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The Ryan Hollins Conundrum

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.

  • CG12

    I don't really get it with Hollins, either. Apparently his ability to hedge on the pick and roll gets coaches really exciting, but I am more apt to focus on the aforesaid utter lack of rebounding and horrendous play on offense. I appreciate the guy's energy, but I'd still rather see a scuffling Stiemsma.

    • CG12

      Thank you, Greg.

  • A-town

    Probably the only time this will (and should) be mentioned but is he perhaps a poor man's Mark Blount? The inability to rebound despite the size seems similar.

  • Kevin

    I've never seen a player have so many rebounds that are just out of his reach. His rebounding positioning is terrible. He gets too far underneath the basket to be in effective position.

    He's a great leaper, but he's not exactly a 100% finisher on alley-oops. Let's see more Stiemsma.

    • yeah

      Noticed that too, I do think it's his positioning. I mean, obviously it's not his height.

  • Ray Ray for 3

    Bring on The Steamer!! Steam up the glass!

  • Jim

    Steamer has been hurt but Hollins is just plain awful. The guy must be dating Doc's daughter or something.

  • Pat

    As a Cleveland Cavs fan (this article was linked from WaitingForNextYear.com, an aptly-named Cleveland sports blog), it's definitely entertaining reading the post and the comments from the readers about Hollins. They're exactly what we used to say. He doesn't rebound (he puts himself out of position by going for and missing the shot block every time or by getting shoved under the basket). He doesn't help you on offense as he can't finish in traffic and he can't establish offensive position in the post. It's really just sad to see the way he wastes his athleticism and God-given length. I assume that, like the Cavs' GM, Danny Ainge figured an athletic 7-footer needs to be in the NBA, but unfortunately for Celtics fans, they're going to find out that Ainge is wrong. The one silver lining… Miami's bigs won't take advantage of Hollins because they're terrible.

  • scout

    Player Type: Athletic shot-blocking big man
    Strengths: Hollins is a pure shot-blocker, plain and simple. He's athletic for a 7-footer, and this couples with his length to make him an intimidating presence coming in off the help side. Hollins will also run the floor for dunks and easy buckets, and is a good offensive rebounder.
    Weaknesses: Simply put, Hollins has athleticism but lacks basketball skills. He has no post game to speak of and has no shooting range outside of five feet. Defensively, Hollins severely lacks strength, making it difficult for him to get rebounding position and contend one-on-one with opposing big men inside.
    Favorite shot: Putback dunk

  • I disagree. Ray is still an amazing offensive weapon when healthy .Please share more information about him.thanks for sharing.

  • You know I hate to say it but I agreed with your article you are right it's time for us to move on keep the things and follow the player rules.