Battle of the Boards – Rebounding Key to Liberty’s Success

As the Liberty is┬ácoming off posting a second-consecutive 20-plus win season and finishing atop the WNBA’s Eastern Conference standings for the second time in as many years, there are many factors that have contributed to this success.

Having one of the league’s leading Most Valuable Player candidates in Tina Charles doesn’t hurt; she did lead the WNBA in scoring (21.5 ppg) and rebounding (9.9. rpg) after all in 2016. But as a team, New York has seen an impressive uptick in its rebounding numbers over the past two seasons.

Head coach Bill Laimbeer stresses the importance of holding down the paint on a regular basis, challenging the team to continue to rank amongst the league leaders on the glass. After seeing a decline in 2014, where New York slipped to 4th in the WNBA in rebounding and was out of the top three in offensive and defensive rebounds, the Liberty bounced back over the last two seasons.

Rebounding Off. Rebounds Def. Rebounds Off. Rebound % Def. Rebound % Rebound %
2016 38.6 (1st) 10.6 (4th) 27.9 (1st) 29.6% (4th) 76.1 % (1st) 53.1 % (2nd)
2015 36.7 (1st) 9.9 (4th) 26.8 (1st) 29.2 % (3rd) 78.3 % (1st) 53.8 % (1st)
2014 34.8 (4th) 9.2 (6th) 25.6 (5th) 26.6 % (6th) 74.8 % (2nd) 50.6 % (5th)

New York has led the league in rebounding from 2015-16, and was also in the top four in offensive rebounds and offensive rebound percentage, trailing just the Minnesota Lynx in rebound percentage for the 2016 season.

Obviously Charles leads the way here, she is one of the most prolific rebounders in the history of the league. Her career average of 10.2 rebounds per games leads is the best mark in WNBA history, and she already ranks 12th all-time with 2,335 rebounds, achieving that feat after just seven seasons in the league.

However, the addition of veteran Carolyn Swords and trading into the 1st round to draf Kiah Stokes has really solidified New York’s front line as the best overall rebounding unit in the league. Laimbeer regularly heralds Stokes as an elite rebounder; when she shares the floor with Charles gives the Liberty a tremendous advantage on the glass. As a rookie in 2015 Stokes ranked 11th in the league in rebounding, averaging 6.4 boards per game, a number she improved upon during her sophomore campaign, finishing 7th in the WNBA with 7.4 boards per contest.

Swords is the 3rd critical element to that formula. Since signing with New York she has posted career highs in rebounding over consecutive seasons, culminating with her 4.6 boards per game this year, which was the 28th-best average in the league.

New York has established several key identities as it builds a championship caliber team, and winning the battle of the boards is amongst the most important of those features. The Liberty outrebounded its opponents 23 times during the regular season, going 17-6 in those games. In the 9 it was outrebounded, just a 3-6 mark, and New York was also edged on the glass in its playoff loss against Phoenix.

Expect to see controlling the paint continue to be a point of pride for the Libs moving forward, the numbers prove out that success on the glass goes a long way to determining wins and losses.