How is it possible for the worst rebounding team a season ago to be one of the best a year later?
That's exactly what happened to the Golden State Warriors, who at 17-9 are off to their best start in 21 years. Rebounding has been the key to the turnaround for the Warriors, who finished 23-43 in Mark Jackson's first season.
Warriors Total Rebound Percentage
Last 4 Seasons Rank
2012-13 52.5 3rd
2011-12 46.1 Last
2010-11 47.5 Last
2009-10 44.4 Last
After ranking last in the NBA in rebound percentage each of the last three seasons, the Warriors are third this season.
The difference comes primarily at the defensive end, where the Warriors ranked last in defensive rebound percentage each of the last five seasons and lead the league in that category this season.
The Warriors have already outrebounded more teams this season (18) than they did all of last season (17). One of their most impressive efforts of the season came in a 95-86 win against the Minnesota Timberwolves, which lead the NBA in rebounding percentage, on November 24.
Golden State was able to outrebound Minnesota – with Kevin Love in the lineup - by nine boards. That was the second-worst rebounding differential for the T-Wolves this season, and the worst with Love on the floor.
How are they such a better rebounding team?
Their roster isn't that much different, although they did add a few frontcourt players who have contributed to their rebounding prowess:
• Carl Landry: averaging a career-high 6.8 boards per game
• Draymond Green: averaging 12.8 rebounds per 48 minutes; 58 of his 103 rebounds this season have come in his last eight games
• Festus Ezeli: averaging 11.7 rebounds per 48 minutes
Plus, David Lee, Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry have all seen significant increases in their rebounding numbers this season.
But what's the real reason for the drastic improvement on the boards? Lee explained it in a recent SI.com article:
"It's no fun to be on an island 1-on-5 rebounding. I've found that out the hard way. [But] we've made it an emphasis this year. We're not playing with two smaller guards this year. Our wings have been doing a much better job with Harrison [Barnes] and Klay. And our bigs are taking it as a challenge. We were one of the worst in the league last year and it's time to turn that around."
Highest Defensive Rebound Percentage
>Ranked 30th Last Season
After being outrebounded by 6.6 boards per game last season, the Warriors are outrebounding opponents by 4.2 per game this year. How rare is that?
The 10.8 rebound differential improvement would be the largest by a team from one season to another since rebounds became an official stat in the 1950-51 season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Perhaps the man on the bench, Jackson, is the catalyst for the turnaround. He is using a new mix of players to change up his rotations. The Warriors' top nine lineups in terms of point differential each include at least two new acquisitions.
Jackson's coaching impact is being felt most when the Warriors are facing their toughest competition. The Warriors are 10-4 against opponents currently with a win percentage of .500 or better; only the Los Angeles Clippers (at 11-4) have a better record this season.