The Portland Trail Blazers lead the NBA in points per game (107.9), offensive rating (112.6), free throw percentage (82.4 percent), and now rebounds per game (46.1). Any of those rankings is individually impressive, but together they are downright unbelievable. Prior to season’s start, this team was supposed to be questionable to even make the playoffs, and now they’re the most statistically decorated team in the league.
Take a moment to consider that LaMarcus Aldridge was thought to be soft on the boards. Adding a center like Robin Lopez was supposed to take away from Aldridge’s rebounding totals. Instead, Lopez’s boxing out has given Aldridge prime position without diminishing his own production. In fact, both players are averaging career highs by a wide margin (Aldridge: 11.4, previous: 9.1; Lopez: 8.6, previous: 5.6). The two work so well together, that they’ve eclipsed the combined average of Aldridge and the one trick pony J.J. Hickson from last season (while playing substantially better defense).
However; the frontcourt alone does not account for Portland’s success on the glass. Every single starter is averaging a career high in rebounds this year. Heck, even CJ McCollum and Will Barton (the bench guards for Pete’s sake!) have shown phenomenal instincts early on. This Trail Blazers team is already electric and just about every player is in ascension rather than decline. Do not underestimate the value of rebounding for an offensively oriented team. More rebounds mean more possessions, and when you average more points per possession than anyone else they add up quickly.
In that regard, it makes sense that the Trail Blazers would be elite rebounders. The statistics tell a John Madden-esque story. The team that utilizes extra possessions most efficiently will score the most points; especially if they make a lot of three pointers. Portland’s astounding level of production is no accident. They’re a short leap from sub-standard to mediocre defense away from rounding out their categorical shortcomings and joining the NBA elite. In the meantime, I’ll gladly accept their current state of excellence over where they were “supposed” to be.