This is not a Dejaun Blair vs Matt Bonner post. I feel that's been done to death in Bar rooms and Nail Salons the world over (though I think it deserves a mention that in a 10 point win tonight, Bonner managed to pump out a ridiuclous +22 on that zany boxscore +/- column. The mans an enigma wrapped in velvet that runs like a duck).
This post is me gently peering over the cliff face that Dejaun Blair's rebounding ability leaped off, and trying to figure out what broke its heart and made it take that step into the void.
I want to get this out of the way early.
Dejaun Blair has never rebounded the ball likr a true professional, as poorly as he is rebounding the ball right now. Now onwards and upwards.
It's long been touted by purists, pundits, and professional statisticians alike that the skill that most easily translates from the college game to the NBA is rebounding.
Dejaun was the poster child for this.
It's well worth reading Ken Pomeroys article for Basketball Prospectus regarding the possibility of DJB being the best second round pick ever. He goes through his incredible rebounding rate in the college game with microscope and comes up with a fairly solid case that Blair is an insanely good rebounder, particularly on the offensive end.
When you are drafted at number 37 in the second round and average 6.4 boards in only 18 minutes right out of the gate you are a steal. Dejauns rebounding numbers made everyone in the Spurs draft room look like genius' and every other GM in the league look like morons.
In his rookie season Dejaun sucked up 20.6% of all the available rebounds while on the floor . Good for 2nd in the entire association as the PF slot just behind Kevin Love. To put that in perspective. Timmy chugged along that season at 18.9% a mark he has been around for most of the last four to five seasons.
In terms of offensive rebounding DJB was better than Love. Snaring 16% of all the offensive boards available, just behind John Brockman. A huge number.
In terms of Defensive rebounding he was outstanding. 7th in the entire association as a rookie at the PF slot (67 players qualified that year), at 25.1%.
These are his numbers this season.
Offensive rebounding rate. 13.6% 7th best in the NBA at the PF slot
Defensive rebounding rate. 16% 61st in the NBA at the PF Slot
Total Rebounding rate. 14.8% 27th in the NBA at the PF Slot
This is where it gets wierd. I've looked at various scenarios before posting this. I thought Timmy may be taking rebounds away by having an outstanding defensive rebounding season by sucking in 28.8% but Dejauns Rookie year he was at 26.8%. thats only a 10% raise in defensive rebounding for Tim. Dejauns dropped off to the tune of nearly 40% in his defensive rebounding. I considered he was being played in a different position defensively, that his numbers were being eaten away via the attrition of many other good rebounders etc but the disparity in his defensive rebounding figures are so violent as to beggar belief.
Yet his offensive rebounding which has regressed only slightly is still in the elite category. Across the entire association, including SF's and Centres as well as his PF peers, he is 12th in offensive rebound rate right now.
He is 131st in defensive rebounding when he goes in against all the other sneaker wearing members of the populace. He is slightly ahead of Manu. He is lower than Boris, Bonner, Tiago, and Kawhi. He has gone from absolute stud rebounder. A guy who killed other teams opportunities at second chance points, a guy who hoovered the defensive glass to a guy who is struggling to be average at that end of the floor.
It would seem like his effort, intensity and desire to rebound only exists on the offensive end of the floor. I've taken to watching Dejaun and Bonner almost exclusively on the defenive end of the floor. Bonner is a great baseline with which to compare the rebounding ability of others. He has to fight tooth and nail to get position box out and play his man square. He is athletically at a disadvantage.
Dejaun is wide, he has a low centre of gravity, he is 250 lbs of bear. He does not play like that on the defensive end of the floor. Defensive rebounding is an effort stat. It is literally finding your man and sticking him on your back as far away from the hoop as possible. It is being aware of what is going on around you and getting your elbows into people before they get postion.
Timmy does this superbly. His first thought when the shot goes up is to find someone to put a body on.
Right now DJB just isn't cleaning people up on the defensive glass the way he did his rookie year.
When he came into the spurs he was voraciously hungry on both ends of the floor for boards. He also was very lazy defensively. He reached incessantly for steals and got whistled for cheap stuff all the time, he also was rubbish at taking charges. He gambled a lot.
He has cut a lot of that stuff out of his game. He takes more charges, and gambles less. Maybe this is killing his natural game? Maybe this is making him more fundamentally aware of his place in the defensive system at the expense of his nose for chasing the rebound?
I can't think of much outside of a fundamental change in his approach to the game that can describe this massive drop in rebounding.
When it comes down to it, his rebounding numbers as a rookie made him special. He stood out as someone who with the right kind of improvement in the right areas could become a sensational player.
For the Spurs right now he is a pale imitation of his former self.