Kevin Love's Rebounding Numbers are Inflated.

There's a well known article by a former stat keeper who admits that he was encouraged by NBA management to inflate the numbers of certain players for marketing purposes.

Alex was admittedly "very liberal," especially with his assists...  Certain players, Alex says, "got a lot of help."


"The way to get a guy extra rebounds," Alex says, "is if a shot goes up and someone tips it and someone else recovers it, you can give it to either one. 

This type of thing especially appeals to revenue strapped, small market teams.

" A team like ours was getting zero national media coverage. There's some value in that, even if someone is lighting us up, for marketing and longterm growth."

It's important, especially for bad teams, to have a player they can promote around the league to drive marketing, and that's much easier to do if they're putting up eye-catching numbers. According to Alex, that's why Shareef Abdur-Rahim put up significantly better numbers at home for the Grizzlies. The blocks and steals especially stand out, but he was also getting about 11% more rebounds at home.


This really hit home last week when a Celtic's scorekeeper was caught giving Rajon Rondo, the league assist leader, a bogus assist. This is fairly significant since Rondo was very publicly chasing the single season assist record. It also got me thinking about Kevin Love and how hard the TImberwolves (and the rest of the league) seem to be pushing him as some sort of dominant rebounding force. Looking over his game logs I was struck that 8 of his top 10 best rebounding games took place at home, while 4 of his 5 worst took place on the road. A few of those games were especially unusually including a much talked about 20-20 game that happened on national TV, at home. I decided to take a look, watch the entire game, and record and review every single rebound he was credited for.

Simply put this was the least impressive "20 rebound" performance I've ever witnessed. For starters, I only counted 16 legitimate rebounds, although some of those are borderline enough that I think most teams would probably give them to their star player. You only have to go back and look at Steve Blake's "17 assist" game to know that the Blazers are also guilty of a little home-cooking.

There were some pretty dubious rebounds awarded however, including Love's 19th with 1:47 left in the game. Wes Johnson comes over and gets a nice block on Jefferson before the ball can leave his hands. Johnson then corrals the ball with both hands before trying to dump it off to Darko, who predictably fumbles the pass. The ball ends up at Love's feet and he's awarded with his 19th rebound. 


I don't believe that should have been recorded as a rebound, but it's far less egregious than some of the blatant stat padding we've seen in the past and T-Wolves fans could be justifiably annoyed with me for even bringing it up. What was much worse than the illegitimate rebounds was how Love was getting his legitimate rebounds. He blatantly stole a number from his own teammates and even tried to go over Darko's back for what would have been an uncontested rebound. Darko seemed annoyed, probably expecting a foul call, until he realized it was his own teammate. 


In case you haven't noticed, Kevin Love is really into getting rebounds. In the end the Spurs seemed more concerned about transition defense and were content to let Love rack up empty numbers in his 41 minutes on the floor. At a certain point his teammates stop trying and conceded virtually every defense rebound to him. This happens with Camby sometimes too and I've complained about it in the past. I don't believe, however, that it happens to this degree and Camby rarely sacrifices defense to go after meaningless numbers.


When it comes down to it, Love would rather let Bonner shoot an open three than risk letting one of his teammates snag his birthright. In the picture below Tolliver was guarding McDyess, the other big on the floor, but Love refused to leave the paint, even though four of his teammates would have been in fine rebounding position. Instead Tolliver has to leave McDyess, which is counter productive since someone has to box McDyess out anyway.  Love watched the whole thing unfolds in slow motion and seemed more concerned about being in position to keep his teammates away from his rebound. This rebound, while it might be his 16th, isn't helping anyone.


Love is an interesting player with a unique skill set. I like his game. He's a great rebounder and a good roll player. He is not however, a historically good rebounder. His numbers this year are incredibly inflated, not just from home-cooking (although I believe there's some of that as well), but also from pace, and a lack of other rebounders on the floor.


Just compare Love's teammates with LMA's.


Wolves Total Rebound % Blazers Total Rebound %
Pekovic 12.7 Camby 23.6
Tolliver 12.3 Przybilla 18.2
Darko 12.3 Cunningham 9.6
Beasley 9.4 Batum 9.2
Webster 7.6 Johnson 8.2
Brewer 6.4 Miller 6.8
Ellington 6 Rudy 6.3
Johnson 5.8 Matthews 5.7
Ridnour 5 Roy 5
Telfair 3.1 Mills 3.7


The difference between Camby and Darko cannot by overstated. In terms of rebound rate, Camby is 2nd in the entire league (ahead of Love BTW), while Darko is a stager 104th. Love simply doesn't play with any really decent rebounders and not one of his teammates cracks the top 90 in rebound rate. On top of that the Wolves play at the league's fastest pace, giving Love roughly 9% more oportunitys to rebound compared to Aldridge. 

You simply can't take his rebounding numbers seriously. The home-cooking probably doesn't have a huge effect (plus the Blazers probably get it as well), but it is something to take into account once you realize that the Timberwolves entire marketability rests on Love's gaudy rebounding numbers. A team in their position has a pretty obvious motive to skew some of the numbers. 

Beyond that, I just don't believe Love's rebounding is helping his team win games, especially when it comes at the expense of other things like defense, and common sense. 

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