Pelicans still outrebounding foes without Davis
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
With an average of 10.2 rebounds per game, Anthony Davis has been the New Orleans Pelicans’ best individual rebounder this season by a substantial margin. So it stands to reason that with Davis sidelined 4-6 weeks by a broken left hand, the Pelicans might struggle on the backboards, right?
In fact, the opposite has happened. After holding a 51-43 rebounding edge over Detroit on Wednesday – no small feat given the Pistons’ supersized frontcourt – New Orleans has outboarded each of its last three opponents by at least eight caroms. Among the four full games Davis has missed, the Pelicans were only topped in the rebounding category Dec. 2 at Chicago – and that was by a narrow 55-54 tally.
In Davis’ absence, two Pelicans frontcourt starters, small forward Al-Farouq Aminu and center Jason Smith, are putting up the best rebounding numbers of their NBA careers. Aminu has averaged a gaudy 14.7 rebounds during the team’s homestand, highlighted by 20 boards vs. Dallas on Dec. 4 (NOLA dominated the stat 58-38 against the Mavericks). In a unique statistical achievement, Smith has managed to post the three best rebounding games of his six-year pro career all since Davis was sidelined by injury. Smith had a career-high 16 boards in the Detroit win. Meanwhile, power forward Ryan Anderson’s rebounding numbers have dipped overall slightly this season, but he had a season-most 14 against Dallas, including seven on the offensive end.
“It is impressive,” point guard Jrue Holiday said of New Orleans’ effectiveness on the boards sans Davis. “It’s definitely big for us. For me it’s a comforting feeling, knowing that we’re going to get the rebound.”
“They’ve been doing a good job, for guys who can’t jump out of the gym,” a smiling Tyreke Evans said of Smith and Anderson. “They do a good job of boxing out, and a good job of fighting with those bigs, like last night with (Andre) Drummond and (Greg) Monroe, two great rebounders.”
The collective effort of the frontcourt, combined with above-average backcourt rebounders such as Evans and Holiday (both average 4.5 per game) has pushed New Orleans to seventh in the NBA in margin. On average, the Pelicans outboard opponents by 1.9 per game, one spot below the sixth-place Pistons (plus 2.9). As New Orleans continues its difficult December schedule while playing without Davis and reserve center Greg Stiemsma (knee), it’s imperative that the excellent interior work continues. The Pelicans’ next three opponents, Memphis, Denver and Golden State, each rank in the top half of the NBA in rebounding margin.
“We’re capable of rebounding,” Pelicans fourth-year coach Monty Williams said. “We just don’t have the type of team – especially with Anthony and Greg being out – on paper you would look at and say, ‘That’s a group that’s going to eat up some boards.’ We have to do it with will and determination, and a lot of effort. It requires our guards to get in there and help out a lot more. It’s a byproduct of not having certain guys in your lineup, but it has to be something we focus on every game. “