Tom Haberstroh: Who's to blame for Miami's rebound woes?
It seems the Heat have a rebounding problem.
The defending champs rank in the bottom 10 overall in rebound rate and second to last
on the offensive glass. This has generated heaps of criticism toward both Chris Bosh
and the Heat's decision to embrace small-ball after winning the title with it.
But here's the thing: The Heat have already ditched small-ball, and when they did, they
became a worse rebounding team.
This is Miami's rebounding paradox. Sunday's game against the Washington Wizards
marked the one-month anniversary of Udonis Haslem's promotion to the starting lineup.
On Dec. 6, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, looking to shore up the increasingly problematic
second unit, decided to insert Haslem into the starting five against the New York Knicks
and bring Shane Battier off the bench as he rehabbed from his strained MCL.
We can debate all day about the importance of starting lineups or the lack thereof, but
this was a landmark move in the Heat's season. Spoelstra, at least temporarily, put the
title-winning formula on hold by slotting two traditional big men next to LeBron James.
Spoelstra went "big" and by doing so, it accomplished a couple of things. One, it
allowed Joel Anthony to anchor the second unit's previously porous defense. So far,
that's worked out and the defense has improved.
Secondly, it gave the Heat an additional big man next to Bosh to help on the boards.
Haslem is known as the Heat's rebounding specialist. Earlier this season, he became
the franchise's all-time leading rebounder, and last season he ranked eighth in the NBA
in defensive rebound rate.
But the interesting thing is that Haslem's promotion has had the opposite effect on the
Heat. Since Haslem entered the starting lineup, the Heat have ranked 24th in rebound
rate. Before then: 21st.
Dig deeper and the issue becomes clear: The Heat's "big" starting lineup has gotten
crushed on the boards. The five-man unit with Haslem next to Mario Chalmers and the
Big Three has played 189 minutes together this season, which ranks 26th in the league,
according to NBA.com's advanced stats tool. Among the top 30 five-man units with the
most minutes in the NBA, that Chalmers-Wade-James-Haslem-Bosh lineup ranks 28th
in rebound rate, grabbing just 45.5 percent of all available rebounds. A 45.5 percent
rebounding rate would rank last in the NBA behind the Dallas Mavericks.
And it gets worse: That lineup gives up 19.3 second-chance points every 48 minutes --
easily the highest rate among those 30 lineups. It's actually the highest rate of any of
the top 50 teams in minutes.
You want to know which lineup ranks 17th in rebounding among those 30 most
The Heat's "small" starting lineup with Battier. Yes, better than the Haslem lineup.
How can this be?
There's a big difference between rebounding on the individual level and on the team
level. Individually, Haslem does very well on the boards; he averages 9.6 rebounds
per 36 minutes, which is the highest in Miami's rotation. But on a team level, the
Heat have actually done worse on the boards when he's on the floor this season.
You know who in particular has done worse with Haslem on the court? Bosh. In fact,
Bosh tallies 9.2 rebounds per 36 minutes with Haslem on the bench, according to
NBA.comís advanced stats tool. When he plays next to Haslem: 5.8 rebounds per 36
This is the opposite of the Bargnani Effect, the phenomenon when Bosh became an
all-world rebounder when he played alongside Andrea Bargnani (the anti-Mr. Clean on
the glass). When Bosh plays next to Battier in that starting lineup, he grabs 11.0
rebounds every 36 minutes. Those are numbers that Heat fans want to see from Bosh.
But Bosh's boards have been cut in half when he plays next to Haslem.
Does Haslem steal Bosh's rebounds? And why do the Heat's rebounding numbers suffer
when Haslem is on the court?
These are very good questions...CONTINUE READING AT HEAT INDEX