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Irish Coffee: Did the Celtics solve rebounding woes?

09.05.12 at 11:50 am ET

Last season, the Celtics ranked dead last in the NBA in total rebounds per game and third-to-last in both rebound differential and rebounding percentage. Not good. Not good at all. So, what did they do to improve those woes?

The short answer: Not much. The long answer? Well, that’s what we hope to explain here. First, the C’s issues.

  • Rebounds per game: 38.8 (30th)
  • Offensive rebounds per game: 7.7 (30th)
  • Defensive rebounds per game: 31.1 (14th!)
  • Rebounding percentage: 47.3 (28th)
  • Offensive rebounding percentage: 19.7 (30th)
  • Defensive rebounding percentage: 72.4 (20th)
  • Opponents’ rebounds per game: 43.2 (21st)
  • Rebound differential: -4.4 (28th)

The Celtics ranked in the top half of the NBA in just one category: Defensive rebounding, and even then they’re a middling bunch. The C’s had only two players among the league’s top 50 rebounders — Kevin Garnett (23rd) and Brandon Bass (48th) — while a team like the Lakers owned two of the NBA’s top 10 best window washers.

Things didn’t get much better in the playoffs. The C’s ranked 13th out of 16 teams in rebounds per game, 12th in opponents’ rebounds per game and 14th in rebound differential. And they ranked ninth in defensive rebounding rate, third-to-last in total rebounding rate and dead last in offensive rebounding rate. Bad, worse and terrible.

The good news: Both Garnett and Bass still anchor the C’s backcourt. The bad news: Both Garnett and Bass still anchor the C’s backcourt. While Garnett’s rebounding rate has been in fairly steady decline since he arrived in Boston, he averaged more than a rebound better once he moved to center (8.7 per game) than he did as the team’s starting power forward (7.5 per game). However, the rebounding numbers for Bass changed little during his move from the bench (6.1 in 27.9 minutes per game) to the starting lineup (6.2 in 33.6 minutes per game).

The Celtics feature the best rebounding point guard in the game (Rajon Rondo‘s average of 4.8 boards per game even surpassed 6-foot-6 Kings point Tyreke Evans), and Paul Pierce ranked among the 10 best rebounders at his position last season, but neither helped matters much last season. So, where can the C’s improve?

Ray Allen grabbed just 5.3 percent of the rebounds available to him, ranking him in the lower half of the NBA’s shooting guards who averaged 20 minutes a night, but three of the 16 players guys behind him were Courtney Lee (5.2%), Avery Bradley (5.0%) and Jason Terry (4.2%), who ranked ahead of only Nick Young and Raja Bell in that group.

The 6-foot-9 Jeff Green arrived in Boston averaging six boards a night, and then grabbed half as many over 26 games in a C’s uniform. However, if he reverts to the rebounding form from his days of Thunder, he should offer an upgrade over Mickael Pietrus as Pierce’s backup — but don’t count on him to shore up the four in that regard behind Bass.

After all, when it comes down to it, the majority of a team’s rebounds come from those four and five positions. The departed JaJuan Johnson and Sean Williams never played enough to make an impact, and the trio of Jermaine O’Neal, Greg Stiemsma and Ryan Hollins each owned rebounding rates of 14 percent or worse, all falling to the bottom half of the NBA’s centers.

Nowhere to go but up from there, right? Well, yes and no. If Chris Wilcox can pick up where he left off, his return should help, considering he was snatching 6.0 rebounds in just 21.0 minutes per game during the month of February. For a guy who once averaged 7.5 rebounds a night over two-plus seasons in Seattle during the mid-2000’s, Wilcox was just hitting his stride before his season-ending heart surgery. However, new addition Jason Collins has consistently ranked among the league’s worst rebounding centers. Collins is the new Hollins.

That leaves first-round draft picks Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo. Certainly, the former should earn more minutes behind Bass than the latter does at center. Sullinger’s averages of 8.3 and 8.6 rebounds per game in the Orlando and Las Vegas summer leagues ranked second and sixth, respectively. In college, the 6-foot-9 power forward ranked among the top 50 in total (9.2), defensive (6.1) and offensive (3.1) rebounds per game as well as defensive rebounding percentage (23.9%). Meanwhile, the 7-foot Melo didn’t rank among the top 100 in a single category.

When you consider the Celtics are relying on two guys returning from heart surgery and an unproven rookie with a history of back problems to shore up their rebounding woes, it seems the glass could be a pain in the C’s ass once again. Then again, IF Green and Wilcox revert to their old selves, IF Sullinger lives up to the hype and IF a full season of Garnett and Bass as the starting frontcourt provides stability in terms of rebounding schemes, that quintet could be a marked improvement from the one that included O’Neal, Stiemsma and Hollins a season ago.

(Have a question, concern or conception for the next Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brandon Bass, Chris Wilcox, Jared Sullinger
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