A report yesterday claimed that the Boston Celtics are a major threat to sign free agent power forward Blake Griffin away from the Los Angeles Clippers.
While the fans who hate the idea cite his injury history and those who were happy to hear the report believe he can fix the team’s rebounding woes. Citing his injuries is a fair concern to have but the rebounding thing is a load of crap; Griffin wouldn’t fix that.
Having one or two great rebounders doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be good in that area as a team, so it would be irrational to think that just by adding one guy Boston’s issues will all be fixed. The Clippers had both Griffin and DeAndre Jordan – who finished third in the league in rebounding last season – and they still had a negative rebound differential on the season.
The New Orleans Pelicans were one of the three teams that had a worse rebounding differential than Boston this past season and that included an entire season of Anthony Davis averaging 11.8 RPG; they even had DeMarcus Cousins come in and average 12.4 per game after the trade deadline. Even having league rebound leader Hassan Whiteside didn’t give the Miami Heat much of an advantage as they finished the year with a dead even rebound differential.
Signing Griffin would also mean the Celtics are forced to decline their $8 million team option on Tyler Zeller for next year and it also likely means they won’t be able to match an offer for restricted free agent Kelly Olynyk. While nobody thinks of either man as a top tier rebounder, they were still the team’s top two rebounders – per possession – last season. So even if Griffin comes in to serve as the team’s best rebounder, you’d still be losing the better rebounders from last year’s squad while leaving you with the guys who were dragging them down all last season.
But while Griffin won’t be able to fix any of the Celtics rebounding issues, it also doesn’t matter. You can win a championship as a top rebounding team, you can win a championship as one of the worst rebounding teams and you can also win from the middle of the pack.
This is because rebounding isn’t this be all, end all that a lot of fans make it out to be.
The Celtics were dead last in rebounding during the 2011-12 campaign and wound up meeting the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. Miami was 22nd in the league in rebounding that year and wound up winning the championship. The Heat would repeat as champions one year later while finishing last in rebounding themselves.
Boston also reached the Eastern Conference Finals this year and finished the season with a -2.5 rebound differential, the fourth worst total in basketball. While the teams behind them – the Dallas Mavericks, Brooklyn Nets and the Pelicans – all had terrible seasons in terms of winning and losing, the top of the list also doesn’t feature much in terms of title contenders as the Utah Jazz were the only team in the top five who made it out of the first round. The Golden State Warriors finished ninth in rebounding differential, the Cleveland Cavaliers finished 19th.
The Celtics will probably be a bad rebounding team no matter what they do this offseason. Brad Stevens runs a system that really isn’t rebound friendly; neither was the one that Doc Rivers ran. This is completely okay though because it’s still possible to win basketball games and be a contending team with rebounding issues.
Boston has missed the playoffs just once since the beginning of the decade and they’ve also had a positive rebounding differential just one time over that same stretch. Believe it or not, it’s the same year. Just think about this for a second, the Celtics have been to the Eastern Conference Finals three times since 2010 – including one trip to the NBA Finals – and the only time over these past eight seasons in which they were able to grab more rebounds as a team then their opponents was during a forgettable 25-57 campaign in which Stevens was just a rookie coach.
Luckily, a player like Griffin gives you more than just rebounding.
The man is one of the best offensive players in the league and a lot of fans don’t realize how good he actually is. Griffin has averaged over 20 PPG in six of his seven years in the league and he’s even turned himself into a bit of a floor stretcher by averaging a respectable 34.6% from beyond the arc over the past few seasons; averaging 1.0 attempts per game. The veteran can also share the ball and he’s averaged over five assists per game over the past three seasons, even playing with an assist magnet like Chris Paul.
Maybe going after Gordon Hayward is the better answer in the end. But Boston has tons of options this summer. None of these options will help fix the rebounding issues that fans seems to be constantly upset about, but they still all make the team better and get the franchise closer to that next title.