Thunder Rebounding as a Team

Self-awareness and the attend to areas that need improvement are the staples for an NBA team to develop over time.

The Thunder, behind leaders like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, along with veterans Nick Collison and Kendrick Perkins, try to do just that each season, each month and each week. Coming into this year, one of Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club’s focal points was getting better on the boards, particularly on the defensive end. That has come to fruition over the course of the year, as the Thunder ranks fourth in defensive rebounding and eighth in rebounding over all. Not only that, but the big rebounding efforts have been tied to winning.

“It’s a crazy stat the coach threw out there, when we out-rebound teams what our record is,” Perkins said. “We’re just trying to get better at that.”

With a 34-8 mark when out-rebounding an opponent and a 10-0 mark when out-rebounding an opponent by ten-or-more, the Thunder clearly knows that being physical on the glass can lead to success. While some teams have two or three players who grab the vast majority of the rebounds, the Thunder features a full-team attack where not only do bigs like Perkins, Collison, Durant and Serge Ibaka rebound, but guards get in on the action too.

“Our guards rebound,” Perkins said. “We have a lot of athletic guards. KD is 6’10” at the wing. Thabo does a good job of coming in as does Russ. We all do a great job collectively, but we’re still trying to get better.”

Westbrook averages 5.2 rebounds per game, Thabo Sefolosha averages an even 4.0 per game and even backup point guard Reggie Jackson is averaging 2.1 rebounds per game in 12.6 minutes of action. The guards certainly crash the boards, but it’s also the selflessness with which the Thunder attacks that part of the game that creates success. While Durant, Ibaka, Perkins and Collison combine to average almost 26 rebounds per game, their work on the boards is only with team goals in mind.

That is why, for example, Perkins and Collison often box out their men so far that it clears the lane for others, like the Thunder guards, to swoop in for a board. By taking the opponent’s best rebounders out of the lane with a solid box out with proper technique, the Thunder can clear the paint and ensure that it retains possession.

“Boxing out is important,” Perkins said. “It’s something that you learn in grade school. You just learn to box out and at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter who gets the rebound, as long as we get it.”

As with all aspects of the game, rebounding then becomes inner-connected with other facets of play. When Thunder guards can come in and grab a rebound, there’s no need for a long outlet pass, which means the Thunder can get into its offense quickly and try to take advantage in the open court, where its athleticism takes over.

Sunday night against the Dallas Mavericks the Thunder will look to continue its strong rebounding, coming off a 52-33 rebounding margin in Friday night’s win over the Orlando Magic. Above all, the Thunder wants to go out, play its game and take care of the things that make them flourish on both ends of the floor.

“Just going out and playing our game,” Perkins said. “They’ve been playing well, trying to make a late playoff push to get in the playoffs. We have to just make sure we come in focused and play our game.”