The Wizards' Struggles with Rebounding, Turnovers and Free-Throws | Wizards Blog Truth About

The Wizards’ Struggles with Rebounding, Turnovers and Free-Throws

Updated: November 14, 2010

[Yi Jianlian procures an easy defensive rebound against the Charlotte Bobcats – K. Weidie]

It’s simplistic to look at average team rebounds per game and say the Washington Wizards are the worst in the NBA, but it wouldn’t represent the full story.

The Wizards average a league-low 38 rebounds per game. On the defensive boards they average 27.25, which ranks 28 out of 30; and on the offensive boards they average 10.75, which is tied with the San Antonio Spurs to rank 20 out of 30 NBA teams.

But as you know, rebounds are not soley a factor of the time it takes to play a game. They are also a factor of pace (how fast a team plays and thus how many possessions they are producing, the more possessions, the more available boards), and field-goal percentage (the more missed shots, the more rebounds).

This is where an advanced stat called Rebounding Percentage comes in, which is essentially an estimate of the percentage of available rebounds that a team or individual player grabs. This can be broken into Total Rebound Percentage (TRB%), Offensive Rebounding Percentage (ORB%) and Defensive Rebounding Percentage (DRB%).

Using the statistical prowess of Basketball-Reference, we’re able to see that the Wizards are ranked 22nd in DRB% with .715; Orlando ranks first in the league with .811 and Phoenix ranks 30th with .648. The league average DRB% is .730.

So, as far as securing those defensive boards, the Wizards are far from the worst, but it’s worth noting that Washington allows teams to shoot .479 against them, which is fourth highest in the league. So, theoretically, there aren’t as many defensive boards to secure when the Wizards defend.

In terms of ORB%, the Wizards rank 21st with .253. The Raptors secure the most available offensive rebounds with a percentage of .329 and the New Orleans Hornets secure the least with .131. The league average ORB% is .270.

Again, note that the Wizards shoot .444 from the field on the year, ranked 24th in the NBA; league average is .455. So, they are a below average shooting team that creates a fair amount of offensive rebounds, but are also a below average team at procuring what’s available.

On Friday, the Charlotte Bobcats (tied for 13th in DRB% with .733, and ranked 10th in ORB% with .277) obliterated the Wizards on the glass, holding a 48 to 30 advantage (16 to 13 on the offensive end, 32 to 17 on the defensive end). This spawned the following comments from Kirk Hinrich, Yi Jianlian and Andray Blatche:

Flip Saunders had these select quotes after the Charlotte game:

“Got our ass kicked on the glass. Either our guys in there gotta rebound or we’re going to get different people in there.”

“JaVale has five highlight plays a game, unfortunately there’s about 200 plays in a game and he’s gotta get more substance than style. In their breakdown, he was involved in a lot of those. You can’t come out of a timeout and not know as far as what you’re doing. It puts too much pressure on your other players. That’s the situation with young players, they lose concentration in the heat of the battle. So those are the things he has to do.”

“You don’t reward people who make mistakes. I’m just not going to do that. Because if you do that, then young players won’t get better. They’re going to think that if you accept mediocrity, then the best you’re going to become is mediocre. And we’re not going to accept mediocrity.”

“If we can become better rebounders, continue to get turnovers, we’re going to get than many more possessions in a game.”

“We’re not going to go with a major shakeup, but we’re going to give guys opportunities, whether it’s Book [Trevor Booker], or we used Hilton [Armstrong] some tonight, but we’ve got to rebound the ball.”

Going into Saturday night’s game against the Bulls in Chicago, this Tweet from McGee, seemingly the largest target of his coach’s scorn, was perhaps the most encouraging sign:

And the Wizards, against a decent rebounding Chicago team (ranked eighth in DRB% with .747 and tied for 11th in ORB% with .276), went out and did their job on the glass, out-rebounding the Bulls 47 to 40 (17 to 12 offensive, 30 to 28 defensive). Of course, the caveat: the stars were Hilton Armstrong’s 10 rebounds (four offensive) in 18 minutes off the bench, and Gilbert Arenas’ six boards in 32 minutes.

McGee grabbed five boards in 20 minutes of action, Yi Jianlian had two rebounds in just 13 minutes before hurting his knee, and Andray Blatche, seemingly experiencing some knee discomfort himself, pulled down seven boards in 27 minutes.

But as you know, the Wizards lost to the Bulls 103-96, and the story this time wasn’t rebounding, clearly … it was the turnovers and the free-throws, two other huge issues plaguing this young team.

Washington’s offensive turnover percentage (TOV% – an estimate of turnovers per 100 plays) ranks second highest in the league at .167. That being said, the Wizards do a good job of causing other teams to turn the ball over; their defensive TOV% also ranks second highest in the league at .167.

As you’ve likely deduced, the Wizards give the ball away (147 times on the year), as much as they take the ball away (147 opponent turnovers).

However, something should be said about the points a team is able to create off turnovers. The Wizards have been able to create 167 points off 147 opponent turnovers; opponents have only been able to produce 146 points off 147 Wizards turnovers. This is why the other night Flip Saunders spoke of “good turnovers” (traveling, out of bounds, etc.) that do not give the other team the immediate opportunity to score in transition.

Washington turned the ball over 23 times against the Bulls, leading to 18 Chicago points. The Bulls had 15 team turnovers that led to 17 Wizards points. So a relatively negligible effect on the score, but remember this previously mentioned quote from Saunders:

“If we can become better rebounders, continue to get turnovers, we’re going to get than many more possessions in a game.”

The Wizards are still limiting their chances to seize opportunity. But perhaps the easiest chances come at the free-throw line.

Washington is among the worst in the NBA in free-throws per field-goal attempt, ranking 28 out of 30 with a percentage of .202.

Chicago got to the line 34 times on Saturday night and sank 26 of them.

Washington got to the charity stripe eight times, EIGHT TIMES AS A TEAM!, and made only four.

In’s database, there have only been 10 games in franchise history (since the 1986-87 season) where the Wizards/Bullets have attempted eight or fewer free-throws in a game, the last time coming on February 3, 2010 in a 107-85 loss to the New York Knicks.

We knew this young team led by a rookie point guard would struggle with turnovers. We had a feeling that the thin front line would be inadequate. And the free-throw issue? I guess you can chalk that up to the messy side-effects of a rebuilding team too.

Almost 10-percent of the season is over. At this continued rate, the Wizards will win just over 20 games. This is attributed to much more than these select stats, but these key measurable areas and how the team improves in them will be carefully monitored going forward.

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Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.