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Data says the Clippers should go after more offensive rebounds, not less

Ever since Doc Rivers took over as the head coach, the Los Angeles Clippers have abided by one major rule – do not risk going after offensive rebounds. Is it time that they rethought that idea?

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

One of the things Doc Rivers has wanted his teams to do, from a philosophical and schematic standpoint, is not chase after offensive rebounds. He wants his teams to get back on defense so that they can limit the amount of fast break points that opponents will receive. He wants his defense set, in position, and ready to go for an entire defensive possession. The issue is that might not be the way to go anymore. Not when Doc is the head coach of a team that excels at grabbing offensive rebounds, and still hasn’t figured out how to stop opposing teams when they are set as a unit defensively.

According to the website Nylon Calculus, which is one of the better websites you will ever come across on the internet, the Los Angeles Clippers ranked second in the entire NBA last season when it came to Offensive Rebound Win Percentage. They finished up at 56.3 percent – meaning they secured 56.3 percent of contested offensive rebounds. However, the issue was they ranked dead last in Offensive Rebound Chase Percentage, with a 35.3 percent mark. That means they only contested for 35.3 percent of all available rebounds – i.e. they only went after an offensive rebound just over one-third of the time. It wasn’t just something that happened last season, either.

This season, the team yet again ranks second in the league when it comes to Offensive Rebound Win Percentage, and due to their influx of added talent during the offseason they’re now gaining an offensive rebound 59.0 percent of the time they are contesting for one. Only the Detroit Pistons have fared better than the Clippers the last two years when it comes to Offensive Rebound Win Percentage. But, just like last season, the Clippers rank dead last in Offensive Rebound Chase Percentage at 31.1 percent. They’re actually going for fewer offensive rebounds this season than they did last season despite them actually corralling a higher percentage this season. It seems counterproductive.

Sometimes you have to attack when instincts say you should retreat.

The Clippers certainly possess the personnel to be a top flight offensive rebounding team. Blake Griffin and Lance Stephenson each sit just above the 56.0 percent mark when it comes to Offensive Rebound Win Percentage. DeAndre Jordan led the league in that category last season with an astounding 64.0 percent mark, but he’s at 51.1 percent this season, which is still good. The issue is that Griffin (11.5 percent) and Stephenson (8.1 percent) don’t have an Offensive Rebound Chase Percentage above 12.0 percent. Jordan’s sits at 22.6 percent, which is pretty high. Then again, it’s still far less than Enes Kanter (37.1 percent), Dwight Howard (27.2 percent), Andre Drummond (27.6 percent), and Clint Capela (29.5 percent). Suffice it to say, the team just doesn’t go after the offensive glass. And it’s a philosophy that might have to go away.

As it stands this season, the Clippers have a 101.7 Defensive Rating, which is tied for 18th. They’re giving up 11.9 fast break points per 100 possessions, which is a slight decrease from their 12.6 fast break points allowed per 100 possessions last season. So, while getting back is helping in one aspect, it’s not really helping overall. The team might want to rethink what they’re doing and actually attack the glass. In the grand scheme of things, is going after offensive rebounds all that bad? The idea that it leaves you open to fast break situations by the opponent is all well and good, but it’s not as if that’s how it transpires all the time.

For instance, the Portland Trail Blazers lead the NBA in Offensive Rebound Chase Percentage this season, but they’re giving up the second fewest fast break points per 100 possessions. It’s not just them, either. The Boston Celtics are third in Offensive Rebound Chase Percentage, and give up the third fewest fast break points per 100 possessions. Conversely, the Philadelphia 76ers are 28th in Offensive Rebound Chase Percentage, but they give up the most fast break points per 100 possessions. Golden State Warriors rank 18th in Offensive Rebound Chase Percentage yet give up the fifth most fast break points per 100 possessions. There’s no correlation this season between going after offensive rebounds and giving up fast break points.

This isn’t to say that the Clippers should just start crashing the offensive glass with reckless abandon, but rather that they should start making a more concerted effort to go after wayward misses. Extra possessions are a huge deal. If you don’t have a defense adequate enough to stop opposing teams a lot of the time, then why would you not want the extra possessions generated by your own misses? Especially when you actually have the players to get the job done.

Extra possessions are a huge deal.

It’s highly doubtful that Doc Rivers ever changes things up and decides to go after offensive rebounds, but it would be nice to see out of this team. When you factor in the injuries to Chris Paul and J.J. Redick, as well as the down years for quite a few of the players, going after offensive rebounds in an effort to earn extra possessions would not be the worst thing in the world. In fact, it would be quite wise to do.

In the end, going after offensive rebounds quite a bit more does seem risky, but the risk might definitely be worth the reward when you possess the second best team in the league at retrieving offensive rebounds. Those extra possessions, those extra looks against a scrambling defense, could pay off in the long run for the team. It’s certainly something different that they might at least want to try. Sometimes you have to attack when instincts say you should retreat. I think they might be surprised at the results.