Making shots, solid defense and reliable rebounding are three essentials to a successful basketball team. Being above average in two of the three can overcome a deficiency in the third. Superior defense and rebounding can overcome a weak shooting roster, as shown by the Chicago Bulls. Excellent shooting and tenacious defense can offset terrible rebounding numbers, a la the Atlanta Hawks.
On a less than talented defensive team like the Dallas Mavericks, lack of rebounds can be a killer. Despite winning 50 games, rebounding was the overwhelming weakness last season and will likely be worse in 2015-16.
Last season, Dallas ranked 23rd in total rebounds with 42.3 per game. Not good at all. But more troubling was the amount of rebounds allowed by the Mavs. Dallas gave up 46.1 boards per game, ranking 29th in the league. Granted the number of rebounds allowed is higher due to the Mavericks’ top 10 ranking in pace factor and field goal attempts.
The real troubling stat for Dallas last year was the rebound per game differential. They were dead last in the NBA with a 3.8 rebound per game deficit. That directly led to Dallas ranking 29th in opponent fast break points and 21st in opponent second chance points. The lack of rebounding put extra pressure on the Mavericks’ weak defense, as they allowed 102.3 points per game, good for 25th in the NBA.
One of the main factors in the rebounding problem is the decline of Dirk Nowitzki. Never a strong rebounder, the power forward posted one of his top five worst rebounding seasons in his illustrious career. His 11 percent rebounding percentage and 7.2 rebounds per 36 minutes last year ranked him eighth on the Mavs roster. Not ideal numbers from your starting power forward.
The organization was well aware of the deficiency in rebounds and did all they could to correct the problem when they tried to woo the Association’s leading rebounder, DeAnde Jordan. Their unsuccessful attempts left the Mavericks without many options in free agency.
To compound matters for the Mavericks, the club lost six of the top eight rebounding leaders from last season. Most importantly, the man in the middle and leading rebounder Tyson Chandler now suits up in Phoenix instead of North Texas. Chandler ranked fifth in the NBA with 11.5 boards per game, grabbing over 27 percent of the team’s total rebounds last season.
On top of Chandler’s departure, Al-Farouq Aminu, Bernard James and A’mare Stoudemire also reside elsewhere. All three posted 8.0 boards per 36 minutes for Dallas last year, ranking in the top five for the squad.
With the seemingly mass exodus of rebounders from Dallas, the organization did all they could to fill the gap in the frontcourt. After the Jordan flip-flop, free agency was completely dried up. The only other option left was trading for Zaza Pachulia to fill the 5-spot next season.
Pachulia is no slouch when it comes to crashing the boards, but in no way can he replicate what Chandler did for Dallas, especially at 31. The former Bucks center averaged 6.8 rebounds in only 23-plus minutes per game last season. His career rebounding percentage of 15.8 percent would’ve placed him second behind Chandler last year, but well short of Chandler’s 20.7 percent.
Pachulia and his 23.5 minutes per game the last three seasons wasn’t the only body brought on board to help the rebounding woes. Samuel Dalembert, JaVale McGee and Jeremy Evans were signed to low-risk deals as high upside possibilities for the Dallas roster. While none of them are standouts, the hope is, collectively, they can help the Mavericks compete on the glass.
Albeit in a small sample size, the Mavericks’ rebounding problems have increased this preseason. Through three games, Dallas is being outrebounded 169 to 119. That includes being crushed on the boards by a Dwight Howard-less Rockets squad 63 to 39 on Oct. 7. Not surprisingly, Dallas is 0-3, losing by an average of 16 points per game.
Of course, we have to factor in the short-handed roster so far, as projected starters Nowitzki, Chandler Parsons, Deron Williams and Wesley Matthews haven’t stepped foot on the court so far this preseason.
When the Mavericks have an entirely healthy roster, the rebounding is bound to improve. But the makeup of the roster may also exacerbate the rebounding woes by the need to play more small ball. If Parsons is playing the 4 and Evans or Dwight Powell is at center, Dallas will need to continue to hit shots like last season in order to stay competitive.
The Mavericks can’t be faulted for the rebounding woes that’ll inevitably plague them in 2015-16. If they’d been able to sway Jordan to leave L.A., the squad would be headed in the right direction. Instead, the inability to snag missed shots will be an anchor that’ll drag the Mavericks down to the basement of the Southwest Division and ultimately out of the playoffs.