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Advanced Stats Class: Charlotte’s defensive rebounding was as bad as you thought it was

Few teams worse worse than the Hornets in cleaning the defensive glass, but Cody Zeller was surprisingly good.

Charlotte Hornets v Orlando Magic Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

The 2020-21 Charlotte Hornets finished the regular season with a 33-39 record and the No. 10 seed in the Eastern Conference. Let’s take a look back on the Hornets team advanced stats and better understand why their season went the way it did. This week we’ll break down the Hornets defensive rebounding percentage.

Advanced stat: Defensive rebounding percentage.

What it measures: Percentage of defensive rebounds secured compared to the total number of defensive rebounds available.

Hornets result: 72.2%, 26th in NBA.

The Hornets must like redemption stories because they consistently gave their opponents second chances. Only four teams were worse than Charlotte in securing defensive rebounds - the Pacers, Kings, Raptors, and Timberwolves. None of these poor rebounding teams made the playoffs this year.

On the flip side, some of the league’s best teams finished among the Top 7 in defensive rebounding percentage - the Jazz (2nd), Bucks (4th), Clippers (5th), Nuggets (6th), and Lakers (7th). It’s only common sense that the better teams control the defensive glass, the fewer possessions they give their opponents to score. Better defensive rebounding tends to lead to better records.

If you care enough about the Hornets to be reading this article, you already knew before the 2020-21 season even tipped off that rebounding would be a huge problem with Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo filling the center spot. But in fairness, we need to give good ol’ Cody some props here. Zeller’s defensive rebounding percentage of 21.0% was a career high and ranked 58th of 229 players in the league who appeared in at least 36 games and averaged at least 20 minutes per game. Now, 58th doesn’t sound great, but Zeller’s performance was on par with noted rebounding guru Tristan Thompson (21.2%) and slightly better than other centers like Bam Adebayo (20.4%), Ivica Zubac (20.0%), and Anthony Davis (19.8%). Nobody kills those guys for being bad rebounders, so let’s be fair with Cody, too.

But things fell of a cliff from there. Among the Hornets regular players, PJ Washington was second at just 16.3% followed by LaMelo Ball at 16.1% and Miles Bridges at 15.8%. Bismack Biyombo, Charlotte’s sometimes starting center, finished fifth on the team at just 15.0%. As I wrote last week the Hornets have plenty of playmakers, but as we’re learning this week they don’t have nearly enough rebounders.

Once again, this advanced statistic illustrates the need for the Hornets to add a legitimate inside presence who can clean the glass. This past year, the glass was pretty dirty in Charlotte.