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Rating the Rebounding of Sacramento's Big Men

I have something in depth on rebounding cooking for next week, but in the interim we should assess what we have at the player level right now, at least on the frontline.

There could be at least one more addition to the power forward/center rotation by the start of the season, and perhaps a subtraction. We have four players, though, who we can honestly expect to get minutes in preseason and potentially make the rotation come Opening Day. (Two of these guys, of course, will be starters.) Which of them rebound well on offense? On defense? What would your best rebounding line-up be?

There's one little issue to resolve: Jon Brockman is a rookie, so we have no NBA production to base his placement on. I figured the college-to-pro rebounding translation for the three Kings bigs we have college and pro numbers for. It comes out in this quick-and-dirty calculation that the bigs kept about 85% of their college per-possession rebounding production upon entering the pros. So I adjusted Brockman's senior rebounding numbers by that amount.

Let's start with offensive rebounding.

1. Jon Brockman: 13%
2. Jason Thompson: 12%
3. Sean May: 10%
4. Kenny Thomas: 10%
5. Spencer Hawes: 8%

Brockman was a terror on the offensive glass in Las Vegas, and I expect that will continue in the NBA. JT is, of course, quite good too. Thompson at center and Brockman at power forward would provide the best offensive rebounding line-up for the team. This matter isn't particularly close.

Now to defensive rebounding.

1. Sean May: 22%
2. Jon Brockman: 22%
3. Spencer Hawes: 21%
4. Jason Thompson: 19%
5. Kenny Thomas: 19%

Note that in all cases, tie goes to Notkennythomas. May rebounds well on the defensive end (and decently on offense), Brockman projects to be good defensive rebounder, and Hawes gets most of his rebounds here. Thompson could stand to improve in this area -- the good news is that big men often become better defensive rebounders over time. The comparable Antonio McDyess, for example, went from around 17% his first few years to 23-24-27% the last three seasons. Your best defensive rebounding frontcourt would be Brockman/May, though I'm not sure Paul Westphal wants two 6'8 fellows running together. In that case, Hawes/May or Hawes/Brockman would do the trick.

I assume, though, that unless you have a small forward or guard with insane offensive rebounding skills, you need your starting frontline to be able to board on both ends. So what would the Kings' best rebounding option be in those terms?

I think you have to go with Thompson/Brockman. Again, May/Brockman seems unviable in basic basketball terms. But JT can do things centers do, except block shots (though he did that well in college, albeit in a mid-major conference).

If you have an electric wing who pounds the offensive boards -- and this is where I note that Omri Casspi had seven offensive rebounds in only 20 minutes in the final VSL game -- you could do a Hawes/May or Hawes/Brockman frontline to reach near optimal rebounding. If you have a wing or guard who rebounds the defensive glass exceptionally well -- looking at you, Tyreke Evans, who according to my previously explained primitive translation would have a defensive rebounding rate of 13%, a major improvement on 9% Beno Udrih -- Thompson/Brockman might be the optimal choice.

You'll notice something about all those optimal choices, surely: none of them are Hawes/Thompson, the perceived frontcourt of the future. The perceived starting frontcourt for the next 10 years.

But we're speaking only about rebounding, which is (all told) less than a quarter of the game. Shooting, shooting defense, turnovers (both ways) and fouls (both ways) need to be addressed in lineup construction. This is one narrow spectrum from which to view the roster.