How Will A 14-Second Shot Clock After Offensive Rebounds Impact The NBA?

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I am not a particularly talented basketball player. I’m not bad, necessarily, I just lack in talent and finesse and have to make up for it with effort and borderline illegal defense. I belong on the Maine Red Claws, in other words. At a recent 3-on-3 tournament I host every year, I learned that next summer I’ll need to demand cell phones be turned off — someone caught video of me coming down with an offensive rebound, pump-faking to no avail, and then just sort of freezing on the block. I had no shot, I had no passing option, and for whatever reason I completely forgot I was allowed to dribble. It all took about seven seconds and felt like 20.

In other words, I’m exactly the type of player the NBA is considering legislating out. Granted, they’ve long since created a barrier to 5’10 try-hards without much skill making the league. Now, it seems they’d like to cut down on the option for the play immediately following an offensive rebound to be dragged out.

According to multiple reports, the NBA’s Competition Committee has recommended that the shot clock only be reset to 14 seconds following an offensive rebound beginning this year, not the full 24 seconds to which we’re accustomed. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN has reported that the change, among others, is expected to pass when the league’s Board of Governors votes on the proposal at meetings taking place Thursday and Friday (a two-thirds majority is required to pass the change).

There are a number of ways to look at the change in the post-rebound shot clock, and the exact macro outcome won’t be clear for some time. The league’s thinking appears to be that a shorter clock after a rebound will induce more shot attempts and a more up-tempo pace of play on offense, particularly late in games when the team ahead won’t be able to use a rebound as a means of running out additional clock.

Counter-points exist, to where a new offensive rebounds equilibrium may take some time. Some factors to consider:

1. In theory, a shorter shot clock after an offensive rebound decreases the value of an offensive rebound. With NBA teams already devaluing the offensive rebound to prioritize transition defense, it’s possible that decreasing the value of an offensive rebound further dis-incentivizes teams to crash the glass.

Blake Murphy

2. Some of that change in offensive rebounding philosophy has come due to the increased volume of three-point shooting. Yes, a higher-efficiency scoring environment puts extra value on each shooting possession, but the trajectory of rebounds on longer shots is more difficult to predict*, therefore making offensive rebounds more difficult to secure. This study, for example, looked at the additional rebounders required to secure offensive rebounds on longer shots. Transition scoring opportunities have also become more valuable with the rise in three-point volume and early-clock attempts.

Blake Murphy

(* — The original Sloan paper this was referencing is no longer online; a good summary can be found here.)

3. It is possible a shorter clock provides an incentive for more immediate putback attempts at the expense of threes following offensive rebounds rather than changing the appetite for offensive rebounds in general. However, if teams have the perception that offensive rebounds are both more difficult and less valuable, the pace-of-play argument in favor of the rule change may be moot. If teams aren’t crashing the offensive glass, that means they’re getting back on defense in transition, and better transition defense would mean more possessions are forced into half-court scenarios, which are, obviously, played out at a slower tempo than the transition game.

Blake Murphy

As an aside, the league as a whole used 14.7 seconds per possession last year, but that number was 9.3 seconds after a turnover, 11.4 seconds after a live defensive rebound, and 17.5 seconds after a make or dead ball, per Inpredictable.