Hawks Tweaking Offensive Rebounding Philosophy With Addition of Howard

Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images

Story by KL Chouinard

It doesn't take a whole lot of logic to see that the Hawks were going to improve as offensive rebounders.

Last season, the Club rebounded 19.1 percent of their own missed shots, the lowest mark in the league. In the offseason, the Club dipped into free agency and signed Dwight Howard, who ranks in the NBA's all-time top ten in offensive rebounds per game (3.5 per game, 8th). By simple deduction, the offensive rebounding had to improve – and it has.

What is more surprising is the degree to which the rebounding has improved and the approach that the Hawks have taken to get there.

The Hawks currently rank third in the league in offensive rebounding rate, cleaning up 28.1 percent of their own misses. Moreover, Howard leads the NBA in offensive rebounds with 4.9 per game.

To take advantage of the strengths of his new team, Head Coach Mike Budenholzer made some slight adjustments to its approach on the offensive glass.

"I would call it a slight tweak or an emphasis, but not at the expense of transition defense," Budenholzer said. "(It's) an emphasis of 'Can we be better on the offensive boards? Can we take advantage of who we have and be more committed there?' I think the guys have done a nice job of doing that and they have been rewarded."

The emphasis has paid off so far. The Hawks are scoring 4.7 more second-chance points than they did a season ago. Mike Muscala said that the Hawks were sending two players to the boards more often than they have in the past and that Budenholzer has challenged them to be excellent on both ends.

"We're stressing more for the 4 (power forward) and 5 (center) to crash," Muscala said. "My first couple of years here, it was less of an emphasis. It was more about trying to get back and limit as much as we can in transition defense, but his message was that we should be able to both. We should be able to crash the offensive glass and be good in transition defense."

Muscala has contributed a hefty bunch to the effort; he has averaged 2.0 offensive rebounds per game this season. Paul Millsap ranks third on the team with 1.5 per game.

"It is a strategy change, making us a little different than what (the Club) was last year, especially due to the personnel that we have," Millsap said. "Minor tweaks have been made, and I think we're going to stick with that."

Muscala concluded by noting that Howard’s presence also helps free other players.

"He's a huge physical presence and a force in there," Muscala said, "so they're obviously always trying to box him out with at least one or two guys, sometimes even three. It definitely opens it up for the other forward out there, and everyone else too."