It's pretty lean these days in terms of Cougar basketball news, but I ran across this interesting nugget buried in a Cougfan.com story that was picked up by CougHoops.com:
Aron Baynes said his No. 1 personal goal this year is to be a better rebounder.
"I’ve never been happy with what I’ve done on the boards. I know I can do more," he told CF.C this summer while in Seattle helping out at June Daugherty’s Hope Heart Institute basketball camps. "That’s something I’m really focusing on."
I find this noteworthy for one reason alone -- Baynes already is an excellent rebounder.
Now, those that look at raw stats might disagree with me. After all, six rebounds a game (his average last year) just doesn't look all that impressive and might cause someone to argue that there is definitely room for improvement. "I mean, for goodness sake, Tyler Hansbrough averaged 10.2 rebounds -- now there's a great rebounder!"
But if you followed me over here from WSU HOOPS, you know I hate raw stats, because they never tell the whole story.
The truth is, in terms of rebounding ability, Baynes was one of the best rebounders in the Pac-10 last season. According to Kenpom.com, he cleaned up 22.5 percent of the Cougs' defensive rebound opportunities (No. 6 in the conference) and 10.8 percent of the Cougs' offensive rebound opportunities (No. 9 in the conference). That first figure was better than Jordan Hill, Brook Lopez, Jeff Pendergraph and Taj Gibson. (Oh, and just for good measure, please note that Baynes' defensive rebounding prowess exceeded Hansbrough's last year -- 19.8 percent.)
So, if he's so good, why only six rebounds a game?
The first answer is that the Cougs' slow-down style only translates to just 55-60 possessions a game. Fewer possessions means fewer shots, which means fewer opportunities for rebounds. If Baynes played for North Carolina and played the same 60 percent of his team's minutes but with 75 possessions per game, we can reasonably conclude that he'd have posted 7.5-8 rebounds a game last year.
The rub, however, is in that "60 percent" figure. We all know Baynes has had a lot of issues with fouls. While that 60 percent represents a significant improvement over the previous two years, it's nowhere near as high as it should be -- or needs to be this year.
If Baynes truly wants to improve his rebounding numbers, he only has to do one thing, and one thing only:
STAY ON THE FLOOR.
People can talk all they want about Baynes' new and improved body -- which is reportedly "260 rock-solid pounds" -- but the truth is the only way that's really going to help him be a better rebounder is if he's just a little more agile minus those 10 pounds and avoids one silly foul a game because of it. Don't kid yourself into thinking that Baynes has to do a lot different with technique or anything like that to improve as a rebounder this year. He's already exceptional at using his wide body to box out opponenets; if he simply ups that minute percentage figure to 75 percent or so, that will do wonders -- and put him right around seven rebounds a game if he just grabs boards at the same rate he did last year.
That said, I'm glad this is on Baynes' mind, as I'm all for him trying harder to be a better rebounder. With just Caleb Forrest and Daven Harmeling playing next to him -- don't even bring up Casto or Boeke or Lodwick, because we have absolutely no idea what they're going to bring -- this team is desperately going to need him to rebound like a madman. A good goal showing reasonable improvement would probably be 25 percent on defensive rebounding opportunities and 12 percent on offensive opportunities.
(Put it into plain English, Nusser!)
OK, here you go: Assuming the Cougs have roughly the same amount of rebounding chances as last year, if he can produce those rate numbers mentioned above -- 25 DR%, 12 percent OR% and 75 percent of minutes played -- he should grab roughly 8 rebounds a game, 2.5 of the offensive variety. It might not seem like much, but those two extra rebounds a game this year would represent a HUGE improvement. If he can exceed 8? Well, then we can start talking about Baynes as one of the great rebounders in program history.
I just hope he doesn't try too hard to get those rebounds and finds himself right back on the bench.