Fantasy Focus: Rebounders
As dedicated fantasy basketball owners know, drafting players to fill rebounding categories (typically, total rebounds and offensive rebounds) is critical to their success. Once the usually-stellar rebounding players are off the draft board, it falls to owners to have already performed due diligence to select players who give them solid rebounding numbers. Ideally, you can secure players who contribute meaningfully in other categories, in addition to grabbing boards, until the later rounds when the pickings are slim.
In analyzing the rebounding stats this season, a few surprises stand out. To start with, the leagues’ top two rebounders (averaged over the season thus far) aren’t even playing right now. Anderson Varejao leads the league in rebounding with 14.5 per game, and Kevin Love is second with 14.0.
Varejao hasn’t played since December 18th; reports of a bruised knee turned into the reality of a split leg muscle, followed by surgery nearly one month later. He may not return until early March, which is devastating news for those owners who were enjoying his numbers (in addition to the 14.5 rebounds, including 5.5 on offensive boards, he was averaging 14.1 points, 3.4 assists and 1.5 steals).
As for Love, he probably returned too early from his preseason injury (broken hand related to knuckle push-ups). He missed the first nine games, returned for 18, and then broke his hand again on January 3rd. He had surgery earlier this week and will be out eight to ten weeks. Bad news for owners. He admitted – and we all knew – his shooting was definitely affected by the hand injury. During those 18 games, he averaged 18.3 points, .704 free throw percentage, 1.1 in three-pointers at .217 and .352 in field goal shooting compared to 26.0 points, .824 in free throw shooting, 1.9 in threes at .372 and .448 percentage in field goals last year. Clearly, rebounding wasn’t affected as his 14.0 average topped last seasons’ 13.3.
Of the remaining double-digit-averaging rebounders this year, fantasy owners welcomed newcomers in Nikola Vucevic (11.1), Omer Asik (11.2) and J.J. Hickson (11.0).
Vucevic (one of the Dwight Howard trade pieces) got the starting nod with the Orlando Magic, and whoever took a chance on him (including your writer here) is feeling pretty clever about now. In the past nine games, the 22-year-old player has averaged 15.3 rebounds, including a career high 29 boards against the Miami HEAT (plus 15.1 points).
The Chicago Bulls failed to match the Houston Rockets’ offer sheet for Asik last summer, so off he went. He was a smart fantasy pick and has not disappointed those who gambled. In addition to the 11.2 rebounds, Asik is averaging 10.6 points, 1.1 blocks and .539 in field goal shooting in 29.5 minutes. The problem area is free throw shooting: 2.5 per game at .558 percentage.
The well-traveled Hickson (three teams in four years) found a great role with the Portland Trail Blazers; he’s played the best ball of his career since arriving last March. The starter, whose name has been attached to many a trade rumor (remember the deadline is February 21st), is adding 12.2 points to his 11.0 rebounds. He doesn’t give you much more, but turnovers are low at 1.6 and field goals are .544 percentage.
Kenneth Faried is another one to keep your eye on; he’s nearly averaging a double-double this season with 9.9 rebounds and 12.2 points. The second year player was a rebounding force in college, averaging 12.3 boards during his four-year career with Morehead State (14.5 in his senior year). Measuring 6’6” without shoes, the Denver Nuggets’ high energy power forward is a joy to watch on court.
Rounding out the top double-digit rebounders this season are Dwight Howard (12.7), Zach Randolph (11.6), Tyson Chandler (11.0), David Lee (10.8), Joakim Noah (10.8), DeMarcus Cousins (10.5) and Carlos Boozer (10.0). No real surprises there; each are averaging double-digit scoring and many contribute very well in other categories.
Fantasy owners must continually check trends and team circumstances which could propel new rebounders into worthy attention. Waiver wires must be analyzed and trade proposals considered to strengthen fantasy teams as the season progresses. For example, new names have emerged into double-digit rebounding territory over the past two weeks. Such players include Reggie Evans (12.6), Tristan Thompson (11.7), Greg Monroe (11.5), Nikola Pekovic (10.6 – now sidelined up to ten days), Al-Farouq Aminu (10.6), Marcin Gortat (10.6), Larry Sanders (10.1), and Paul George (9.9).
There are a few things we need to point out in that above list.
Check Evans’ rebounding in the past six games: 23, 15, 6, 7, 5, 20 for a 12.7 average. At the present time, Evans is the Brooklyn Nets’ leading rebounder. Impressive stuff, but be aware he contributes very little in other fantasy categories which explains why he’s owned by just 6% of Yahoo! Sports’ fantasy players.
After falling out of favor with his Hornets’ coach last month, Aminu is now logging increased minutes; he appears to be responding well. In the past seven games – where he’s been reinserted into the starting lineup – he’s posting 7.9 points, 1.9 steals and 1.6 assists to go along with the 10.6 boards. Just 24% of Yahoo! Sports players have taken Aminu.
Thompson is close to averaging a double-double this season at 10.3 points and 9.3 rebounds; he has recorded 14.4 points and 3.0 assists with the 11.7 rebounds over the past seven games. You may need to check the waiver wire as Yahoo! shows 61% ownership.
Paul George defines the oft-used NBA term “third-year jump”. Of course, teammate Danny Granger’s injury afforded George the opportunity to show what he could do; he has responded, in spades. Over the season, he’s averaging 17.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.8 steals, 2.2 three-pointers at .384 and .807 percentage at the foul line. However, in the past seven games he’s improved to 20.4 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.9 steals and 2.7 threes at .413 shooting percentage. Assists and free throw efficiency numbers have dipped at 3.4 and .750, respectively.
Sanders is leading the league in blocks per game at this moment (3.2). Nearly doubling his playing time from last season, Sanders is taking advantage and turning heads. Over the past seven games, he’s averaged 3.9 blocks and 9.6 points to add to the 10.1 rebounds.
In the past four games, Howard has averaged an amazing 18.0 rebounds, 20.0 points and 2.5 blocks. Remarkably, his .412 percentage in free throws sets a new low.
Careful scrutiny of players who contribute offensive rebounds is important as well. Chandler (4.5), Randolph (4.3), Thompson (4.0), Hickson (3.9) and Noah (3.8) top the list. Actually, injured Varejao leads the pack at 5.5 per game.
What about last season? Those numbers typically lend to decisions made in the following fantasy draft. The usual suspects appear, but those not averaging double-digit rebounding include Kris Humphries (11.0 last season and 6.8 this season), Blake Griffin (10.9 last season and 8.3 this season) and Pau Gasol (10.4 last season and 8.2 this season).
Hopefully this breakdown of rebounders, now at the midway point of the 2012-13 NBA season, aids you going forward.