One of the best coachisms around is “a defensive possession isn’t complete without a rebound.” It’s one of the most “duh” statements, but also so profound and often overlooked by defensive analysis.
The San Antonio Spurs were a horrendous defensive team last year. They had the franchise’s worst defensive rating of 120, they allowed 123 points per game and let teams shoot the highest percentage from three in the league. Those numbers clearly stand out as reasons why the team struggled on that end. What can get lost in their defensive picture is that they were’t terribly effective at ending a possession with a board.
The Spurs were 23rd in the NBA in defensive rebounding, averaging 31.9 a game. What makes this number even more bizarre is that they were seventh in the NBA in offensive rebounding (11.8 a game) and 12th in the league in total rebounding (43.7 a game.) Were the Spurs just a more aggressive offensive rebounding team, or are there real rebounding issues on the roster?
No player on the team averaged more than 7 rebounds a game. The Spurs were a smaller team late in the year with the Jakob Poeltl trade, and the Charles Bassey injury. Players like Zach Collins and Sandro Mamukelashvili had to step up and own the glass.
Help is on the way next season in the form of a 7-foot-3 big man Victor Wembanyama. Will his length aid the Spurs defensive rebounding woes? Or will it be another player who steps up and dominates the boards for San Antonio?
Here are the three players who could lead the Spurs in rebounding next season.
The guy who should physically be the closest to the ball off of a miss would be most likely to grab the rebound, right? At least thats what the Spurs are likely hoping for. We’ve all seen the highlight put backs, but Wembanyama’s rebounding ability goes beyond his flair for the fantastic.
Wembanyama’s length is an obvious factor in his rebounding prowess. At 7-foot-3 with an 8-foot wingspan, he has the physical tools to be an effortless rebounder. However rebounding is about more than just physical gifts. Luckily for the Spurs, Wemby has the intangibles that goes along with his natural ability.
He has a good nose for the ball, and crashes the glass hard when it’s appropriate. He averaged over 10 rebounds last year with Metropolitans 92, despite going up against some bigger bodied defenders in France.
The real question for his rebounding ability is how he deals with the physicality of NBA big men. Will he be able to hang on the glass with the likes of Steven Adams, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jonas Valančiūnas? If he’s playing out on the perimeter while Zach Collins bangs inside with opposing bigs, he may miss out on some rebounding opportunities. But given Wemby’s length and instincts, it’s hard to imagine him averaging lower than 7 rebounds a game.
Collins season was a tale of two halves. Pre-trade deadline, his numbers don’t jump off of the page. His numbers after the Jakob Poeltl trade signified he was ready to take on a starting role. He has an opportunity to take on even more responsibility this season.
Post-All Star break, Collins averaged 7.9 rebounds a game. He averaged 6.4 rebounds over the course of the season. He was a major interior presence for the Spurs down the stretch last season. If Wembanyama is going to spend more time on the perimeter, they will need Collins to hold things down in the paint.
Gregg Popovich praised Collins ability to be “nasty” down low. The Spurs will need his physicality to battle on the glass against some of the enforcers in the league. With a starting role and more time as the team’s paint presence, Collins could be in line for another solid rebounding performance in the 2023-24 season.
If he’s fully recovered from his patella injury that sidelined him last season, Bassey should be in the mix for the Spurs best rebounder.
Statistically, Bassey was the teams strongest rebounder last season. He averaged 5.5 a game, and had the team’s highest rebounding percentage (an estimate of total rebounds grabbed by a player while on the floor) at 20.7%.
He’s an athletic, physical presence who has a high motor. As a backup big man, he will be tasked with defending the paint and owning the glass. Given his performance last year, I would expect him to fill that role well.
Who will lead the Spurs in rebounding next season?
This poll is closed
Other (explain in the comments)