Here's the conclusion of our statistical look at the Portland Trail Blazers' 2008-09 season. This post covers rebounding and some overall differentials that weren't spelled out entirely in the previous posts.
|Def. Rebounding %||75.0%||5th (tie)||71.8%||+3.2%|
|Off. Rebounding %||32.6%||1st||26.7%||+5.9%|
|Total Rebounds||41.7||12th (tie)||40.7||+1.0|
This chart shows where the bread and butter of Portland's improvement came from this year. The rebounding stats went off the chart. Over 3% to the positive defensively, almost 6% offensively, over 4% overall. Last year the Blazers didn't grab half of the total rebounds available between the two teams on the floor. This year they lead the league, topping 53%. 1st in percentage offensively, 5th defensively, 1st overall...that's dominating. Plus the rebounding differential skyrocketed from the negative to a league-leading +5.4. Rebounding keyed everything for the Blazers: offense, defense, tempo. When they didn't rebound they didn't win. It was pretty much as simple as that.
The more interesting discussion is why the Blazers were able to make these kinds of gains. The most correct answer is also the simplest: Greg Oden. Joel Przybilla averaged 0.3 rebounds more this season than last year. LaMarcus Aldridge lost 0.1. Brandon Roy remained even. Travis Outlaw lost 0.5. Channing Frye's rebounds got sawn in half though his minutes, while obviously fewer, didn't drop correspondingly. Nicolas Batum did average as many rebounds in shorter minutes as Martell Webster did the year before but that's still not enough to swing the tide. The monster difference-maker was Greg Oden and his 7 rebounds in 21.5 minutes per game. Anyone wholly disappointed with Greg's season would do well to look at the upsurge in rebounding and how much it ended up meaning to this team. He's not the sole reason, of course, but he's a big one.
Continuing on, Point Differential is the best single statistical measure of a team's overall health and you can see that the Blazers leapt to the moon here as well. A 6.3 point gain is astronomical in a league where a couple points per game on average determine victory or defeat.
Obviously the most important leap is the last one listed, the leap from 41 wins to 54. This is the third straight year the Blazers have trended significantly positive in overall wins. They jumped 11 in 2006-07, 9 more in 2007-08, and 13 this season, a 33-game turn-around in three years. This advance was also the hardest of the three by far. Going from bad to mediocre is exponentially easier than going from mediocre to good.
Going from good to a true contender is also a huge step. It will be interesting to see how and where the Blazers make improvements. It's easy to see where the weaker areas have been statistically. It's harder to figure how they're going to improve some of them without sacrificing others.
It's relatively easy to look at recent gains and say that the jump from 54 to 60 wins is next up. But the Blazers will likely find these akin to the last five yards before the end zone in football. You just gained 75 but bundled all together they don't match the intensity of this final stretch.
The questions at hand:
How important was rebounding to the Blazers this year? Do you think they can sustain their league-leading pace? To what do you attribute the improvement?
Do you see further gains coming organically from this team? If so specifically where and how? If not, what needs to be done to shake out those last few wins to put Portland in contention?
Have at it below.