Why Brook Lopez’s inability to rebound is the reason Reggie Evans can grab boards

Brook Lopez
Brook Lopez (AP)
Brook Lopez
Brook Lopez gets knocked for his rebounding, but is he doing the dirty work? (AP)

One of the biggest knocks on Nets All-Star center Brook Lopez is his inability to rebound, despite being closer to the rim than the vast majority of players on the court. Dylan Murphy of HoopChalk, ESPN TrueHoops X’s and O’s blog, mined the data to find out why.

What he found, contrary to conventional wisdom, is that Lopez’s rebounding inefficiencies stem from his dedication to boxing out. Using Lopez’s teammate and rebound expert Reggie Evans as a foil and the last three games (excluding last night) as a sample, Murphy found that Lopez boxes out a considerable 57.9% of the time, while Evans only does so 20.1% of the time. This lead Murphy to conclude the following:

“1. Shot goes up.
2. Brook Lopez boxes out.
3. Reggie Evans loiters around the rim.
4. Reggie Evans grabs rebound.

Or, to put it simply, Reggie Evans gets all the glory for Brook Lopez’s (and other teammates’) hard work – he’s a piggyback rebounder, basically.”

After giving frame-by-frame examples of his “piggyback rebounder” theory in the Boston game, Murphy explains that the piggyback effect only accounts for a portion of Reggie’s boards. The rest occur from a “weird rebounding dynamic” on the Nets in which the rest of the team assumes Reggie will get the rebound, making him the “designated rebound garbage man.” This can be further explained by an instinctual difference between the two bigs. When a shot goes up, Lopez thinks “Where’s My Man? Whom can I box out?” Reginald Jamaal, on the other hand, simply attacks the rim.

Murphy then delves into the 42.1% of the time Lopez doesn’t box out, attributing this to laziness, and the 21.1% of the time Lopez is out-boxed, chalking it up to Lopez’s lack of speed. Lest you think the previous analysis was a knock on Evans’s rebounding ability, the HoopChalk author concludes with the following:

“None of this, by the way, is meant to uproot conventional wisdom: Reggie Evans is still an insanely aggressive and physical and excellent rebounder – he’s just, well, not big on technique. And when it comes to the box score – advanced or otherwise – Brook Lopez’s greater focus on technique means he pays a statistical price. But Reggie Evans’ see-ball-get-ball mentality coupled with the Nets pro-Evans schematics equal lots and lots of rebounds.”

It’s weird to think that Lopez is the one doing the “dirty work” while Evans gets the stats, but when it comes to rebounding, Murphy makes a solid case.

Per NBA.com: When Evans shares the court with Lopez, he grabs 41.3% of all available defensive rebounds. To compare, Dennis Rodman’s highest rebound rate in any season was 38.7%.

Read More: HoopChalk, Dylan Murphy — Why Can’t Brook Lopez Rebound? He Boxes Out Too Much