Erasing a miss

Just how big of a problem is offensive rebounding for Duke heading into the Midwest Regional rounds? TDD's Shawn Krest examines.

As Duke prepares to face Michigan State in the Sweet 16, the Blue Devils players and coaches seem concerned about offensive rebounding.

"Whenever they go on the court, they're the best offensive rebounding team on the court," coach Mike Krzyzewski said.

Michigan State has averaged 11.8 offensive boards per game this season, which is nearly two more than their opponents and two and a half more than Duke. The Spartans grab nearly 37% of their own missed shots, compared to 29% for Duke.

?Just how significant an advantage is that for Michigan State? To answer that, a more basic question needs to be addressed: Just how important is an offensive rebound?

?Coach K has spoken several times this season about the importance of defensive rebounds. Especially when PG Quinn Cook is able to hit the defensive boards, it keys the Duke transition attack. So, clearly, offensive rebounds will slow down an opponent's ability to run.

?Aside from that, the real benefit of an offensive rebound is that it erases a missed shot. High offensive rebounding numbers are usually associated with poor shooting. When Ryan Kelly lit up Miami, for instance, Duke only had four offensive boards for the game, mainly because they shot 52%. And, for the season, Duke shot .477, which was 16 points higher than Michigan State.

Because offensive boards are clearly dependent on a team's shooting, it's beneficial to restate a team's shooting percentage by backing them out. For example, everyone's seen a possession where one team seemingly gets to shoot until they make it, tapping the ball back up until it finally goes in. On a sequence like that, a team might pull down 4 offensive rebounds and shoot 1 of 5.

And what does it mean? Simply that the team made a shot. The four boards simply cancelled out the four misses, and neither team is any better or worse off than if the first shot had fallen.

Similarly, a team on a break might take a three-pointer, knowing that they have two other players already in position to get the board. They're willing to take a riskier shot, with the knowledge that they stand a good chance of getting the ball back. It's like a quarterback seeing the offsides flag thrown as the ball is snapped. Free play. The offensive rebound will cancel out the miss.

So let's assume that an offensive rebound takes away a miss. Duke made 921 shots and missed 1011 this year. But if we take their 321 offensive boards into account, they really only missed 790 (which is 1011 minus 321). So their .477 shooting percentage is really .572.

Duke opponents shot .413, but if we correct for offensive rebounds, that becomes .519. In both cases, the Blue Devils outshot opponents by just over 60 points.

Now let's do the same thing for Michigan State: The Spartans shot .461, but if we take their offensive rebounds into account, that becomes .591. Instead of outshooting Michigan State by 16 points, Duke is actually 19 points worse. And, corrected for rebounds, Michigan State outshot their opponents by 114 points, or nearly double Duke's advantage over their foes.

Here's a look at what percentage of each Blue Devil player's misses were erased by offensive rebounds.

Player Pct. of misses
Offensively Rebounded
Quinn Cook 34.7%
Josh Hairston 34.1
Mason Plumlee 32.6
Amile Jefferson 32.5
Tyler Thornton 32.2
Ryan Kelly 31.1
Seth Curry 30.7
Rasheed Sulaimon 30.1

Cook benefitted from Duke's big men cleaning up his misses on drives to the basket. In fact, Mason Plumlee rebounded more than one out of every three Cook misses. Here are the Duke players that helped teammates most.

Shooter Rebounder No. of Rebounds
Cook Plumlee 25
Plumlee himself 19
Sulaimon Plumlee 15
Kelly Plumlee 12
Curry Jefferson 10
Kelly himself 10
Curry Plumlee 10

Curry was third on the team in rebounding his own misses, following his shot to get 7 offensive rebounds, which is even more remarkable, considering he only had 18 offensive boards for the season. And 8 of Cook's 18 offensive rebounds were on Curry misses as well.

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