Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The best rebounders in the NBA, featuring Andre Drummond

Who are the best rebounders in the NBA? Looking at rebounds per game gets us a partial answer, but it doesn't account for a couple of important factors. First, different players get different numbers of opportunities for rebounds. Second, not all rebounds are created equal. Some are uncontested, while others are most definitely not.

The two charts below should give us some more insight. The top chart maps rebounding chances per game against the percentage of those chances that actually get rebounded. (We're including every player who gets at least 14 chances per game.) The second chart looks at the leaders in rebounds per 36 minutes, and breaks those rebounds into uncontested (in purple) and contested (in orange). NBA.com defines "contested" as those rebounds where an opponent is within 3.5 feet of the rebound.

Having trouble viewing the chart? Click here.

Some takeaways:

  • It's probably premature to say definitively that Andre Drummond is the best rebounder in the NBA. But... not by much. He's leading all 29 players in the top chart by pulling in a whopping 73% of rebounding chances. If he's near the ball, he's getting it. Even more impressively, he's doing it the hard way - he's second in total rebounds / 36 mins, and has more contested rebounds AND fewer uncontested rebounds than any of the other top 9 players in that category. What a beast. Oh, did I mention he turned 20 this summer?
  • When it comes to board work, Kevin Love dishes out quality and quantity. He's averaging over 21 rebounding chances per game - nobody else in the game earns over 18 chances. That's proof of both his ability to stay on the floor and his incredible nose for the ball.
  • If Drummond is the best young rebounder in the game, DeMarcus Cousins certainly isn't far behind.
  • Only 29% of Dwight Howard's rebounds this season are contested, compared to 44% for Drummond and 41% for DeAndre Jordan. I have no idea what to make of this, honestly.
  • Speaking of Jordan, his improvement on the boards from past seasons has been remarkable. It's partly because he's staying on the floor, playing over 35 mpg after never even breaking 29 mpg in previous season. But he's also grabbing far more rebounds on a per-36-minutes basis (13.0 this year, compared to a career average of 10.8). Combined with Blake Griffin's usual rebounding excellence, the Clips at least have a solid 1-2 punch inside. (Too bad they also have the not-so-solid 3-4-5 punch of Ryan Hollins, Antawn Jamison and Byron Mullens.)
  • Shout out to Carmelo Anthony, grabbing almost 70% of his rebounding chances. He's easily setting new career highs in both offensive and defensive rebounding rates, which is doubly impressive given his sky-high usage rate.
  • Anderson Varejao. Struggling.
(Primary data source: NBA.com/stats)

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