault him; it's a physical limitation, just like a guy in a wheelcahir. Mike Bibby is disabled on defense, so we should stop making fun of him. Likewise: Brad Miller cannot jump. If he could, I'm sure he'd do it more often. I can explain his (relative) high number of blocks this preseason: The level of competition is weak. Most (if not all) of his blocks are coming against guards, and most of those guards won't be seeing serious (if any) minutes at the NBA level this year. We shouldn't curse Miller for his lack of shotblocking acumen; it's literally a physical limitation.

So even with Ron Artest, Kenny Thomas (whose defensive rotations have been stellar these first six exhibition games) and the bench swarm, this won't likely be a good defensive team. As fellow acolytes of Dean Oliver know, there are four factors to success on defense: shooting defense, defensive rebounding, causing turnovers, limiting foul shots. The team's shooting defense will likely be poor -- point guards can get free relatively easy, setting up dribble penetration and/or pick-and-roll opportunities; if penetration is the choice, there's no real backstop to make things difficult. When your shot defense is poor, you need to make sure you don't give your opponent more opportunities... which is where defensive rebounding enters. It will be a struggle some nights to make opponents miss. When you're a bad rebounding team, those misses can become negated by second chances. Now you're doubly under the bus: Teams shoot better after an offensive rebound (due to tips and unset defenses), and teams already shoot better against you because you suck on defense. You have to rebound the ball defensively. If not, it's very hard to win with poor shot defense.

The Kings were actually close to average in defensive rebounding last year; offensive rebounding was another story and drug the overall rebounding numbers down. That was with a poor rebounding power forward (Shareef Abdur-Rahim) playing quite a bit center, and the main center (Brad Miller) being a poorer rebounder than usual due to injuries/age. Despite the perfect rebounding in the first quarter and good numbers overall for Miller and Mikki Moore, it will be an uphill slog to see this team finish average in defensive rebounding again. Ron Artest devoted himself to rebounding last year; that hasn't looked to be the case so far. Inserting a healthy K-9 (woof!) into the starting lineup helps, but even he hasn't looked like a rebounding beast to date. Kevin Martin's a strong rebounder for his position, but if you're running a fast break offense you don't want to send him back into the lane when he's your only fleet option in the starting lineup. Again, it's going to be hard to be even average on the defensive glass again. With one of the worst shooting defenses in the league, there's almost no way to end up with an average overall defense (despite great turnover numbers and solid foul-avoiding).

Unless improved rebounding acumen flies out of Reggie Theus' ass, the Kings defense is basically stuck in suck.

ADDENDUM: Sam Amick also talks about rebounding this morning. Unfortunately, he uses all the wrong numbers. Rebounding margin means absolutely nothing. I'll explain why later today, though I know some of you already know. You know?