Orlando Magic’s rebound struggles are behind the rebound numbers

Franz Wagner has noted his need to improve his rebounding. It is indicative of a teamwide problem on the glass for the Orlando Magic. Mandatory Credit: Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports
Franz Wagner has noted his need to improve his rebounding. It is indicative of a teamwide problem on the glass for the Orlando Magic. Mandatory Credit: Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic are a team with a lot of size. That is their defining trait — their length and positional versatility.

But there are still some hard truths that come in the NBA though. Not everything can simply be about positional size.

In the end, so many things that Orlando’s versatility creates or wants to create — especially the team’s desire to push the ball up the floor quickly — comes down to one very simple act: Rebounding.

At various times throughout the season, the Magic have been a solid rebounding team. Percentage-wise, they sit in the middle of the league. And yet, it still feels like something of a perceived weakness. Something this team has not quite been able to settle.

The Orlando Magic are a decent rebounding team by the numbers. But it is also a clear weakness for a team that needs to lock down the boards to jumpstart their offense.

There are plenty of numbers that suggest rebounding is not such a huge problem for this team. Yet, watching even Friday’s win over the Washington Wizards, it was clear how much rebounding still affects and hurt this team.

If there is something the Magic have to consider and think about improving and shoring up in their offseason — beyond their lack of consistent 3-point shooting — improving their rebounding has to be at the top of the list.

There are plenty of numbers that point to the team’s rebounding issues.

For the season, the Magic sit at 10th in the league in defensive rebound rate at 72.8 percent. At least compared to the rest of the league, the Magic do fine on the glass. Since the All-Star Break, the Magic are second in the league with a 74.6 percent defensive rebound rate — grabbing nearly three of every four rebound opportunities on defense.

It goes without saying how important this has been to charge the Magic’s offense. Orlando wants to get the board and push up the court quickly. And with the versatility of the team’s forwards, they feel comfortable with anyone getting a rebound and going up the court quickly.

The Magic use a lot of switching defensively and a lot of overcommitment to the paint. That can put the team out of rebounding position just as much as it requires everyone to contribute on the glass.

It also exposes them to critical offensive rebounds. The Magic are 16th in the league giving up 13.6 second-chance points per game.

Additionally, Orlando ranks 26th with a 31.6 percent contested rebound rate according to tracking stats from Second Spectrum. They rank 19th in adjusted rebound chance percentage at 60.7 percent.

What this all says is that the Magic do well at getting rebounds when there is not much of a contest for them. But when they have to scratch out a contested rebound or 50/50 ball, Orlando can and does get beat in major areas.

The Magic, in other words, do have a rebounding problem that their raw numbers do not tell clearly.

Orlando has fluctuated from lockdown on the glass to at times giving up critical offensive rebounds that punish the team. The Magic can point to offensive rebounds and second-chance points as one of their indicators of success.

This is definitely something to put their focus on.

The Magic do not quite have a dominant rebounder either. That has forced the team to be gang rebounders in many respects and has led to some inconsistency on that front.

Wendell Carter leads the team with 8.7 rebounds per game and a 24.8 percent defensive rebound rate. According to data from Basketball-Index and Second Spectrum though, Carter has a 69.50 percent adjusted defensive rebound success rate (which measures the rate Carter grabs rebounds excluding times he defers to teammates).

Carter rates as a strong rebound just based on his raw numbers. But there is one weakness. According to data from Basketball-Index, Carter rates in the 47th percentile in adjusted box out rate. NBA.com’s tracking stats have Carter averaging 1.6 box outs per game with the Magic grabbing rebounds on 92.7 percent of possessions where Carter boxes out.

The problem for the Magic is that their rebounding requires everyone.

Banchero is second on the team in rebounds with 6.8 per game. Banchero though has shown areas where he could improve as a rebounder. And when he is focused on getting boards, it is clear how strong he can be in that category. Banchero ranks in the 64th percentile in contested defensive rebound rate at 27.60 percent and in the 86th percentile in adjusted defensive rebound success rate at 72.70 percent.

Wagner’s rebounding has been a point of contention — something he admitted to Khobi Price of the Orlando Sentinel he has to improve upon too. He averages only 4.1 boards per game. But even Wagner ranks in the 67th percentile in adjusted defensive rebound success rate at 67.8 percent.

Wagner though notably ranks in the bottom quarter of the league in several rebounding metrics. It is a big area he can still add to his team. Especially considering his ball-handling ability at his size.

The Magic have some surprisingly good rebounders from their guard positions too though.

Cole Anthony (4.7 rebounds per game, which outranks Moe Wagner) is in the 93rd percentile in defensive rebound crashing skill and ranks similar to Franz Wagner in adjusted defensive rebound success rate at 66.7 percent, a strong number for a guard.

All of these numbers speak to the Magic’s rebounding potential. But also still how unrefined the team as a rebounding group. The Magic have not been able to be the best version of themselves on the glass. And that has led to the inconsistency that is clearly present with this team.

Orlando has always had to focus on its rebounding. It always has to make sure it is in the position to get rebounds and that some players who are not natural rebounders are contributing on that end.

Next. Franz Wagner is the best sophomore in the league. dark

Quite simply, the Magic still have a lot to improve on the glass. They do well enough, but there are clearly moments where they get outmuscled and beaten on the glass. And for this team to grow and advance, they are going to have to improve their rebounding at all levels and from all positions.