The Boston Celtics have a bigs problem: they can't rebound
If you haven't deduced this by now, let this be a huge reality check: the Boston Celtics, as currently constructed, are a horrific rebounding team. Having trouble letting that sink in? Here's where the C's currently rank in boards and points per game allowed: 30th and 28th respectively. Oh, and this happened last night:
The Celtics are so bad at rebounding, they can’t keep Bradley Beal off the glass, even when he’s sitting down. pic.twitter.com/qgV8J0mwNy— Tom Westerholm (@Tom_NBA) November 10, 2016
Last night, Celtics bigs Johnson and Zeller combined for five rebounds. In a career night, forward Otto Porter had 14 boards to go along with 34 points.
Over the last 2 games, the Celtics' starting frontcourt has a TOTAL of 15 rebounds. That's 2.5 per player per game.— CelticsLife.com (@CelticsLife) November 10, 2016
Now, some will say that all of these things are a symptom of the C's not having a fully healthy team. Others will say that once Al Horford and Jae Crowder are back things should stabilize a little bit. But with Crowder out for at least another week or two and Horford's status growing increasingly bleak and a little mysterious, Boston cannot afford to play 'wait and see' in the hopes that two players will end their rebounding horrors. For now, they can only worry about the players that they do have available but unfortunately those players are just not producing.
Throughout their careers, Tyler Zeller and Amir Johnson have averaged 4.9 and 3.9 rebounds per game respectively. Combined the two have had a single double-digit rebounding game this season. To put that into perspective, fellow Celtic Avery Bradley has had three such games.
Before the season began, Amir Johnson was asked how the C's would improve their top-5 defense, via ESPN's Chris Forsberg:
"Rebounding is definitely a key that we need to focus on," Johnson said. "It just needs to be a team effort on the glass. Once we get that down pat, we will definitely be an elite defensive team."
Right now, it seems like the issue is the fact that rebounding is a team effort. If you have a team full of average rebounders your results will be about the same. Can't rebound? Your opponent will do just that and create more shot opportunities for themselves. Put that all together and you have a bad, porous defense. Not exactly what Amir had in mind.
Unfortunately, it may be time to consider the harsh reality that neither of these bigs will be solutions long term. They have been exposed time and time again this season. Going forward, if these problems continue, or get worse, Celtics general manager Danny Ainge is going to have to consider some sort of trade by the deadline. But shipping out bigs that don't rebound well will be very difficult.
Sure, the Celtics losses aren't the fault of Zeller and Johnson alone but rebounding is crucial in basketball and if you can't do that effectively, winning is going to be that much more difficult.
For the time being, there's a huge cloud of uncertainty hanging over Boston. Will coach Brad Stevens find a secret rebounding formula? Can Terry Rozier start to grab boards like Russell Westbrook? Will Tyler Zeller be possessed by Tristan Thompson and become a beast on the boards? Who knows. One thing is certain, however: Boston's "rebounding by committee" strategy is simply not working and needs to be fixed.
Photo credit: Dennis Wierzbicki/USA Today Sports
Bottom photo: NBA.com
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