In March, Ryan Hollins couldn’t get minutes on a below-average Cleveland Cavaliers team. Now he’s the first big off the bench on a team with a reasonable chance to make it to the NBA Finals. Keep that kind of perspective in mind while reading this.
With that said, we have a little bit of an issue. Hollins has been terrible in this series. Not just bad, but terrible. It’s not his fault entirely (see above) but it’s a major problem with no easy solution in the interim.
Let’s start with some numbers. Ryan Hollins has played 55 minutes in this series overall. Over those 55 minutes his has a plus/minus of -38, including a -15 during the Game 3 blowout win in Philadelphia. Those numbers don’t tell the whole story, but are indicative of how little Ryan has been able to do while out on the floor. He has been good for about an alley-oop or a offensive putback each game (averaging 2.8 points per contest) and that’s fine. Fans shouldn’t expect anything from him on the offensive end, because that’s not his job. He posted up and took a fadeaway jumper at the end of a quarter in Game 3 and that’s a shot I never want to see him attempt again.
My issue with Hollins is the rebounding, or lack there of. Coming into town, the center historically had one of the worst defensive rebounding rates for any center in the league, grabbing a mere 10.1 percent of all rebounds. He improved on that atrociousness slightly upon arriving in Boston, finishing the regular season at 12.2 percent rate, a pretty awful number overall but again progress. I wasn’t complaining.
We arrived in the postseason though and the bottom has fallen out for Hollins on the defensive glass. Through 10 postseason games, Hollins has the second worst defensive rebounding rate on the entire team, grabbing just 6.6 of all available defensive rebounds when he’s on the floor. That’s a 50 percent drop from his regular season number, and puts him just above Mickael Pietrus during the postseason. That’s pathetic, even with the small sample size.
In 55 minutes of floor action, he has grabbed just 3 total rebounds (2 on the defensive end). For a team that struggles with rebounding enough as it is, that’s unacceptable. The guards have been stepping up on the glass, as has Paul Pierce (except for Game 4). Hollins has not.
Despite this, Doc Rivers continues to have a bit of a love affair with the guy. He played fairly well against Atlanta in that series and his athleticism is obviously useful against the speedy Sixers. Still, the Celtics are compromising themselves and their rebounding when he is out there (especially if KG isn’t, but that’s any big on the roster at this point not playing with KG).
There is really no easy solution to his problem. Despite his awfulness, Hollins is playing more and more minutes (10, 14, 16, 15 in Games 1-4 this series). And to be fair to Doc, Greg Stiemsma has been nearly just as bad (-19 in 23 minutes this series). The Steamer will rebound however (27.1 percent rebounding rate this postseason) but he’s been turning the ball over (20 percent turnover rate) and it’s unclear whether he can keep up with the speedy Sixers guards with his banged up feet as Doc has appeared to lose confidence in him. Despite it all, Steimer rebounds and after the DNP-coach’s decision in Game 4, I bet he gets another chance tonight in the first quarter of Game 5.
The other guy that should come into play here is Brandon Bass. The starting power forward has played just 24.3 minutes per game in this series and while he has had his ups and downs, there is no way I want him playing that little with Hollins playing that much. Doc hasn’t shown the willingness to go small defensively with Bass at the 5 (yet) in a C’s small lineup but ultimately rebounding-wise, that may be the lesser of two evils here. Bass may not be able to guard Spencer Hawes at the 5, but he has shown the ability to handle Lavoy Allen, Elton Brand, and Thaddeus Young in short stretches. As long as Hawes or Brand/Allen isn’t out there, Doc shouldn’t be afraid to go small with Bass at the 5 in a pinch with Garnett resting.
Whatever the decision may be tonight, one thing is clear. If you are a center, you need to grab rebounds. Heading into the most pivotal game of the season for the C’s tonight, Hollins needs to bring his rebounding shoes or he should stay on the bench.