Is there a trade-off for “reloads” (offensive rebounds)?

Spurred by comments made by Wisconsin Badger coach Bo Ryan indicating he instructs his players to “get back on defense” rather than contesting offensive rebounds, I checked to see if there was any correlation between the number of offensive rebounds a team gets and the number of fastbreak baskets a team gives up.  In the NBA, at least, there appears to be such a trade-off.

Using data from a gambling site that keeps opponent fast break statistics (I’m at work right now and don’t have the link to that site, but I’ll update this post later) I ran a regression and found a correlation of .625 between offensive rebounds and opponent fast break points in the NBA.  Teams like the Boston Celtics, who collect few offensive rebounds, allow fewer fast break points.  Teams like the Minnesota Timberwolves, who pound the offensive boards, allow more.  In fact, only one team, the Portland TrailBlazers, collects more offensive rebounds than the number of fast break points they give up.

Huge disclaimer here, though.  Correlation is not causation, especially in this case where there’s an independent act between the two products (you can’t just stop going for offensive rebounds and magically expect the number of fast break points you surrender to disappear.  You would have to commit to getting back on defense).   

I have other reasons, as well, to be skeptical about the connection I found.  First off, most offensive rebounds are gathered by big men, the type of men who otherwise would not get back and defend against fast break points.  Secondly, from my own observations, wing offensive players who do not crash the offensive boards do not necessarily immediately retreat to the defensive end.  In general, they appear to just stand on the perimeter.  These are purely observations, obviously.

Nevertheless, I guess the connection is interesting.  It verifies the beliefs and instructions of some of the basketball coaches I had in my life.  But I need to think a bit more about it.  For now, I just wanted to pass on what I found.

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