Offensive rebounds help win games, but the reasons why have shifted this season, with the percentage of quick put-backs showing a solid rise in the first month.
Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul had played a staggering 73% of their possessions over the first five games of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague with the margin on the scoreboard within 6 points. Unlikely though it was, Fenerbahce then stretched that number to just under 75% in the double-round week, hanging tough with a Final Four contender in FC Barcelona and on the road against an Olympiacos Piraeus team that has a notoriously strong home-court advantage. Losing those games by a combined 4 points, Fenerbahce has been historically competitive to this point even though its record sits at 2-5.
Teams are taking it right back up
One small way in which Fenerbahce and several other EuroLeague teams are staying competitive is by turning their efforts on the glass into points. Gaining second chances at the basket through offensive rebounds has an obvious impact on the scoreboard, but during a season in which three-point shooting is still in the process of returning to form, quickly converting extra opportunities into points– instead of pulling the ball out for a new 14 seconds – is giving several teams a lift.
The teams above represent the EuroLeague’s top five in the put-back scoring, which includes tip-dunks, tap-ins, and other situations in which a player looks to score immediately after securing an offensive rebound. At first, 6 or 7 points per game may not seem like a lot, but those totals are like money found on the street – sometimes it pays to be in the right place at the right time.
In the early going this season, more often than ever, teams are finding themselves in position to capitalize quickly on missed shots. Offensive rebounding rates are not up meaningfully from last season, but the percentage of possessions ending with a put-back has risen from 4.9% last season to 5.9% this season. As a result, eight teams are averaging more than 6 points per game from put-backs. Only one team accomplished that feat last season.
Some offensive rebounding strength can be traced to luck; sometimes the ball bounces to one team instead of the other. But some of it is the result of individual ability and team strategy, as well. Bitci Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz is a good example of the latter two attributes as, in addition to the team’s big men, swingmen Simone Fontecchio and Tadas Sedekerskis have factored prominently into the team’s put-back prowess. Both forwards often crash the glass even from beyond the three-point line, and both have the freedom to do so because they know a teammate will cover their absence on transition defense if need be.
Instincts matter when it comes to put-back scoring, but athleticism and size certainly don’t hurt, either. For AS Monaco, Donta Hall’s ability to go and get the ball more than half a meter above the rim is a big reason why he leads the EuroLeague with 2.7 points per game on put-backs. While LDLC ASVEL Lyon-Villeurbanne does not crack the top five among teams yet, 2.21-meter center Youssoupha Fall’s second-ranked 2.5 points per game has them on pace to score more points from put-backs than all but one team over the last two seasons.
A put back is worth 1.17 points per possession so far this season, making it one of the most efficient outcomes for an offense. That’s particularly true in half-court situations early in the season while efficiency lags teams getting healthy and finding their rhythm. Whether they are strategically sending extra rebounders to the boards or the ball is simply bouncing their way, what teams are harvesting from their own misses will be worthwhile, as always, to track going forward.
Looking ahead to Round 8
Conveniently, the EuroLeague’s top put-back scoring team will go head-to-head with its best defensive rebounding team in Round 8 as Baskonia welcomes Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv to Buesa Arena. Maccabi ranks around the league average in put-back scoring, but on the other end of the floor, they have secured 76.6% of all their opponents missed shots – the highest percentage in the EuroLeague this season and one of the top marks in recent history.