When statistics lie: The gross misunderstanding of Miami’s rebounding woes
February 18th, 2013 by Chris Humpherys
Whenever we hear the average, and often misinformed, sportscaster talk about ways to beat the Miami Heat, one factor invariably comes up: Size. These so-called analysts go on and on about Miami’s lack of big men, pointing to their inability to rebound as one potential key to their demise. A team with able-bodied bigs, they’ll continue, could knock off the defending champions.
To those analysts’ credit, Miami is last in the league in overall rebounding, averaging fewer than 40 a game.
But that doesn’t tell the whole story. That’s what I’m here to do.
First of all, let’s get a few things straight. The Miami Heat will win this year’s NBA championship. Barring any catastrophic injury, or aliens reclaiming LeBron James back to the planet from which he came, Miami appears destined for another title. In addition to their other-worldly MVP, they have another top five player named Dwyane Wade who people forget about because he’s playing alongside a guy who’s doing things ordinary humans don’t do. They have a strong, veteran supporting cast loaded with players who can shoot the ball from anywhere on the court, and despite not having an overabundance of size in the paint, they have a perfectly capable mix of bodies that can defend opposing power forwards and centers. They did last year and do again this year. Of course, I could be wrong but a second consecutive championship seems as inevitable as the sun coming out tomorrow or LeBron dunking in your face. The only reason the rest of the season is even worth watching is to see what he’ll do next.
So let’s address that rebounding issue.
First of all, rebounds stem from missed shots. You can’t rebound what goes through the rim. Considering Miami doesn’t miss much (they are FIRST in the league in field goal percentage at 49.3% – most analysts should mention this), their rebounding numbers will be skewed as a result.
Despite ranking dead last in the league in overall rebounding, they rank 11th in offensive rebounds allowed, probably the most important rebounding stat of them all. That means they’re taking care of their own defensive glass and not allowing second chance points. Furthermore, they’re only getting out-rebounded by 1.4 boards per game which is minimal considering they’re outscoring their opponents by seven points on average. If you think Erik Spoelstra is hammering his players for their lack of rebounding, you’re mistaken.
All rebounds are not created equal. Miami’s defensive rebounding statistics actually demonstrate they’re doing just fine. Throw in the fact that they don’t miss many shots, and that they dictate tempo against any team in the league, we’re grasping at straws by suggesting that rebounding (or a supposed lack thereof) is Miami’s weakness.
Any monkey can pull up ESPN.com’s Miami Heat page, discover they rank last in the league in rebounding and press the panic button. It takes a more, keen observer, or someone who actually watches the games, to realize Miami is more than competent on the boards.
You know who ranks second to last in the league in rebounding? The Boston Celtics, another playoff team generally known for their ability to clean the glass. You know who ranks 25th? The San Antonio Spurs. And by the way, the Knicks are 20th. All of these are playoff teams, with size in the paint, yet we don’t criticize them as we do Miami.
While rebounding is undoubtedly important, total team rebounds can be a misleading statistic based on a team’s style of play. For those of us paying attention to anything other than a stat sheet, Miami’s style of play and their rebounding are doing just fine.