The other night, the Charlotte Hornets got pulverized by the Memphis Grizzlies in a loss that highlighted their biggest weakness as a team - rebounding. While both teams had the same amount of defensive rebounds (27), the Grizzlies pulled down 11 more offensive boards than the Hornets (8 vs. 19). Memphis center Jonas Valanciunas (6 OREB) was towering over everyone else on the court, and it once again became clear that Charlotte lacks the necessary size up front.
Turnovers have been high for the Hornets with 9 and they also trail 19-25 in total rebounds…struggling particularly to deal with Valanciunas #AllFly— Charlotte Hornets UK (@CHornetsUK) February 11, 2021
Oddly enough, the Hornets are actually in the middle of the pack when it comes to rebounding the ball, ranking 18th in the league in rebounds per game (44.0) and eighth in the NBA in offensive rebounds per game (11.0). However, when you take a deeper look into the stats, the Hornets are one of the worst teams in the league in terms of rebound chance percentage (55.8%). This means that of the 78.9 chances they have to grab a rebound per game (sixth most in the league), they only pull down 44 of them (18th in the league). All of this adds up to the fact that the Hornets give up the second most offensive rebounds in the league (11.0). You can read as many statistics as you please, but the issue is even more clear when watching games; getting rebounds is a struggle.
What makes things even weirder is that the return of Cody Zeller hasn’t done much to change these numbers, either. Back in December when Zeller wasn’t playing, the rebounding statistics remained in a similar place to where they are right now - middle of the pack overall and giving up a ton of offensive boards. Unfortunately, this means that if the rebounding is going to improve, it’ll have to be through a trade for another big man.
The issue gets even more prominent when looking at rebounding statistics in wins vs. in losses. In wins, the Hornets grab 46.2 boards, with 35.6 of them being defensive rebounds. Meanwhile, they only pull down 42.2 boards, with 30.8 of them being defensive rebounds in losses. While it may not seem like much, those lost rebounds turn into extra possessions for the opposing teams, which often subsequently leads to easy buckets.
#Hornets roster is bound to experience nights like this on defensive end: severely undersized, leading to rebounding issues. That same lack of size leads to scrambling from help defense, yielding open 3’s on a spread floor. Memphis has hit all of those open 3’s tonight.— Spencer Percy (@QCHspencer) February 11, 2021
Now, while there’s no immediate fix in sight for the Hornets rebounding issue, there are some solid big men around the league that could get dealt near the deadline. Chase Whitney went over a few big men the Hornets could trade for in an article back in January, but there are also some lower-risk targets to consider that would directly help the rebounding department.
Andre Drummond is the first name that comes to mind. The Cavs just traded for Jarrett Allen, and with Drummond’s contract being up at the end of the season, it’s a fairly low-risk move for Charlotte. Another guy to look out for is Mason Plumlee in Detroit. He’s grabbing nearly nine rebounds in less than 28 minutes a night, and with the Pistons most likely being sellers at the deadline, it may not take much to pry him away. Lastly, Tristan Thompson could be a decent option, if the Hornets want to keep up their streak of doing deals with Boston. The Celtics have three playable centers at the moment, and are looking to improve their wing position. Thompson would definitely help the rebounding problem, and the deal could definitely be mutually beneficial.
It’s very possible that Mitch Kupchak opts to not make a deal this season, though, banking on there being a decent center available in free agency. The Hornets are in a solid place overall right now, and a trade may cost them a young piece that they really like. However, if this rebounding issue isn’t fixed in the next couple of years by internal development, a move would have to be on the horizon.