A Case for Offensive Rebounding

Updated: Feb 25

Use offensive rebounding as a tool to improve your team's offensive efficiency and transition defense.

A basketball team’s defensive transition strategy begins with its approach on the offensive glass. In formulating our own approach to this phase of the game we are weighing the benefit of earning extra opportunities on the offensive end with taking away transition opportunities from our opponents. If you look across the landscape of college and professional basketball you will undoubtedly see every version of this mixture employed.

In the professional game, we have seen a clear preference to get back on defense and deemphasize the offensive glass. This is borne out of the belief that a team gains more from getting back on defense and stopping high-value transition opportunities for their opponents than they do from crashing the offensive glass. High percentage shooters, deeper spacing, lengthy defenders, and talented ball-handlers at the professional level all serve as deterrents for coaches to risk sending people to the offensive glass. As a result, offensive rebounding percentages have been on a downward trend for nearly a decade.

When contemplating this subject I think it is safe to assume that the concerns of coaches at the professional level are somewhat lessened as you move down into the high school and college ranks. At each successive level, you are going to see shooting percentages drop, the length of defenders shortened, and the design of the court dramatically change. When you add in the skill limitations of high school athletes it would seem logical to assume that the value of offensive rebounds would then increase further.

Inspiration for Deeper Examination -

Over the course of the 2019 offseason, I happened to listen to a number of interesting podcasts discussing the topic of offensive rebounding. The guests all seemed to suggest (to some extent) that we should buck the current trends at the professional level, and place greater emphasis on crashing the glass. Each of the podcasts approached the subject from a slightly different angle, but all seemed to suggest that offensive rebounding can be used to improve offensive efficiency and deter opponents' transition opportunities.

In separate episodes of The Basketball Podcast Coaches Ryan Pannone and Aaron Ferne dove into their 'Tagging Up System' where all players are sent to the offensive glass. In this system, players crash with a specific strategy that lets them accumulate offensive rebounds while also allowing them to immediately match up on defense if the rebound is not secured. Both coaches explained the logic behind their offensive rebounding teaching points, such as;

  • Getting to the High Side

  • Fighting to 50/50

  • Pinning Defenders into the Paint

  • Rules versus Leak Outs

On an episode of his Stat Chat podcast, Colgate Assistant Coach Dave Klatsky reflected on a self-study that their staff conducted on their own offensive rebounding production. His study came to a similar conclusion that Ferne & Pannone had come to believe - that there was not only value in offensive rebounding, but a side benefit of slowing down their opponent's transition offense.

Three Podcast Recommendations:

I - The Study

Perhaps one real criticism of coaches could be that what they say they do and what they actually don’t always match. For example, a coach might say “we send four guys to the glass” on every shot - but when you look at that team’s missed shots you rarely see four players crashing. With this thought in mind and with the interesting philosophies presented by Coach Pannone and Coach Ferne circling in my mind, I wanted to look at our own team’s performance on the offensive glass.

I thought that the self-study that Coach Klatsky introduced in his podcast episode was the perfect method for me to get this information. His study gave insight into offensive rebounding performance and the correlation between the number of “crashers” on each missed shot and the opponent's subsequent transition offensive opportunity.

The Colgate Study Charted:

  1. What kind of shot was taken

  2. How many players crashed

  3. Did they rebound? If so did they score?

  4. If they did not rebound, did the opponent get a transition opportunity?

  5. Did they score off that Transition Opportunity?

So over the course of a week, I took a look at every game film from the 2018-19 season. I started with the location of each missed shot; at the rim, midrange, or the three-point line. Then I recorded how many players made a concerted effort to crash the glass; including whether or not they got the rebound, and if they scored off of it. If we did not get the rebound the last step was to determine whether a transition opportunity was created and if they scored off of that opportunity.

Data Table Explanations -

  • Quick Table 1 - Results By Crasher

Here the data is sorted by the number of crashers who pursued a missed shot. The key statistics are in the last four columns, which show our OREB% in those scenarios, our PPP if we rebounded the ball, our opponents Transition Opportunity Percentage if we did not secure the rebound, and finally our opponent's PPP in those transition scenarios.

  • Quick Table #2 - Results By Range of Shot

Here the data is sorted by the location in which the missed shot was taken. One column of note here is the "Crashers" column which averages the numbers of crashers on each missed shot from that area. The last four columns represent the same critical data as above but by location rather than the number of crashers.