Building the All-NBA Rebounding Team
Rebounding is one of those stats that never really gets enough credit in NBA circles.
It's easy to focus on glamorous stats like scoring and dishing out assists, but rebounds are crucial to the winning effort. Cleaning the defensive end stops a possession and can trigger an easy run-out, while picking up an offensive board keeps a possession alive, giving a team yet another chance to produce those all-important points.
Fortunately, recent developments have given us an increased ability to measure players' values on the glass.
Throughout this article, you'll see plenty of metrics used, and it's important that you enter the next handful of slides with a solid knowledge of each of them. So, here we go:
- The standard offensive, defensive and total rebounds per game. No explanation needed, as these box-score metrics have been around for decades.
- Offensive, defensive and total rebound percentages. These show the percentage of available rebounds grabbed in each situation, which takes quantity out of the equation.
- What I'm calling "percent conversion." This comes from NBA.com's SportVU data, and it measures the percentage of a players rebounding chances (when a player was within 3.5 feet of the available rebound) that were successfully grabbed. A player who grabs the same number of rebounds as another guy is more impressive on the boards if he does so with fewer opportunities, and that's what this stat can show.
- "Percent contested." Also coming from the SportVU data, this shows what percentage of a player's rebounds came while there was another player within the vicinity of this rebound. Having a higher number means that more fighting for the boards was successfully done.
All of these factors matter, because each on their own can be awfully misleading.
So, with that out of the way, let's break down the best rebounders at each position that the Association has to offer.
Point Guard: Michael Carter-Williams
Team: Philadelphia 76ers
Per-Game Rebounding Stats: 1.5 offensive, 4.4 defensive, 5.9 total
Advanced Rebounding Stats: 4.3 ORB%, 14.1 DRB%, 9.1 TRB%
SportVU Rebounding Stats: 55.6 percent conversion, 30.7 percent contested
Michael Carter-Williams may only be a rookie, but he's already established himself as the NBA's most dangerous rebounding point guard. That's just what precocious confidence and lanky arms can do for you, as well as playing on an uptempo team with lots of rebounding opportunities.
The Syracuse product has already recorded five games with at least 10 rebounds, and he has another handful with nine boards. Any guesses how many true point guards have managed to get to double figures even twice this season?
Here's the complete list:
- Patrick Beverley (twice)
- Stephen Curry (four times)
- Brandon Knight (twice)
- Shaun Livingston
- Kyle Lowry (twice)
- Ricky Rubio (twice)
- Russell Westbrook (five times)
As you can probably tell, it's Westbrook and Curry who provide the most competition for this starting spot. So let's turn to a numbers comparison, acknowledging that the OKC floor general is in great shape since he has as many double-digit games as MCW while playing in 20 fewer games:
|Player||ORB||DRB||ORB%||DRB%||TRB%||% Conversion||% Contested|
First, let's just go ahead and eliminate Curry. He's impressive, but he's not in the same class as the other two.
Now, why am I rolling with MCW when Westbrook reigns superior in two of the three most-important stats (total rebound percentage, percent conversion and percent contested)?
The Philadelphia floor general does a much better job grabbing rebounds in traffic, and he's maintained these numbers over the course of 20 additional games. Westbrook has been the superior rebounder on a per-possession and per-game basis, but he's missed too much time to trump someone who's only a tiny bit behind him in those regards.
Shooting Guard: Lance Stephenson
Team: Indiana Pacers
Per-Game Rebounding Stats: 1.3 offensive, 6.0 defensive, 7.3 total
Advanced Rebounding Stats: 4.3 ORB%, 17.8 DRB%, 11.4 TRB%
SportVU Rebounding Stats: 69.0 percent conversion, 25.8 percent contested
Don't make the mistake of looking at Lance Stephenson's rebounding numbers and thinking that he must spend a lot of time at small forward. According to Basketball-Reference, 97 percent of Stephenson's minutes have come while he's playing at the 2.
Nonetheless, he's left every other shooting guard in the dust.
Any guess how many guards have recorded at least six boards per contest?
"Born Ready" is the only one, and he's averaging 7.3. In fact, he, Jason Kidd and Quentin Richardson are the only guards in the past decade to top seven on a nightly basis.
