Crash the Boards Brook!

Brook Lopez may be the best pure Center the Nets have ever employed in the 20 years I’ve been a fan of the team, but that’s not to say he doesn’t have his short-comings. In nearly every one of my recaps, I’ve picked on his inability to sometimes read a double-team properly and deliver a pass to an open shooter on the perimeter. He also has a tendency to settle for 18-20-foot jumpers when he should be living almost exclusively in the post with his back to the basket. But through the team’s first six games, another major hole in Lopez’s game has emerged – the man is just having a tough time grabbing rebounds.

Lopez’s rebound rate of 10.0 – the percentage of missed shots a player rebounds while he’s on the floor – is among the very worst of all centers in the NBA, according to ESPN’s John Hollinger.  He’s ranked 54th out of 60 qualifying centers, behind such big-men luminaries as Hasheem Thabeet, Darko Milicic and Joel Anthony. For a player who’s trying to establish himself as an “elite” big-man in this league, that number is just unacceptable. And while Brook has never been a top-tier rebounder throughout his career, when you consider some of his other “true Center” qualities, like post-play and shot blocking, his inability to crash the boards at a more efficient rate is frustrating.

What’s even more alarming is Brook’s rebounding numbers over the course of his career are headed in the wrong direction. At the state of last year, Lopez enthusiasts had been touting Brook as a potential 20-10 player. While his scoring average is inching closer to that magic number, the idea of Lopez snagging 10 boards per game over the course of the season has never seemed more outlandish.

In his rookie season, Lopez put forward a respectable rebounding rate of 15.8, which placed him in the middle-of-the-pack among Centers, ranked 31st out of 67 qualifying players, according to ESPN. Last season, with more playing time, his rebounding rate dropped to 13.5, ranking him 40th, out of 59 qualifying players. With his numbers continuing their downward spiral in the early part of this season, I have to wonder if making Lopez the definitive centerpiece of the offense is in effect, taking his head away from the glass.

What’s even more problematic about this trend is that unless another player outside emerges as a worthwhile rebounder on this team, the Nets are going to really, really need Lopez to work on this aspect of his game. During the Jason Kidd-era, the Nets were able to get away with mediocre rebounding numbers from their big-men because Kidd was such an elite rebounder for his position. Derrick Favors is off to an incredibly fast start on the boards, especially offensive boards (20.2 offensive rebounding rating is third in the league), but he’s still only playing limited minutes, and he shouldn’t be counted on to contributed regularly yet. Terrence Williams was a very good rebounder for his position last year, and is off to another decent start this season with a rebounding rate of 12.1, 11th among SFs, but he’s coming off the bench. Troy Murphy’s rebounding rate of 17.2 last season was good for 28th in the entire league, but he hasn’t been healthy enough to have an impact in a Nets uniform. All told, the Nets are currently ranked 26th in the league in rebounds per game and that’s after finishing 28th last season. What was that thing Pat Riley once said about rebounds and rings?