The Whiteboard: No one can keep the Rockets off the offensive glass


Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Rockets have the worst record in the NBA but their young roster has been an absolute terror on the offensive glass.

There haven’t been a ton of bright spots for a Houston Rockets team so far this season. They’re off to a 2-10 start and rank in the bottom five in the league and both offensive and defensive efficiency.  Their two primary offensive creators — Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr. — are both posting true shooting percentages way below the league average and No. 2 pick Jabari Smith shooting 30.8 percent from the field and 29.4 percent from beyond the arc.

However, this is a team with just two regular rotation players who are 23 or older and any signs of a developing advantage are cause for optimism as this young roster works to figure out what a playoff-competitive iteration of it will look like.

That’s why it’s worth noting that the Rockets have been the best offensive-rebounding team in the league, by a decent margin, and it’s a strength that’s driven by multiple players not just one singular talent.

What makes the Houston Rockets so good on the offensive glass?

Through the first 12 games of the season, the Rockets have rebounded 34.4 percent of their own misses. If that number held for the entire season, it would be the highest since the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2015-16 and just the third time in the last decade that a team posted an offensive rebound percentage of 34.0 or more.

The three players primarily responsible for the domination of the offensive glass are Usman Garuba (20 years old), Alperen Sengun (20 years old) and Tari Eason (21 years old), all of whom rank in the top 15 in offensive rebounds per 100 possessions so far this season.

Strength, awareness, mobility, leaping ability and reach are all essential elements for offensive rebounding and each of the Rockets’ trio checks multiple boxes, even if they leverage them in multiple ways.

Just 58.5 percent of Sengun’s offensive rebounds have been contested this season, the lowest mark of any player averaging at 2.5 offensive rebounds per game. His awareness and nose for the ball seem to help him find an almost absurd number of opportunities to slip through the defense and find offensive rebounds in open space.

Garuba appears to be the most powerful of the three. His positioning and footwork are fantastic but his strength allows him to simply carve out space from opponents.

Eason seems to use his agility and quick hands to his advantage. He’s constantly in motion, hunting the ball and gets a fair number of rebounds simply by taking the ball from opponents in the air.

For the Rockets to really leverage this offensive rebounding advantage as part of a long-term strategy in their rebuild, they’ll ideally need to play these guys together for at least some of their minutes. None is a traditional rim protector or particularly stretchy on the offensive end of the floor but the Rockets have actually had some encouraging results with combinations of this trio in the frontcourt.

Houston has been outscored by a total of 90 points on the season, but they’re actually plus-26 in the 169 minutes they’ve had at least two of this trio on the floor together. The most frequent scenario has had Eason at the 4 playing next to Garuba or Sengun at the five and they have a positive differential in both cases. Unsurprisingly, offensive rebounding has been a big part of their success — securing 42.3 percent of their misses with any two of this trio on the floor together.

Again, the Rockets have a lot to figure out before they’re really in a position to compete for a playoff spot. But the rebounding domination of Sengun, Eason and Garuba definitely gives them something to build around.

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