This season’s top rebounders on pace for all-time mark

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The NBA has seen a lot of fantastic rebounders in its history, but never before has the the league seen so many prolific board men grace its courts at one time. Even during the all-or-nothing days, the Vanishing Point days, the Dirty Mary Crazy Larry days, the NBA typically boasted just one or a few particularly profound rebounders at a time. This year, however, the league boasts an unprecedented number of hyper-effective rebounders.

Five players* are currently grabbing more than 20% of available rebounds for their respective teams: Reggie Evans (26.4% of available rebounds), Kevin Love (24.0%), Marcus Camby (22.0%), Kris Humphries (20.8%), and Dwight Howard (20.6%). According to Basketball-Reference, prior to this year no more than three players have ever averaged a 20+ total rebounding percentage in a given season**, a mark will be shattered in ’10-’11 should those five rebounders hold their statistical ground.

Even more impressive: Andris Biedrins (19.9%) and Blake Griffin (19.8%) are but a few boards away from joining this select company, with Joakim Noah (19.2%) not far behind. These are truly the halcyon days of the rebound, a splendid time for all who worship the transition-turning power of the carom.

It’s a bit difficult, however, to pinpoint exactly why there’s such profound statistical excellence atop the rebounding leaderboards at present as opposed to past years. It’s not as if Kris Humphries is some once-in-a-generation rebounding talent, after all. We can start with pointing out the individual rebounding brilliance of each of these players juxtaposed with their respective teammates; neither Evans nor Love, Camby, Humphries, or Howard has a particularly effective rebounding counterpart. Is that due to some kind of widespread cultural change in the NBA? Are teams relying more heavily on one central rebounder to clean the boards as opposed to some previous team rebounding approach?

It’s possible, and I’m sure the very idea of previous generations doing anything as a collective makes geriatric by-the-book basketball purists foam at the mouth with excitement and affirmation. However, in the case of this particular crop, each player comes to rebounding prominence through very different circumstances. Howard’s rebounding dominance comes by design. Evans’ success is due to his teammates’ non-rebounding orientations. Humphries’ impressive number are partially caused by a teammate’s rebounding regression. If all of the league’s most successful rebounders were featured in systems like that of the Orlando Magic, we may be onto something, but as is, we can only credit such schemes as much as we can the management of David Kahn.

Perhaps the reasoning behind the trend will become more apparent over the course of the year, but for now we just have this benchmark of statistical excellence. The number of great individual rebounders is higher than ever before, almost doubling that of any season dating back to 1970. Maybe Evans, Humphries, and Biedrins aren’t thought of as being all-time great rebounders, but if they keep up their incredible production throughout the entire season, they’ll help set the collective mark for excellence on the boards.

*The only players counted for the purposes of this analysis are those that played enough minutes to qualify as statistical leaders.

**Total rebounding percentage data is only available from the 1970-1971 season onward.

LeBron James on the Finals: “I feel good about our chances. Very good.”

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If there is one team in the NBA that can knock off the Warriors in a seven-game series, it’s the Cavaliers. They are the best team in the NBA at creating mismatches and isolating them, and in Kyrie Irving and LeBron James they have two of the best isolation scorers in the game. Cleveland is strong on the boards and is capable of impressive defense. Also, they have the best player on the planet.

If nobody else is confident in the Cavaliers chances, he is.

Here is what LeBron James said his confidence level facing the Warriors in a Finals trilogy.

What else is he going to say?

And if anyone should be confident, it’s LeBron. He can change a series.

From the outside, we saw a series last year where everything needed to go right for Cleveland to win — LeBron playing the best ball of his career for the final three games, Kyrie Irving hitting big shots, Draymond Green getting suspended, Andrew Bogut getting injured, Stephen Curry being off (due to injury or fatigue or just a slump). And even then took the Cavaliers seven games and heroics at the last minute. Now the Warriors add Kevin Durant, and it’s hard not to see this ending differently.

However, LeBron James is the one guy who can alter that vision. And he’s confident he can do it, he’s done it before.

Steve Alford: LaVar Ball never meddled with UCLA Basketball

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Is LaVar Ball just a harmless loudmouth, or will he actually undermine the team that drafts his son, highly touted guard Lonzo Ball?

