Why Are the Pelicans Struggling on the Glass?

Published: March 14, 2017

The DeMarcus Cousins era for the New Orleans Pelicans has not gotten off to the flying start many thought would occur. Struggles abound in multiple areas, and while some make sense as the Pelicans figure out the kinks others are a big surprise. None more so than the Pelicans defensive rebounding struggles.

Pre-trade the Pelicans ranked 9th best in defensive rebounding percentage. Since Boogie came to New Orleans the team has fallen all the way to 28th. From grabbing 77.3% of all opponents misses to 74.1%. Opponents were pulling down 10.5 offensive rebounds per game; now they are grabbing 12.3. Even worse, when Davis and Cousin are on the court at the same time the defensive rebounding percentage drops to 72.8%. For having two dominant bigmen that is a jump in the wrong direction.

There are many reasons why the Pelicans are struggling and I’ve highlighted (read: cherry picked specific, illustrative examples) 4 of the main reasons below.

Watch Anthony Davis. He’s in no man’s land on the edge of the paint, neither helping box out or attempting to crash the boards. Dante Cunningham does the same, and at that point it’s an easy offensive rebound for the Jazz. If both Davis and Cunningham stop ball watching and go after the ball this Jazz possession would have been ended rather than resulting in 2 points.

This ties in some with the above. Davis does a good job of boxing out Cody Zeller but doesn’t get much help from his teammates. Jrue Holiday makes a strong effort, but isn’t going to be able to do much against the much taller Marvin Williams. Hollis Thompson just stands around. Had he helped on the glass and focused on team rebounding the Pelicans could have ended up with the ball.

Starting the day after Christmas the Pelicans focused primarily on a small lineup that wanted to get out in transition and run. Sometimes habits are hard to unlearn. The Pelicans have 4 players in position to grab the rebound should it bounce to them, but the 5th, Jrue Holiday, starts to get out and run in transition; despite the fact that he’d be the only one on the fast break. Everyone needs to be on the same page when it comes to rebounding, and with Holiday out of position the Lakers grab an offensive rebound they should not have had.

And sometimes it’s simply effort. This rebound should be Cousins’ but Aldridge out hustles him to grab the board. Thompson makes an effort but doesn’t stand a chance.

As I said above, these are cherry picked examples meant that illustrate larger issues with defensive rebounding. The good news is a slight change in scheme (team rebounding), and unlearning some habits can quickly rectify this and jump the Pelicans back into the top ten. Ending opponents’ possessions means the Pelicans have to score less in order to win. As they work out the kinks on offense that is ideal.

Next season will have very high expectations on its shoulders. Fixing rebounding is one way to make those expectations realistic.