Dallas’ 2014-15 season ultimately ended, in large part, because the Mavericks simply couldn’t keep anyone off the board.
The team ranked 30th in opponent’s offensive rebounds allowed per game, 26th in opponent’s defensive rebounds allowed per game and 29th in opponent’s total rebounds allowed per game. Those numbers do not a championship run make.
After a tumultuous offseason, casual Mavs’ fans might see reason to panic that Dallas could possibly be even worse on the glass this year. However, the new acquisitions, both in the frontcourt and backcourt might not prove so disastrous ... after examining the numbers.
Dallas fans aren’t questioning new guards Wesley Matthews’ or Deron Williams’ offensive capabilities nor should they. Both are far better 3-pt shooters than the pieces they are replacing (Matthews is a career 39% sniper and Williams sports a 36% mark) and are more than serviceable defenders. The question lies more in whether or not they can help on the boards. For all of Rajon Rondo’s glaring offensive deficiencies last year, he ranked third in TRB (total rebounding percentage) among guards at 10.1 and that’s something Dallas sorely needs to compete in the ultra-deep West.
Matthews is not a small guard by NBA standards. At 6’5 and 220 pounds, he’s more than capable of and, in fact, has earned the reputation of a scrappy on-ball defender. He can become vulnerable when running through a gauntlet of screens, but Ellis was in trouble even before those points in games last season. Dallas will take its chances.
Per Basketball-reference.com, Matthews has held his own as a solid rebounding guard in his career. His TRB last season was a 5.9, a mark that ranked 26th in the league among guards. His new frontcourt counterpart ranked four spots higher with a 6.3.
Williams also had an 11.0 defensive rebounding percentage ranking which ranked 19th among guards in the league last year, but ranked 34th among guards in offensive rebounding percentage at 1.5. Given Williams’ state last year and his career-low numbers across the board, one could be tempted to write this off as an aberration. A look back at his career numbers doesn’t exactly bear that out, however.
Williams’ career average ORB is 1.5, identical to his number last year. As far as defensive rebounding percentage is concerned, his best statistical year was in 2010-11 (12.5) before dropping to 8.9 three years later. He finished 15th in defensive rebounds among point guards last year (208). Rondo finished sixth with 300. Dallas will need more to replace that production.
This paints a somewhat-palatable picture for the Mavs going forward; however, it also raises cause for concern. Dallas figures to shoot more 3s this season than maybe ever which will present more offensive rebounding opportunities on misses. Coach Rick Carlisle has put a premium on rebounding, moreso since the departure of Tyson Chandler and with the arrival of his in-part replacement Zaza Pachulia (who we’ll get to in a second). With the Mavs likely to initiate a fast pace from the outset, Williams and Matthews will have to get creative in their rebounding ways or others will have to step up down low.
Another Maverick weapon who will need to pick up the slack is Chandler Parsons. Parsons’ rebounding numbers dipped greatly in his first season in Dallas, going from 340 defensive boards in 2013-14 with Houston to just 259 last year, a mark that landed him 20th among small forwards.
He also had a career-low 64 offensive boards last year and his total count of 323 ranked 22nd in the small forward category. Parsons has the physical tools to be an effective rebounder and being the offensive focal point may allow for more opportunities this year, or it may put more focus on Nowitzki and whatever member of Dallas’ center-by-committee is roaming the paint. Suffice it to say Dallas needs a career year from Parsons in literally all categories to be successful this season.
Pachulia’s name alone doesn’t exactly give Dallas fans any immediate comfort. In fact, in comparison to the beloved TY, it does the opposite ... but that’s not fair to his abilities down low. Zaza’s coming off his third-best defensive rebounding season (303 boards, 19.9 DRB) and also his third-best on the offensive glass (197 rebounds, 13.1 ORB). He ranked 20th in the entire league in offensive boards and 16th in the center category. His only weakness is a lack of verticality, something the Mavs are hoping to offset with none other than …
… JaVale McGee who, when focused, has shown the ability to be a vacuum. Not a "savior'' ... but a "vacuum.''
JaVale's career ORB is 11.5 and he’s posted a 23.3 DRB in 2011-12 and a 22.2 in 2010-11. It’s also worth noting in the latter season, he piled up 411 total boards with 223 of those on the offensive end.
Dallas also has Samuel Dalembert to absorb minutes in the middle and he proved his worth two seasons ago in the series against San Antonio. A plethora of athletic (and raw) wing players like Maurice NDour and Jeremy Evans also have the ability to glass-cleaning pogo sticks, something the Mavericks will sorely need.
Entering the summer, it couldn’t get much worse for Dallas as it pertains to rebounding. The defection of DeAndre Jordan (and the dark days that followed) erased a glimmer a hope for the Mavericks to elevate up the ranks, but Dallas’ cupboard isn’t as bare as you might think.
At the very least, it’s another opportunity for Carlisle to work his magic. ... and for the newcomers to work the boards.