Will rebounding cost the Los Angeles Lakers a championship?

Los Angeles Lakers (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Los Angeles Lakers (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

The Los Angeles Lakers have struggled on the glass.

To date, the Los Angeles Lakers rank tenth in both offensive and defensive rebounding. Not bad for most teams. Rebounding at that level will cost the Lakers a championship.

Wait, hold up. Is rebounding going to cost the Lakers a championship? Not their three-point shooting? Not their transition defense? Not their inability to guard opposing point guards?

Yes, ice-cold shooting would torpedo the Lakers title hopes, as would their bad transition or on-ball defense against the wrong opponent.

Those concerns are not getting addressed this season.

The shooting woes will persist until individual players get out of their horrific shooting slumps (see Green, Danny). They ranked last in fast-break points allowed before the restart – and are still getting beat down the court defensively.

Even with Avery Bradley, their on-ball defense was considered a weakness. How much so without him! Portland’s superstar guard, Damian Lillard, went for 48 points, 9 rebounds, and 10 assists in their most recent meeting with Bradley guarding him.

Portland may be the Lakers’ first-round opponent. Imagine what Lillard’s numbers will be with Bradley gone. Charles Barkley might just be right.

Side note: Of course, the Blazers actually have to make the playoffs. Losing to the Clippers, firmly in preseason mode, is not helping their cause. The battle for the eighth and ninth seeds is intense!

Rebounding, however, should be the Lakers’ top strength. They ought to dominate the boards given they are bigger and longer than any other team, with the possible exception of the Milwaukee Bucks.

Alas, the Lakers have not always won the rebounding battle. See below for the plus/minus in their games inside the bubble:

Rebounding plus/minus per game:

  • vs Clippers: +9 total (+7 offensive)
  • vs Raptors: -11 total (+1 offensive)
  • vs Jazz: -4 total (-3 offensive)
  • vs Thunder: -6 total, (+6 offensive)
  • vs Rockets: +15 total (+9 offensive)
  • vs Pacers: +2 total (+8 offensive)

Total: +5 total (+28 offensive)

The Los Angeles Lakers have no excuse for their pernicious rebounding woes.

Especially now because each starter is 6’5” or above. And the rebounding plus/minus only looks good because they played the Rockets, whose center is 6’5″ swingman PJ Tucker.

The Los Angeles Lakers are now the anti-Rockets. And yet, on average, they are losing the battle by two rebounds per game, if the Rockets game is not included.

Correlations can explain the rebounding numbers to an extent. The Lakers get so many offensive rebounds because they cannot shoot a lick right now. They average 14 second-chance points per game, roughly translating to about an eighth of their total points. That number figures to increase considering they are getting more offensive rebounds.

But that does not explain why they struggle with defensive rebounding. Giving up a lot of defensive rebounds can be attributed to the Lakers’ ice-cold outside shooting.

But the question still needs to be asked: do the Lakers want to get every rebound?

Kawhi Leonard, the original Board Man, may have chosen the Clippers over the Lakers last offseason, but his quote is profound here: “Board Man gets paid.”

If only Board Men got paid, how badly do the Lakers want the money?

Only they can speak for their desire. But effort judges a player’s desire to win, and the Lakers collective effort has been lambasted on this website and others.

Some say rightfully so. Others do not.

Regardless, the Lakers are just too big for most teams. They should be dominating the rebounding battle each game. As a team, they need to stop focusing on shoring up their weaknesses and start focusing on maximizing their strengths.

As we all know, the Lakers’ shooting has fallen off a cliff (or a sinkhole given it’s Florida). The Lakers already snag a whopping 28% of their missed shots. What if Lakers’ coach Frank Vogel challenges the Lakers to get a third of their missed shots?

Why not turn a weakness into a strength?

Coach Vogel should send four offensive players to crash the glass. The goal is to convert missed outside shots into second-chance points. Second-chance points are traditionally defined as any made field goal after getting an offensive rebound, but I would add made free-throws to the equation. Drawing shooting fouls is equally as important.

Getting more second-chance points also help their bad transition defense. Second-chance points slow down opposing fast breaks. It takes longer to start a fast break directly off a made basket than to start it directly off a defensive rebound.

As LeBron’s former teammate Sasha Pavlovic once said, “My offense is my defense.”

And what if the Lakers boxed out more defensively? They rank last in the NBA in defensive boxout rate (and first in offensive boxout rate, which they should keep doing). They would simply not allow opponents to get offensive rebounds, which helps immensely.

To add it all up, winning the rebounding battle is a huge deal. It could result in a 10-point swing during a pivotal playoff game. It may even make the Lakers’ lowest-rated offense somewhat decent again.

Yes. The Los Angeles Lakers have issues controlling the glass. No one is really talking about it. But what is there to lose in focusing on rebounds?

A championship?

Predicting the outcome of the final two seeding games. dark. Next

“Offense sells tickets. Defense wins games. Rebounding wins championships.” – Pat Summit, former longtime University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach and four-time national champion.