AT&T CENTER – Last season, with a healthy Dejounte Murray and the San Antonio Spurs playing big for most of the season with a traditional double big lineup featuring LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol, offensive rebounding was an area of strength for the Spurs’ offense.
San Antonio collected 26.6% of their misses a season ago, ranking them eighth in offensive rebounding percentage according to CleaningTheGlass.com. Today, with Murray injured for the entire season and with Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich playing smaller with more lineups of Aldridge at the 5 and Gasol as his backup, offensive rebounding on the surface seems like a weakness for the team, as they’re only collecting 24.7% of their misses, ranking them 22nd in the NBA.
While the team isn’t grabbing extra possessions at an elite level, there is one player who is helping in that department, and it’s Aldridge. Aldridge is collecting 11.4% of his teams misses, placing him in the 82nd percentile among bigs. If he maintains this offensive rebounding for the whole season, it’ll be a new career high for him. With Aldridge being the lone traditional big on the floor in most lineups, he’s been able to become a sort of safety net for his teammates who take long twos or 3-pointers. If Aldridge isn’t one of the primary options in a play like a post-up or pick-and-pop shot, he can hover near the rim or go crashing toward the glass when one of his teammates takes a shot. This allows him to get position and grab the offensive rebound, which in turn could lead to a put-back near the rim, the chance to get fouled by the defense, or the opportunity to create a new possession with a kick out up top.
The numbers reflect what’s happening, as 5% of the fouls Aldridge has been fouled on have been floor fouls, placing him in the 96th percentile among bigs. Within four feet of the rim, he’s knocking down 68% of his shots, which isn’t as accurate as he was last season, but, still, shots near the rim are better than those further away. Even when it comes to grabbing offensive boards on his teammates missed free throws, Aldridge is collecting 8.3% of those rebounds, placing him in the 82nd percentile among bigs, which would be a career best for a season.
With DeMar DeRozan being the Spurs’ new closer who usually looks to either run a spread pick-and-roll attack or go 1-on-1 against his defender in crunch time, he knows that in the event he doesn’t make the last shot, he has Aldridge near the rim to still give the Spurs a Plan B in the event Plan A doesn’t work.
“It’s big,” said DeRozan of Aldridge’s offensive rebounding. “There’s some other games where I’ll take the last shot. I know that if I miss he’s going to get that offensive rebound and get a hand on it, keep the ball alive. Especially late in games, he’s extremely big for us, he goes out there and battles extremely hard on both ends on the boards, he comes up big for us.”
Through nine games, while the Spurs as a whole aren’t dominating the offensive glass, they do have an option near the rim in Aldridge, especially when a game goes down to the wire.
Statistics used were from CleaningTheGlass.com prior to the Spurs’ Sunday loss to the Magic.