Importance of Good Board Scores (Part II)
Recent piece by Basketball Prospectus' Anthony Macri (via TrueHoop) reminded us of a post we did about two years ago on the correlation of rebounding and title chances. Mr. Macri cautioned that Orlando's '08-'09 championship aspirations could ultimately be derailed by mediocre rebounding. And he was on to something.
In our April '07 post we examined the rebounding numbers of the NBA Finals participants between 1987 to 2006.
It was no surprise that strong rebounding is a key component to winning titles. But we found it interesting that out of the 40 teams to make the Finals in that 20-year span between '87 to '06, only four teams had a negative rebound margin for the regular season. We also found that the +1 rpg margin threshold seems to be a strong indicator if a team can win the title. If your team rebounds below the +1 rpg margin for the regular season, you're unlikely to win the title.
Since we did the initial post, Boston won a title with a +3.12 rpg margin & the Spurs had a +1.6 rpg margin for '06-07 reg. season. Last season's Lakers had a +1.35 margin, and the '07 Cavs were a tough boarding club at +3.66.
- In the last 25 seasons (1983-84 to 2007-08), only four teams have made the NBA Finals with a negative rebounding margin for the regular season:
- '86-87 Celtics (-0.1 rpg)
'93-'94 Rockets (-0.4 rpg)
'94-'95 Rockets (-2.8 rpg)
'99-'00 Pacers (-1.6 rpg)
Basically if you want your team to make the Finals, you must hope for a positive rebound margin for the regular season. And if you want to take home the Larry O'Brien trophy, at least a +1 rebound per game margin is pretty much required. Don't have to be the best rebounding team to win the title, just can't be a subpar board team. Here are the regular-season rebound margins for the Finalists of the past 25 seasons:
- 1983-84: BOS +4.5 | LAL +2.3
1984-85: LAL +3.5 | BOS +4.3
1985-86: BOS +5.1 | HOU +2.1
1986-87: LAL +2.3 | BOS -0.1
1987-88: LAL +1.7 | DET +3.0
1988-89: DET +4.6 | LAL +3.7
1989-90: DET +3.9 | POR +6.0
1990-91: CHI +3.3 | LAL +2.4
1991-92: CHI +4.3 | POR +5.0
1992-93: CHI +3.3 | PHX +2.6
1993-94: HOU -0.4 | NYK +5.5
1994-95: HOU -2.8 | ORL +3.0
1995-96: CHI +6.6 | SEA +0.9
1996-97: CHI +5.3 | UTH +2.9
1997-98: CHI +5.2 | UTH +4.6
1998-99: SAS +2.0 | NYK +0.4
1999-00: LAL +3.9 | IND -1.6
2000-01: LAL +3.4 | PHI +4.0
2001-02: LAL +1.1 | NJN +0.4
2002-03: SAS +1.7 | NJN +1.5
2003-04: DET +2.2 | LAL +0.7
2004-05: SAS +2.2 | DET +3.8
2005-06: MIA +4.3 | DAL +3.9
2006-07: SAS +1.6 | CLE +3.6
2007-08: BOS +3.1 | LAL +1.3
- 2004-05: -2.0
Here are the margin numbers for the top 10 teams this season:
- Lakers: +3.2
Specifically, both the Magic and the Clutch City Rockets received an extraordinary advantage in three-point shooting, as eFG% measures field-goal shooting by simply counting each 3-pointer made as worth 1.5 FGM, a more accurate measure of the points scored per each FGM.
In 1993-94, the Rockets ranked just 10th in overall FG%, but were 4th in eFG% because they made 429 3's in a year in which the league average was 270. Those Rockets attempted 1285 3's when the league average was 811.
When the line came in in 1994-95, the Rockets were still way ahead of the pack, going 646-1757 behind the arc in a year in which the league went 450-1255 on average. This boosted HOU from 6th in FG% to 3rd in eFG%. In both seasons, the Rockets easily led the league in both threes made and attempted.
This season, Orlando sports similar numbers from three: 446-1115 (2nd in both categories) for a sizzling league-leading mark of .400 in a year when the league average is 290-746 (.364) so far. The Magic are 2nd in eFG% even though they are 10th in regular FG%. Sound familiar? It seems like the Magic are going to have to keep up the hot shooting from downtown if they hope to replicate the '90s Rockets and compensate for their subpar rebounding with a title.
Here are the three numbers in table form:
TEAM 3's LG AVG 3's FG% eFG%
1993-94 HOU 429-1285 .334 270-811 .333 10th 4th
1994-95 HOU 646-1757 .368 450-1255 .359 6th 3rd
2008-09 ORL 446-1115 .400 290-746 .364 10th 2nd
(Note that both these clubs are also strong in other of the Four Factors, FT/FGA, on defense, a sign of quality defensive play from a big man inside.)
Still, Orlando could definitely use another big to bring off the bench, maybe a traditional 4-man who can rebound and guard bigs to spell Rashard Lewis would help. Not surprising that the Spurs, Nugs, & Hornets are desperately looking for auxiliary frontcourt help. The Pistons are hurt by Sheed's habitual underachieving board work. Increasing McDyess & Maxiell's minutes could possibly remedy the Pistons' subpar rebounding.