Philadelphia 76ers Not Delivering Rebounds, Especially At Offensive Boards

The Philadelphia 76ers have plenty of size on the team. But for now, the height has not delivered rebounds.

The Philadelphia 76ers are a young but tall team. In fact, in comparison, the team is the fourth tallest team in the NBA this year. So it falls to reason that the team should be pulling down rebounds among the top ten teams in the league?

If you follow that logic, you’d be wrong.

The reality of the matter is that the Philadelphia 76ers are in the bottom ten teams in the league, number 24 to be exact.  Even more surprising, the same young and tall team is dead last in the NBA on offensive rebounds at 5.8 per game. That number is well over one less then the next team, the Portland Trailblazers, at 7.0.

The fact of the matter is that this is huge surprise.  Sort of.

The 2015-2016 season ended with the Philadelphia 76ers dead last in the NBA in wins, and dead last in rebounds.  It was a straightforward conclusion that the team needed to improve on the boards.  In fact, we analyzed rebounds as a possible cause for the team’s struggles, and anticipated that the team would be markedly improved in the statistic this year.

What went wrong?

Nov 5, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers forward Dario Saric (9) reaches for a loose ball against the Cleveland Cavaliers during the second quarter at Wells Fargo Center. The Cleveland Cavaliers won 102-101. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Rookies To The Rescue?

When the team brought Dario Saric, Joel Embiid, and Ben Simmons to the team, the hope was that this trio of rookies could help pull down the ball and get the team somewhere near an average NBA team’s share of rebounds.

Instead, the team has not seen much from last year’s rebound leaders. Nerlens Noel has yet to step onto the basketball court this year. Jahlil Okafor has been very limited so far with playable minutes.  Robert Covington, in the midst of a scoring slump, has been far less effective with rebounds this season as well.  And Jerami Grant, who came in off the bench to spark defensive play, has been dealt.

But we have those rookies? Not quite. At least, not yet.

On top of the struggles from returning players, the team has yet to see any impact from Ben Simmons.  Even Joel Embiid has been limited in his playing time.

Without Simmons, the team has been forced to rely upon the traditional point guard, currently Sergio Rodriguez.  Without a healthy Nerlens Noel, the team has noone coming off the bench who excels at the boards.  With minutes restrictions on both Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid, rebounds are currently only a fraction of the pairs true presence.

Oct 26, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Jahlil Okafor (8) and guard Sergio Rodriguez (14) talk during a break in the action against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Wells Fargo Center. The Oklahoma City Thunder won 103-97. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Something Worth Looking Into

Of course it goes without saying that this is a very young team with plenty to fix/develop all around. But rebounding is a skillset that can improve dramatically by good coaching.  A team that can win on the boards wins games.

Effective rebounding can help the team in many ways.  It improves a team’s defense by limiting the number of shooting opportunities of the opponent. Conversely, it bolsters a team’s offense by adding to the number of scoring opportunities.  It is the ignition to the fast break.

Rebounding is the duct tape solution to an ailing NBA team. A team that wins the boards has a much easier path.

To the fast break point?  The Philadelphia 76ers have been averaging 10.6 fast break points (courtesy of NBA.com/stats).  Meanwhile, their opponents have been averaging 23.0 fast break points per game.

Nothing is as simple as waving a wand, or saying you will do something, and it magically happens.  If the team prioritizes rebounds, it will take some time to move the needle.  The team cannot passively hope that players returning to health will fix this.

It won’t.

If the team is truly emphasizing defense, rebound drills had better be an integral part of that emphasis.  With rebounds on the upswing, the team will have a better presence in both offense and defense.

The Philadelphia 76ers can no longer rationalize losses on the basketball court as victory on draft night. The team must pull together and become fundamentally sound as it develops and adapts. With the team scoring at the bottom rung of the NBA ladder, the team must be tenacious in improving it’s scoring opportunities.

After all, it’s what Sam Hinkie would do.

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