We’ve discussed Boston’s apparent aversion to offensive rebounds before, but one Celtic has been productive on the offensive boards, and I’m guessing you don’t need me to tell you who that person is.
In last night’s big win over the Pacers, Jared Sullinger grabbed four offensive rebounds. He got a putback layup after one of them, missed a tip-shot that Courtney Lee recovered and converted, got fouled (and converted one free throw), and may or may not have had the ball knocked out of his hands and called off of him. Three out of the four rebounds turned out to be productive for the Celtics.
Watching Boston’s offense, it’s pretty clear that Doc doesn’t place a very hefty emphasis on offensive rebounding, for better or worse. When a shot goes up, the Celtics are usually jogging back to play defense before the ball hits the rim. But whether or not Doc encourages crashing the boards, Sullinger has proven to be very effective at it. 18.5% of Sullinger’s offensive attempts come off of offensive rebounds, and he is averaging 1.35 PPP in those opportunities, good for 5th in the NBA.
He grabs a pretty fair amount of them as well. According to Basketball-Reference, Sullinger comes up with 12.4% of all available offensive rebounds, which is good for 21st among players averaging more than 15 minutes per game. It’s also, incidentally, better than noted rebounders like Kevin Love and Dwight Howard (PLEASE NOTE: I’M NOT SAYING SULLINGER IS BETTER THAN LOVE AND HOWARD. THANK YOU).
But Sullinger is neither big (for a rebounder), nor athletic in the traditional sense. So how is he getting these rebounds?
The easy answer is Sullinger’s motor. He is a tireless worker and when he sees a potential rebound, he goes after it with tenacity. But he is also getting very good at recognizing when the Celtics’ shooters are about to take a shot and positioning himself accordingly. Take a look at this sequence from last night’s game.
It’s apparent that Sullinger is a hard worker. He goes after this rebound several times, tipping it into the air and keeping it alive. But well before the rebound becomes available, he is already positioning himself to grab it. As Garnett is passing to the corner to Bradley, Sullinger is out near the free throw line. But he recognizes that Pierce is open and will probably be attempting a triple shortly, so he moves to the baseline where he encounters two post players, Tyler Hansbrough and David West. First, he bumps Hansbrough slightly to ensure that the aggressive forward stays out of the play.
After bumping Hansbrough, he recognizes that David West is the real threat on this rebound, and he bends down and uses his considerable bulk and lower body strength to push West, who is also VERY strong, out of rebounding position.
Then, as you can see from the video, he jumps into the air multiple times, tipping the ball to himself. Anyone who has ever done a jumping workout (hell, anyone who has done Plyometrics from P90X) will tell you that jumping that many times is exhausting, especially in the middle of a basketball game. But Sullinger continues working, and the Celtics get a basket as a result.
Boston will probably never lead the league in offensive rebounds, even with Jared Sullinger. But given Sullinger’s efficiency when he is able to corral a teammate’s miss, it would certainly be good if the Celtics allowed him to play to one of his strengths and unleashed him on the offensive boards as often as possible.
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