Crashing the glass hard can open up defensive weaknesses for the opponent to exploit (for example, crashing the glass hard makes it easier for the opposition to run a fast break). However, not crashing the glass is not a clear winning strategy either, because retreating reduces the chance of grabbing an offensive rebound by more than 50% (unsurprising).
Here’s the presentation of the paper “To Crash or Not To Crash” at the Sloan Sport’s Conference
One of the most important moments in a game to grab an offensive rebound is in crunch time (which I define as winning or losing by five points with five minutes or less left in the game). For a team that is winning, an offensive rebound and a subsequent offensive possession uses valuable time and gives a chance to extend the lead. For a team that is losing, an offensive rebound gives the team another chance to cut the lead.
The teams that grab the highest percentage of offensive rebounds in crunch time are the (data from here)
- Memphis Grizzlies — 39%
- Chicago Bulls –38.8%
- Indiana Pacers — 36.6%
The interesting thing is that you would expect these teams to not have the best defensive ratings: one would think that if they’re crashing the boards hard they leave themselves susceptible to transition offense. However, the Pacers are second in the NBA in crunch time defense (giving up only 88.4 points per game). The Grizzlies are fifth in the NBA in crunch time defense (94.5 ppg) while the Chicago Bulls are tenth (98.1 ppg). It could be that great rebounding teams tend to be good defensive teams due to good coaching (Tom Thibodeau in Chicago, for example), good defensive big men (Gasol, Noah, Hibbert), or a combination of other factors — however, it is surprising that the best crunch time offensive rebounders also play some of the best crunch time defense.