One of the oft-repeated phrases by supporters of Andrea Bargnani this off-season is that he will most likely increase his rebounds from 6.2 per game last season to between 8 and 9 per game next season now that Chris Bosh is no longer with the team. Considering that Bosh averaged 10.8 rebounds per game last season to finish sixth in the NBA in that category, it’s understandable on a surface level where this belief comes from. The question I’ll try to answer with this post is: Should we really expect the Raptors to experience a rebounding downgrade from Bosh’s replacements?
With the assumption (and hope) that Bargnani won’t be on the floor at the same time as David Andersen for a significant number of minutes (in consideration of the fact that they amplify each other’s rebounding and defensive weaknesses), we should expect that Bosh’s minutes will be distributed among the not-so-fearsome foursome of Amir Johnson, Ed Davis, Reggie Evans and Joey Dorsey. The latter two guys probably won’t see much floor time unless one of the first two guys gets injured, but injuries do happen so they will probably both get some burn this season.
Let’s start with Johnson, who I expect to get the most PF minutes this season. Bosh was definitely a better rebounder (10.8 rebounds per 36 minutes) than Amir (9.8/36) last season, but that was a career year for Bosh and it’s probably not irrelevant that it was his contract year. Over their careers, Johnson actually has a per-36 rebounding advantage over Bosh of 9.9 to 9.1. Bosh might have maintained last season’s rebounding production if he had stayed with the Raptors, but my point is that there isn’t much difference between the two.
Next we have Ed Davis, who could play anywhere from 15 to 25 minutes per game next season depending on injuries, his development and whatnot. As a rookie, we obviously don’t have any NBA numbers for him. But he averaged 9.2 rebounds in 27 minutes per game last season at North Carolina. That’s a pretty impressive figure and history shows that NCAA rebounding numbers usually translate well to the NBA. Bosh averaged 9.0 in 31 minutes per game in his one college season, so there’s a good chance that Davis will be a comparable rebounder to Bosh in the pros.
This brings us to the bangers of our big man group, Reggie and Joey. As you’re probably well aware, Reggie really only has one dimension to his game, but he’s really quite exceptional at that one dimension — and that’s rebounding. He’s averaged a robust 12.6 rebounds per 36 minutes in his career, including 12.2/36 last season to prove that his injury problems didn’t hurt his glass-cleaning prowess. Then there’s Joey, who has only played 112 NBA minutes but averaged 14.1/36 over that time. In the D-League last season, he played 503 minutes and averaged 15.2 rebounds per 36. I think it’s safe to say the guy can grab a few boards here and there.
So, uh… where are these “extra rebounds” for Bargnani coming from again? To be fair, it doesn’t matter if Bargnani improves his per-game rebounding numbers as long as the team out-rebounds its opponents overall. Unfortunately, the Raptors haven’t grabbed more rebounds than their opponents since the 2001-02 season so if you’re wondering why I fixate on this issue a bit, it has something to do with the fact that this team has been outrebounded in each of the past eight friggin’ seasons.
Besides, if we’re going to be honest with ourselves, there’s a contingent of Bargnani fans who just wants to see him increase his per-game rebounding averages by at least two per game in the hopes that it will shut people like me up. If only it were that simple. If Bargnani wants those extra rebounds, he’s going to have to get them the old-fashioned way — by hustling for them. I’ll give him one more season to show me that the word “hustle” is even in his vocabulary.