James Harden and the Houston Rockets are treating OKC’s Andre Roberson like he’s firing a sawed-off blunderbuss down a rifle range; Houston is leaving him all alone beyond the arc.
Harden usually draws the Roberson assignment — if you can call it that — on defense. It just enables James to lurk the paint, causing Russell Westbrook more trouble when he rumbles to the rim. In Game 2, Harden’s willful ignorance of Roberson seemed to work. Roberson went bucket-less from downtown on three attempts, and the Rockets won. (Not as a direct result from that, but still.) Regardless, Harden’s sagging off Roberson had an interesting side effect in Game 2, one that wasn’t as pronounced in Game 1.
When Harden sinks into the paint to clog up OKC’s offense, he’s disregarding Roberson’s ability to shoot the ball. But he’s also disregarding something else: Roberson’s rebounding. When Harden — or any Rockets player — plays that far off Roberson, he loses his ability to box out, too.
In Game 2, Roberson registered seven offensive rebounds. That’s two more offensive rebounds than Houston’s entire team had. Now, I’m not saying Roberson’s snaring offensive boards is covering up all his shooting deficiencies. It’s not. But if you don’t guard the guy, this can happen:
When Harden and Roberson share the court together — which they have for all but one minute of the series — Roberson grabs 13 percent of available offensive rebounds, the highest such rate on his team, per NBA.com/Stats. Small sample size or not, that’s impressive. Hassan Whiteside’s offensive rebounding rate was 12.9 percent on the season.
Through 79 regular season games, Roberson owned a more modest offensive rebounding rate, nabbing 4.6 percent of available rebounds off the offensive glass.
It’s no secret that offensive rebounds are valuable to some extent. They create mismatches and leave the defense scrambling about, which enables offenses to catch the defense on their heels. Offenses often shoot better, especially from 3-point range, after an offensive rebound, too.
It seems like Roberson has found a way to try and stymie the effects of Houston’s Andre apathy — by crashing the offensive boards. He had 11 offensive rebound chances in Game 2, which led the game. He’s crashing the offensive glass more than both teams’ centers. We’ll see if that makes a dent in Houston’s apathy. After all, OKC did have 20 second-chance points in Game 2, many of which came directly or indirectly from Roberson’s glass-crashing.