Teaching Offensive Rebounding After Free Throws

Yesterday I wrote about the importance of rebounding off of missed free throws on the defensive side. Many of the same observations that apply to defense also apply to offensive rebounding. Players are occasionally out of position, lazy, and lack discipline in the aftermath of a rebound.

Most Effective Offensive Rebounding Techniques

The three most effective techniques to generate offensive rebounds off of a free throw are listed below. A bull rush toward the front of the rim, a fake sideline into a swim move middle, and a sprint at the rim.

Bull Rush Middle

In a bull rush, the offensive player overpowers the defensive rebounder. The idea is to lean on the defense and give the defender as little space as possible at the rim. This technique proved to be far and away the greatest watching film. The bull rush was used 43 times by my count and the players using this technique got the rebound 9 times. Keep in mind, there are two offensive rebounders, so over the course of 100 missed free throws there are 200 attempts being made. The bull rush was almost twice as successful as all other techniques.

Drilling into the numbers makes the bull rush tempting to use every time. Coaches should exercise caution before going to bull rushes exclusively for two reasons. First, players are susceptible to foul calls. In all 100 free throw attempts I watched, the only time a foul got called before possession was established was a bull rush. There is an art to overpowering the defender in a way that does not draw attention to an official that players need to develop. And if this is the only technique used all game, the opposing coach will make sure the ref notices. Second, the formula force equals mass times acceleration has its limitations. If the player implementing the bull rush has a smaller mass than the player she is trying to overpower it will be unsuccessful.

Swim Middle

This was probably my favorite technique because the players that used it did not fit the rebounding stereotype. Players with exceptional quickness should utilize this technique. The first step is counter to where the crasher actually wants to go. Most of the time, the step was away from the basket toward the baseline. On that initial step, defenders are taught to extend both arms in search of the crasher. The defender’s only sense in this moment is touch, but the offense has the advantage of touching and seeing. When the crasher comes back to the middle she can subtly slap the arm down of the defender to gain a position advantage.

The swim middle technique generated an offensive rebound 16% of the time. The swim technique makes it hard for a defender to multi-task  boxing out and rebounding. Therefore, the other crasher has more opportunity to rebound than she would in a bull rush or a softer run to the middle where the defender does not have as difficult a time locating the box out and the ball. There were a couple swim attempts that generated an offensive rebound for the other crasher. I did not account for this in the 16% number.

Sprint to Opposite Side of the Rim

In the sprinting technique, the offensive player must get just to the side of the rim opposite where she started. She needs to be physical when she arrives at the spot so that she is assured of 50 percent of the floor. The key to the whole process is getting an early jump on the release. If players are looking out of the corner of their eyes at the shooter, the time to get to the rim will be faster. Having one foot further back somewhat like the start of the 100 meter dash will help too.

This technique was used only six times and successful generating an offensive rebound once, so it is hard to judge based on this data. That said, I had a player two years ago that was exceptional getting a jump on the release. I did not go back and look at her stats, but on the eye test she is the most successful free throw offensive rebounder I ever coached.

Least Effective Offensive Rebounding Techniques

Players that decided to go around the side instead of toward the paint were not as successful. These players got offensive rebounds less than 7 percent of the time. If the crasher that pursued a rebound to the side without a counter move, they were even less successful.

Among the moves to the side was the spin move. I only saw three spin attempts, but on all three occasions the spin put the rebounder out of position. Spins looks fancy and give off the impression of high effort, but they pull crashers away from the goal. I would tell my players based on the small sample size that spins are inefficient in generating offensive rebounds.

One explanation for crashing from the side being less successful is the direction of the ball. Players tend to miss free throws off the back of the rim. Even if they miss at an angle off the rim, the rebounds still wind up somewhere in the paint region. On the rare occasions that the ball popped out parallel to the sideline, defensive players still got the rebound. The player boxing out simply had to tip the ball toward the middle and their teammates not responsible for boxing the shooter were in position.

Low Effort and Lazy Players

More than once per game I saw an offensive crasher give zero effort to get a rebound. Watching it on film enrages me, and that is generally not my personality. If a crasher is going to stand and watch or take one baby step forward, they should wait at half-court. The problem with these players starts with their mentality. From the lazy crasher’s perspective, the defense has the position advantage and the shooter could make the attempt. They feel that any effort to create an extra possession is going to go unrewarded.

In the moment it is hard for coaches to prompt players to attack the rebound because they do not want to send a negative message to the shooter. A good goal for a team is to have two offensive boards per game off of missed free throws or make 80 percent of your free throws. Giving players this type of goal and then reflecting on it will increase effort in free throw offensive rebounding.

Fouling after Defense Establishes Possession

The other extreme of being lazy is being too obsessed with getting the rebound. I prefer players to be too obsessed. If aggressiveness is a habit on free throw rebounds for players, they eventually need to show restraint. When defenses get possession, our team’s rule is to sprint back on defense. Occasionally we get a steal or cause the other team to make a mistake by stuffing the outlet or reaching. This is like winning on a slot machine. In the short term we celebrate, but in the long term we are going to lose the probability game. Good competition will beat us up in transition and there are also increased odds of a foul. A foul 70 feet from the hoop is one of the worst plays in the game.

Transition Defense Needs to Come First

There was one occasion where my team gave up a 3 on 1 and a separate occasion where my team got a 1 on 0 transition opportunity. The team crashing for the free throw must have two back on defense by rule. Unless the situation dictates that you must get an offensive rebound, those two players should be deeper than whoever the opposition keeps out of the lane.

Although these occasions are rare, in my opinion they should never happen – particularly the 1 on 0 opportunity. Coaches tend to worry about substitutions or pulling players on the court for a quick conference during a free throw. If that is the case, assistant coaches or players on the bench need to scan the floor to make sure the transition defense is in order after the free throw and communicate if it is not.

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