Utah Jazz 40 at 40: Does Defensive Rebounding make your defense good, help your team to win, or something else entirely?

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sport

The defense doesn't rest until they have the ball back in their hands. The normal way this happens is by playing defense, making the other team miss, and getting the defensive rebound. Is there a relationship between winning, playing good defense, and being a good defensive rebounding club? There should be. Right?

It only makes sense that getting the ball back on defense with a rebound makes you a better team. If you keep letting the other team get offensive rebound after offensive rebound you're going to end up hemorrhaging second or third chance points. Good teams make the opposing offense go one and done. One shot that is negatively influenced by solid defense should result in a miss, and that miss should be picked up by the defense.

The better teams who play better defense should get the ball back more often. And the teams that play better defense should win more games. Right? That's the idea when you look at the fact that the last four (well, 3.5) seasons of Utah Jazz basketball have involved a lot of losing. And those last few seasons of basketball had the team go out there with #27th, #11th (we made the playoffs), #21st, and #19th ranked DREB%. If the team rebounded better on the defensive glass then perhaps the defense over that period (ranked #23, #19, #21, and #29) would be better?

To test this I looked at every New Orleans / Utah Jazz season ever, and plotted the DREB% and the DEF RTG. Forty years is long enough to see some sort of relationship, if one exists with Jazz basketball at all.

40_at_40_-_12_dreb_def_rtg_win_1

Okay, so. Hmmm. If you squint a little and stare at it for a while it looks like a few squinty blue dots. (I see a figure skater too, but that could just be the brain tumor) I don't see a relationship between these two things by pure value alone. Perhaps we need to look at it by NBA rank instead?

40_at_40_-_12_dreb_def_rtg_win_2

Well, this looks more reasonable; you know, if you ignore the fact that Excel decides to plot the line in the wrong place. There seems to be a more normal line with a slope of 1 if you draw the line from point 1 (8, 2) to point 2 (23, 27). But hey, that's just me and my human brain. If you look at this data it seems to suggest that if you don't take care of your glass, in a relative sense compared to the rest of the league, you will have a similarly poor defense.

What about looking at winning % and DRB %? Is this easier to follow?

40_at_40_-_12_dreb_def_rtg_win_3

Now this looks normal-ish. You win more the better ranked your DRB% is, but not necessarily winning more compared to your DRB% alone. I guess this is because winning isn't your team against history, it's your team against the other teams that season. So being better relatively at something is better than being awesome overall. After all John Stockton is better than Steve Nash, but Nash has two MVPs because he was relatively the best player in the league twice. Not because he was one of the best players ever. It's the same principle here.

Where does that leave our Jazz team? Well, our DEF RTG is ranked #29, and we are losing a lot of games. And compared to the rest of the NBA, we're almost in the bottom 1/3rd in DRB%. When we were getting a lot of our defensive boards (see 1994-1999) the team had one of the best stretches for DEF RTG and won a lot of games too. BUT when the Jazz had their best ever string of DEF RTG teams (1984-1989) the team had a really bad string of DRB% and struggled to win 45 games a season.

I guess what we learned is that being better than your peers is better than being good. And if DRB% is such a huge problem this year, why the heck are Jeremy Evans (19.9 DRB%) and Rudy Gobert (31.5 DRB%) sitting? Derrick Favors (24.1 DRB%) can't do it all his own!

.

Data:

Record Defense
Season G W - L % Opp PPG Rank DRTG Rank DRB% Rank
1 1974 1975 82 23 - 59 28.0% 109.3 18 99.7 16 68.7% 14
2 1975 1976 82 38 - 44 46.3% 105.0 9 97.4 5 70.2% 7
3 1976 1977 82 35 - 47 42.7% 107.4 14 99.7 14 68.2% 10
4 1977 1978 82 39 - 43 47.6% 109.5 13 100.6 10 69.5% 5
5 1978 1979 82 26 - 56 31.7% 114.6 21 105.4 18 64.3% 22
6 1979 1980 82 24 - 58 29.3% 108.4 10 110.4 22 67.1% 9
7 1980 1981 82 28 - 54 34.1% 107.1 12 109.2 20 66.8% 10
8 1981 1982 82 25 - 57 30.5% 116.6 23 111.7 20 65.3% 21
9 1982 1983 82 30 - 52 36.6% 113.2 19 105.1 12 63.9% 23
10 1983 1984 82 45 - 37 54.9% 113.8 20 108.0 12 63.4% 23
11 1984 1985 82 41 - 41 50.0% 109.1 8 103.4 1 65.3% 20
12 1985 1986 82 42 - 40 51.2% 108.5 9 104.6 3 67.2% 13
13 1986 1987 82 44 - 38 53.7% 107.5 9 103.7 1 65.2% 20
14 1987 1988 82 47 - 35 57.3% 104.8 5 103.1 1 66.7% 16
15 1988 1898 82 51 - 31 62.2% 99.7 1 101.5 1 68.1% 8
16 1989 1990 82 55 - 27 67.1% 102.0 3 105.4 5 69.5% 5
17 1990 1991 82 54 - 28 65.9% 100.7 3 105.1 6 69.2% 5
18 1991 1992 82 55 - 27 67.1% 101.9 7 105.6 7 68.9% 5
19 1992 1993 82 47 - 35 57.3% 104.0 10 107.4 13 68.7% 11
20 1993 1994 82 53 - 29 64.6% 97.7 9 104.1 7 68.4% 11
21 1994 1995 82 60 - 22 73.2% 98.4 7 105.7 8 72.5% 2
22 1995 1996 82 55 - 27 67.1% 95.9 6 106.1 8 71.7% 4
23 1996 1997 82 64 - 18 78.0% 94.3 8 104.0 9 71.6% 4
24 1997 1998 82 62 - 20 75.6% 94.4 13 105.4 17 71.0% 5
25 1998 1999 50 37 - 13 74.0% 86.8 5 98.4 7 70.4% 9
26 1999 2000 82 55 - 27 67.1% 92.0 5 102.3 11 73.2% 2
27 2000 2001 82 53 - 29 64.6% 92.4 8 102.4 12 73.2% 6
28 2001 2002 82 44 - 38 53.7% 95.1 13 104.6 14 71.7% 12
29 2002 2003 82 47 - 35 57.3% 92.3 7 102.8 15 70.2% 24
30 2003 2004 82 42 - 40 51.2% 89.9 9 103.3 14 72.4% 10
31 2004 2005 82 26 - 56 31.7% 97.3 16 109.5 26 72.3% 8
32 2005 2006 82 41 - 41 50.0% 95.0 9 107.0 21 73.2% 12
33 2006 2007 82 51 - 31 62.2% 98.6 17 107.0 18 75.1% 4
34 2007 2008 82 54 - 28 65.9% 99.3 13 106.5 12 74.1% 9
35 2008 2009 82 48 - 34 58.5% 100.9 19 107.3 10 72.7% 20
36 2009 2010 82 53 - 29 64.6% 98.9 12 105.0 10 75.6% 5
37 2010 2011 82 39 - 43 47.6% 101.3 19 110.1 23 71.7% 27
38 2011 2012 66 36 - 30 54.5% 99.0 23 106.1 19 73.8% 11
39 2012 2013 82 43 - 39 52.4% 98.1 16 106.8 21 73.2% 21
40 2013 2014 42 14 - 28 33.3% 100.9 17 109.5 29 73.8% 19
3192 1726 - 1466 54.1% 101.5 11.6 105.0 12.5 70.0% 11.8
44.3 - 37.7
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