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.

DeMar DeRozan: Talk of Raptors’ changes overblown

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Raptors president Masai Ujiri called for a “culture reset,” alluding to an offense less reliant on Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan isolations.

DeMarre Carroll, traded from Toronto to the Nets, doubts the Raptors will change much.

Know who agrees with him? DeRozan.

DeRozan, via Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun:

“I think the media kind of blow it out of proportion like it’s going to be something dramatic, like a complete dramatic 180-degree change,” DeRozan said, who was back in Toronto helping out with the Raptors’ Basketball Academy at Humber College on Monday. “It’s not that at all. It’s just moreso locking in and understanding what it takes to win from every single position. Everyone just know from our failures, guys stepping up and being better leaders, not just me and Kyle but everybody. I think once we lock in and everyone holds themselves accountable, everything else will come around perfect. That’s all it is.”

DeRozan didn’t disagree when it was suggested more ball movement might be demanded this season, but he did say the anticipated level of change by many outside the team is completely out of whack with the reality. The offence is still going to run through himself and Kyle Lowry.

This is shaping up to be a problem. Ujiri made this grand proclamation then brought back the same core – Lowry, DeRozan and coach Dwane Casey. This was the danger, that they were too comfortable with the status quo.

We’ll see how it actually plays out. DeRozan has a strong track record of improvement, and the Raptors might be forcing him to see the game differently by playing him at point guard.

But there at least appears to be a disconnect somewhere between the front office and players.

Rumor: Cavaliers trying to dump salary in Kyrie Irving trade

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The Cavaliers are reportedly prioritizing youth in a Kyrie Irving trade.

Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders:

Another stated goal is to dump off some salary and reduce the luxury tax bill.

The Cavs – who reportedly lost more than $40 million last season – are on track to become the first team in NBA history to pay the luxury-tax repeater rate. They’ve led the league in payroll, racking up big luxury-tax bills, the last two seasons. They even pulled the rare feat of carving out max cap space (used on LeBron James) then getting about the luxury-tax line in the same season three years ago, finishing second to the Nets in spending that season.

Cleveland now faces a luxury-tax bill north of $78 million – which would eclipse its 2015-16 mark ($54 million) as the second highest tax payment ever, trailing just 2013-14 Brooklyn (nearly $91 million).

Most teams would never spend as much as the Cavaliers have the previous three seasons. Most teams would never approach Cleveland’s costs this year, which include $142 million in player salaries.

But most teams don’t have LeBron.

Remember, the Heat cutting corners on spending contributed to LeBron leaving Miami. And Cavs owner Dan Gilbert reportedly promised to spend unconditionally when LeBron returned to Cleveland in 2014.

Is cutting costs the message the Cavaliers want to send as LeBron enters a contract year?

If so, they have a few candidates for shedding:

  • Tristan Thompson – three years, $52,408,695 remaining
  • J.R. Smith – three years, $44,160,000 remaining (just $3.87 million of $15.68 million guaranteed final year)
  • Iman Shumpert – two years, $21,348,313 remaining
  • Channing Frye – one year, $7,420,912 remaining

All those players, roughly in order of salary, contribute to winning.

The Cavs should have little trouble unloading those contracts in an Irving trade. He’s so valuable, teams will incur a lopsided financial deal to get him. They’ll just send Cleveland less talent to compensate.

It’s the classic dilemma – money vs. on-court success. Teams evaluate this tradeoff every day.

For the Cavaliers, there’s just the additional pressure of LeBron’s looming free agency.

Just a reminder, Russell Westbrook has a max extension sitting out there

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Russell Westbrook is entering the final year of his contract, he can be a free agent in the summer of 2018.

On July 1 the Oklahoma City Thunder offered Westbrook a designated player “super max” contract extension of an expected $200 million, which would kick in after this coming season. It’s a massive offer that would lock Westbrook into the Thunder through his prime.

He has yet to sign it.

He may not sign it, he doesn’t lose much waiting it out. However, the Thunder remain optimistic he will sign, according to Fred Katz at the Norman Transcript.

The deadline for him to sign is the day before the regular season begins, Oct. 16.

 No other team could offer the same deal if Westbrook were to hit free agency. He could still receive a contract that starts at 35 percent of the cap if he chooses to become a free agent next summer but would receive only five percent raises per season and could sign for up to only four years.

Yet, the reigning MVP has made the Thunder wait almost a month, already. And it could end up being longer — maybe forever, though the organization remains cautiously optimistic about the prospects of Westbrook signing for the long term before the start of the season.

Why Westbrook should wait is that this contract doesn’t make him that much more money than simply waiting the season out, then studying his options next summer and signing a max deal next summer.

The Thunder can offer Westbrook 35 percent of the cap right now thanks to the new designated player provision (that deal would start at just under $35 million a year),  however, after this season Westbrook will have been in the NBA 10 years, which means every team can offer him that  same annual salary starting next summer. What OKC can offer are slightly larger raises and one more guaranteed year. That year is nice if Westbrook doesn’t think he can get maxed out in five years, but he likely can. So the real advantage is the larger raises, and that has not been enough to sway guys in the past because it’s not that much money.

Westbrook and Paul George should make the Thunder very interesting next season — this will be an elite defensive team trying to figure out the offense. If they do, this team becomes dangerous, but that is still a big “if.”

If Westbrook and George lift OKC deeper in the playoffs than expected, both could choose to stay in OKC. If, however, this doesn’t work out as planned, Westbrook has more options if he doesn’t sign the deal yet — he and George, also a free agent next summer, could leave together or go their separate ways. Also, not signing the keeps pressure on the Thunder ownership to keep spending and moving to make the team better now, rather than cut corners and save money.

Westbrook can make the Thunder feel good and sign this deal, but if he wants you can’t blame him.

Important news: Nick Young has gotten over his fear of dolphins

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Where NBA players really make improvements is over the summer. They can get in better shape, work on their jumper, improve their handles…

Or get over their fear of dolphins.

Which is what the new Wizards guard did this summer. Remember these tweets from Young’s then fiancée a couple of years ago?

He’s gotten past that fear.

I gave these dolphins another chance we cool now

A post shared by Nick Young (@swaggyp1) on

Next, just needs to pick up a right with Golden State and show that to the Dolphins — they respect titles.