Denver Nuggets Stat of the Week: 30.8 offensive rebound percentage

by Eric Spyropoulos
Staff Writer
@Eric_Spyros

The Denver Nuggets have been an elite offensive team ever since Nikola Jokić was handed the keys to the offense as the team’s starting center on Dec. 15, 2016. As Jokić has grown into the best passing big man in NBA history and one of the best offensive players in the league today, Denver’s offense has thrived by putting quality shooters and cutters around their creative center.

However, it isn’t just 3-point shooting and passing that fuels the Nuggets’ offensive success. Another significant development over the past four seasons has been Denver’s dominance on the offensive glass. As seen in the table below, the Nuggets have been among the league’s best offensive rebounding teams in each of the past four seasons since Michael Malone took over as head coach.

In the 2019 playoffs, the Nuggets continued to dominate on the offensive glass. Among the 16 playoff teams, Denver finished second in offensive rebound percentage at 31.1 percent. As Denver fought through slow, physical games against the San Antonio Spurs and Portland Trail Blazers, the Nuggets’ ability to generate second-chance opportunities boosted the offense throughout the team’s 14 playoff games.

While there don’t appear to be any overwhelmingly dominant rebounders on Denver’s roster at first glance (think Andre Drummond, Joel Embiid or Rudy Gobert), the Nuggets certainly have an impressive committee of rebounders at each position. As expected, Jokić led the way with 2.9 offensive rebounds per game, with Paul Millsap and Mason Plumlee right behind at 2.2 and 2.0 per game, respectively.

However, dig deeper and you will notice that several perimeter players also thrived on the offensive boards last season. Torrey Craig grabbed 1.2 per game, while Juancho Hernangomez and Jamal Murray both grabbed 0.9 per game. As a result, those players had a strong impact on Denver’s team rebounding when they were on the floor.

Per Cleaning the Glass, Denver’s offensive rebound percentage increased by 3.9 percent when Craig was on the floor, which ranked in the 92nd percentile. Millsap was right behind Craig, as he boosted the team’s offensive rebound percentage by 3.6 percent when on the floor. Jokić was third highest at +2.4 percent, while both Hernangomez and Murray improved the team’s offensive rebound percentage when on the floor.

When you are an elite rebounding team (especially on both ends of the floor), it provides a boost for the offense in the form of extra possessions and scoring opportunities, while it can also help solidify a defense by limiting the opponent’s possessions. Last season, Denver supported its elite offensive rebounding with the fifth-highest defensive rebound percentage.

More playing time for Craig and Millsap certainly played a role in the impressive offensive rebounding. After playing on a two-way contract that limited his playing time during the 2017-18 season, Craig saw 20 minutes per game over 75 games last season, which allowed him to insert himself on the boards.

Meanwhile, Millsap was able to play in 70 games this past season, compared to just 38 games in 2017-18. Millsap has developed a stellar reputation throughout his career as a positive player on the offensive glass. Millsap has had a positive impact on his team’s offensive rebound percentage in the majority of his 13-year career. While Millsap played as an undersized power forward earlier in his career, as the league has continued to emphasize floor-spacing and defensive versatility, Millsap’s size doesn’t prevent him from being effective on the boards.

The addition of Jerami Grant could provide another boost to Denver’s already-elite offensive rebounding. In Grant’s breakout 2018-19 season with the Oklahoma City Thunder, the team’s offensive rebound percentage increased by 2.2 percent when Grant was on the floor, which ranked in the 80th percentile. On the other end of the floor, the opponent’s offensive rebound percentage decreased by 3.4 percent when Grant was playing, which placed him in the 92nd percentile.

Given Denver’s roster continuity and the addition of another athletic big man to help out on the boards, expect to see the Nuggets near, or at the top of the league in offensive rebound percentage in the 2019-20 season. Combining that dominance with stellar defensive rebounding will certainly propel the Nuggets on both ends of the floor as they look to compete in a reloaded Western Conference.

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