Orlando Magic need more rebounding from their bigs

Wendell Carter measures as a strong rebounder. But the Orlando Magic need him to add a bit more to dominate the glass. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)
Wendell Carter measures as a strong rebounder. But the Orlando Magic need him to add a bit more to dominate the glass. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic’s rebounding numbers are kind of fascinating to look at.

By the numbers, the team was solid at rebounding, ranking in the top 10 in defensive rebound rate. They seemed to control the glass at a decent level.

Yet, the team was mediocre in second-chance points allowed per game. The team gave up its share of offensive rebounds and second-chance opportunities. The best 3-point opportunities come in transition and off offensive rebounds when the defense is not set. Considering the Magic gave up a ton of 3-point attempts, this has to be part of the equation.

Then there are the individual rebounding numbers. And the Magic were not an impressive rebounding team with Wendell Carter leading the team with 8.7 rebounds per game. The team relied on gang rebounding to some extent — Cole Anthony and Markelle Fultz are excellent rebounders for the guard position and Anthony Black seems to be preparing to add to that.

But guards rebounding is not exactly sustainable. The team is looking ahead to the playoffs and preparing itself for postseason basketball. Rebounding and controlling possessions is essential to success in the postseason — the Denver Nuggets were fourth in the playoffs in defensive rebound rate and top of the list in total rebound rate.

If the Magic are going to “level up” and take some steps up this season, it has to start with their centers and forwards owning the glass.

The Orlando Magic looked like a good rebounding team on paper with several improving rebounders. But they will need their forwards and bigs to lock up the glass to cement those improvements.

The Magic last year were eighth in the league with a 73.0 percent defensive rebound rate. They were 12th in total rebound rate at 50.5 percent.

Splitting things by position, the Magic ranked ninth in the league in defensive rebound rate among centers (73.4 percent), fifth among forwards (73.5 percent) and ninth among guards (72.4 percent).

These numbers do not suggest a team that is going to struggle on the glass. But the team ranked 15th giving up 13.5 second-chance points per game.

This is the biggest incongruity then. The Magic give up only a few offensive rebounds, but it seems that teams convert when they do get offensive rebounds. And this is where the team really runs into trouble.

According to data from Second Spectrum, the Magic were last in the league grabbing 21.3 percent of their rebounds as contested rebounds. Considering how much emphasis the Magic put on defending the paint, they seem to feast on easy rebounds. But they struggle when there are players in their vicinity.

Their 7.0 contested defensive rebounds per game were the third-fewest in the league.

If making the playoffs will happen in the margins, these are the margins the team has to improve. This is how the Magic control possessions better, get out in transition more, reduce 3-point attempts against them and get stops more consistently.

Wendell Carter was not a dominant rebounder last year — 32.9 percent of his defensive rebounds were contested, that was the 12th-worst in the league among centers who averaged at least 25.0 minutes per game (still ahead of luminaries like Anthony Davis, Nikola Jokic and Kristaps Porzingis). So this stat cannot be the only part of the story. But it is an area where the Magic could improve.

Carter overall rates as a strong rebounder — his 2.2 contested defensive rebounds per game ranked 16th among centers who averaged at least 25.0 minutes per game. He ranks in the 90th percentile with 8.15 defensive rebounds per 75 possessions.

Carter dealt with a foot injury for most of the year. So it stands to reason he could improve his raw rebounding totals next year with some health.

Instead, it feels like the Magic could greatly improve its rebounding from the two forward positions.

Paolo Banchero was second on the team with 6.9 rebounds per game. Only 24.5 percent of his rebounds were contested and he was only in the 73rd percentile with 6.18 defensive rebounds per 75 possessions.

Yet, Banchero has a negative impact on the team’s rebounding. According to Basketball-Index, Banchero has a -0.15 real adjusted defensive rebound rate, meaning a player in his role would expect to have a better overall defensive rebound rate.

Carter sucks up his fair amount of rebounds. But it goes to show that there is a perception that Banchero does not always use his physicality on the glass and this is a clear area he can improve. He clearly has the ability.

The same could be said for Franz Wagner, whose rebounding certainly could stand to improve significantly.

Wagner averaged only 4.1 rebounds per game last year and 3.3 defensive rebounds per game. And his rebounding stats are simply astounding — one of the few areas Wagner has not shined. His 2.7 percent offensive rebound rate, 9.8 percent defensive rebound rate and 6.3 percent total rebound rate were among the very worst among players 6-foot-10 or taller — fifth-worst offensive rebound rate, sixth-worst defensive rebound rate and fourth-worst total rebound rate for players 6-foot-10 or taller.

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Wagner plays a lot of small forward, so he is not always in a position to rebound. But even the advanced numbers suggest he could produce a lot more.

He was in the 28th percentile in the league according to Basketball-Index with just 3.6 defensive rebounds per 75 possessions.

However, Wagner rated in the 68th percentile according to Second Spectrum with a 69.1 percent adjusted defensive rebound rate — meaning when he went for rebounds, he got them 69 percent of the time, excluding times he deferred to teammates. And Basketball-Index gave him a 1.0 real adjusted defensive rebound rate, suggesting he has an overall positive impact on the team’s rebounding despite not collecting many himself.

It is not necessarily because he boxes out. But there is clearly something left on the board for Wagner to improve.

The Magic rely on everyone crashing the glass rather than one dominant rebounder. And that largely works for them. But it is also somewhat limiting it seems. It prevents guards from getting up the court and initiating transition opportunities unless they are able to get the boards and go quickly.

Quite simply, the Magic need to get more from their forwards to make the rebounding feel better.

Orlando has some great rebounding guards — Cole Anthony ranked 15th in the league among guards with a 15.2 percent defensive rebound rate.

Anthony Black had a strong rebounding showing at Summer League with 8.7 rebounds per game (13th overall at Summer League). Black had a 12.6 percent defensive rebound rate at Arkansas and 13.0 percent in SEC play.

The team should again find rebounding from everyone. Every player is going to be expected to contribute on the glass. And knowing this team’s positional versatility, they will expect just about every player to be able to get a board and immediately transition into a ball-handler and make decisions on the ball.

That is even more of a reason for Banchero and Wagner especially to improve as rebounders. And that is where the team needs to make its biggest boost.

Next. Paolo Banchero knows he still has room to improve. dark

Carter should have a bounceback season on the glass with improved health. But he will need support. Everyone needs to do just a little bit more to shore up and truly make rebounding a strength for the team.