The Lakers, who hold the No. 2 pick, are the most likely team to find out.

President Magic Johnson said LaVar won’t affect whether they draft Lonzo, but coach Luke Walton wants the team to ask UCLA coach Steve Alford about LaVar’s involvement.

Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times did just that:

Was LaVar Ball around the team much?

“Zero,” Alford said.

Was he ever at practice?

“Never at practice,” Alford said. “Never at practice; never called me.”

Did he ever try to meddle in your coaching?

“Never,” Alford said.

LaVar has said his other sons, LiAngelo and LaMelo, will play for UCLA. So, Alford has incentive to maintain a productive working relationship with LaVar. The players’ high school coach had a much worse experience dealing with LaVar.

Alford vouching for LaVar means something, but the total picture is more complex.

Still, LaVar would hardly be the first difficult parent of an NBA player. He’s just the most public. Even if he’d try to meddle into the Lakers, they might be willing to handle that to get his talented son.

John Wall: Bench was Wizards’ ‘downfall’

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John Wall left the Wizards’ season-ending loss to the Celtics talking about how badly Washington’s bench got outscored.

Now that he has time to reflect and isn’t just speaking with raw emotion shortly after a devastating loss, how does he feel?

Wall, via CSN Mid-Atlantic

“We need to help our bench,” Wall told CSN’s Chris Miller. “Just to be honest, that was our downfall in each series that we had in the [Eastern Conference] semifinals, our bench got out played.”

It starts from upstairs – just building the right bench guys and building the chemistry. That’s all it is.

I think that’s where they won the game at. I heard Marcus Smart say after the game that I had no legs. He’s basically right. I don’t make excuses. I’m going to play. If I miss shots or make shots, I’ll live with it. I know people will say he finished oh for 11, but I play – I took everything I had in me to keep fighting.

It’s just that their bench guys came in and played well. I think Kelly Oubre could’ve played a little bit more. I wish he would’ve played a little more than Jason. But coach makes the decision, and we stick behind him 100 percent. I feel like those two guys could have really helped us.

Wall – eligible for a designated-veteran-player extension but reportedly unsure about signing one – is clearly telling the Wizards what he wants. Marcin Gortat similarly criticized Washington’s bench earlier in the season, and he apologized. Wall has the leverage not to stand by his assessment.

Both Wall and Gortat were right. The Wizards’ bench was the source of much of their problems.

Washington’s starting lineup outscored opponents by 4.7 points per 100 possessions in the playoffs. Its bench (all other lineups) got outscored 15.5 points per 100 possessions.

Only the Thunder had a similar split in net rating:

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The Wizards knew their flaw and tried to hide it. Washington’s starters played 34.2 minutes per game together in the postseason – second only to the Pacers (34.5). Wall’s heavy workload contributed to him running out of gas late in Game 7 against Boston, which Marcus Smart noted.

What can the Wizards do to upgrade their bench? Spend.

They sound committed to keeping Otto Porter, a restricted free agent this summer. But that would push them near the luxury tax – so they could scrimp on the bench in a variety of ways:

  • Don’t re-sign Bojan Bogdanovic, another restricted free agent. He’s in line for a raise.
  • Trade Marcin Gortat, elevating Ian Mahinmi into the starting lineup and therefore weakening the bench.
  • Trade Jason Smith, who might be expendable at his salary (especially given Wall’s comments about not wanting him to play as much) but at least still provides depth.
  • Don’t use the mid-level exception. That’s Washington’s best mechanism for adding outside help, but it’d be costly.

Will the Wizards take any of those cost-saving measures? Wall is certainly watching.

Don’t like the wait for this year’s Finals? Here’s the top 10 plays from the last two (VIDEO)

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Que the Tom Petty

Nobody is enjoying the week-long break between the end of the Eastern Conference Finals and the start of the NBA Finals (except maybe a few of the older Cavaliers players trying to get healthy). For those of us basketball junkies, we just want to get on to the two best teams in the league battling it out.We need a fix.

Here’s the best we can do today: The top 10 plays from the last two NBA Finals, the last two Cavaliers/Warriors showdowns. Courtesy the folks at NBA.com. There’s plenty of LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and a big shot by Kyrie Irving made the list. Enjoy. And just try to be patient.