LA Clippers: How to address terrible rebounding start to season

Ivica Zubac Paul George (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Ivica Zubac Paul George (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /

To rebound from a slow start to the season, the LA Clippers are going to have to, well, rebound.

Suffering losses to the Golden State Warriors and Memphis Grizzlies, the Clippers sit at 29th in the league in total rebounds per game heading into their third game on Monday. The 41.5 rebounds per game the Clippers are pulling down are better than only the San Antonio Spurs and their guard-heavy rotation that’s pulling down just 40 boards per. While it’s obviously too early to take much stock into statistics like this, it’s also important to catch what could be a growing problem before it becomes ongoing.

The Clippers gave up a staggering 53 boards to the Warriors in the season opener for a difference of -14 and then lost the rebound battle to the Grizzlies 48-44 in game two. Given that they’re already short-handed, these kinds of numbers need to be few and far between if they want to be successful this season.

The biggest factors for the slow rebounding start are team defense and roster availability. The Clippers allowed their first two opponents to shoot an average of 49.1% percent from the field, which ranks them dead last in the NBA. Obviously, it’s going to be hard getting defensive rebounds when the other team is making half of their shots.

Secondly, the absence of some skilled rebounders is undoubtedly affecting the team’s boarding. The roster is already fairly small, so not having Serge Ibaka, who was second on the team in rebounds per game last year (6.7), has a big impact. Kawhi Leonard’s 6.5 rebounds per game (4th on the team last season) is also missed as he continues to rehab his knee for a hopeful return.

What can the LA Clippers do to remedy their rebounding struggles?

Unfortunately, the Clippers probably aren’t going to make big strides in the rebounding department until they get Ibaka and Leonard back. Still, there are plenty of things they can do to at least make their deficiency not as bad.

For one, the team needs to commit to rebounding as a collective unit, as they did when four different players averaged 6.5 or more rebounds last season. Beyond that, they need to show better hustle in getting into position under the hoop when a shot is launched.

Here, Marcus Morris sees Stephen Curry’s shot go up and doesn’t react quick enough to get himself between Kevon Looney and the rim. The result? Two offensive boards and two points.

Of course, allowing such a high percentage from the field will also lead to rebounding disparities, so doing a better job contesting shots should allow for more chances to come down with boards.

While some guys are overperforming on the boards (Terance Mann, 8.0 per game), others like Morris (one board in 55 minutes) and Ivica Zubac (5.5 per game) must have better rebounding performances going forward. As the sample size increases, all of these things should regress closer to the mean, though.

Isaiah Hartenstein will be an X-Factor to watch if the Clippers continue to be dominated on the glass in the next few games. While he’s not as talented as those ahead of him on the roster, one thing he’s always been able to do well is rebound.

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Overall, the Clippers should naturally improve on the glass over time and the returns of some important players will help that as well. But as they look to rack up some early wins, they’ll need to have more of a concerted effort on missed shots.