Any guess how many guards have pulled down at least four percent of the available offensive rebounds and 17 percent of the available defensive rebounds when they're on the court?
Stephenson is the lone qualifier this season, and J-Kidd and Carlos Delfino are the only players to join him over the course of the past decade. Basically, what he's done during the 2013-14 campaign is nearly unprecedented.
"In high school, Lance’s whole focus was on scoring, on breaking Telfair’s state record, which he did," Tom Konchalski, a New York-based scout, told The New York Times' Harvey Araton earlier in the season. "Now he’s one of the best rebounding and passing wings in the league, he guards multiple positions and his own scoring is almost secondary."
I'll go further than that.
Stephenson is the best rebounding wing in the league.
Small Forward: Carmelo Anthony
Team: New York Knicks
Per-Game Rebounding Stats: 2.0 offensive, 6.2 defensive, 8.2 total
Advanced Rebounding Stats: 5.9 ORB%, 19.4 DRB%, 12.4 TRB%
SportVU Rebounding Stats: 71.0 percent conversion, 29.1 percent contested
It's easy to look at Carmelo Anthony's scoring numbers and forget about everything else, but that would be a mistake. If you do that, you're selling short an increasingly versatile superstar who has placed a major emphasis on improving his all-around game.
Going into this season, 'Melo had never averaged more than 7.4 rebounds per game, and he'd failed to top seven since joining the New York Knicks. But he's changed that this season, grabbing 8.2 boards per contest, which paces the league among players who don't line up primarily at the 4 or 5.
In fact, there are 27 players currently averaging at least eight boards per game and qualifying for the rebounding crowd. Of those, 'Melo is the only player who has spent most of his time at small forward.
He's even managed to pull down 15 rebounds on six separate occasions, including a monstrous 20-board outing against the dominant frontcourt of the Los Angeles Clippers. That's not supposed to be done against Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, seeing as only Nikola Vucevic has topped that mark during the 2013-14 campaign.
Also notable is that Anthony is incredible at converting on his rebounding chances. He might cherry-pick some easier boards and fail to hustle on the glass during some portions of the game, but 71 percent conversion on his opportunities is something to marvel at.
Among the 35 players in the NBA who average at least eight boards per contest and have played in at least 20 games, DeAndre Jordan is the only player with a higher conversion rate.
Power Forward: Kevin Love
Team: Minnesota Timberwolves
Per-Game Rebounding Stats: 3.0 offensive, 9.7 defensive, 12.7 total
Advanced Rebounding Stats: 8.6 ORB%, 29.8 DRB%, 18.8 TRB%
SportVU Rebounding Stats: 66.4 percent conversion, 38.4 percent contested
Kevin Love's rebounding abilities get talked about quite often.
"Love's rebounding abilities have allowed him to score a large chunk of his points off offensive rebounds, and of course, the rebounding on defensive possessions leads to perhaps Love's most well-known skill—throwing the outlet pass for one of the league's fastest teams in terms of pace," wrote Kevin Zimmerman for SBNation.com earlier in the season.
Zimmerman isn't the only one who recognizes this.
Love's skills on the glass are much-ballyhooed, and they're usually one of the first things brought up when discussing what makes the Minnesota Timberwolves power forward a superstar.
However, Love has actually been worse on the boards this year than at any point in his professional career. His penchant for the triple has left him too far from the basket to post a high offensive rebound percentage, and a mark on defense right in line with his career average can't make up for the slack.
Even still, this diminished version of Love is easily the best rebounding 4 in the Association.
The 'Wolves power forward has recorded 1.6 more boards per game than the next-best player at his position (LaMarcus Aldridge), and the SportVU stats give him even more of an advantage. No power forward other than Anthony Davis even comes close to grabbing as many contested rebounds as Love does.
Center: Andre Drummond
- Andre Drummond, 17.3
- Robin Lopez, 13.8
- Jared Sullinger, 13.6
- Samuel Dalembert, 13.5
- Nikola Pekovic, 13.2
Team: Detroit Pistons
Per-Game Rebounding Stats: 5.3 offensive, 7.4 defensive, 12.8 total
Advanced Rebounding Stats: 17.3 ORB%, 26.8 DRB%, 21.8 TRB%
SportVU Rebounding Stats: 69.0 percent conversion, 46.3 percent contested
As you might expect, this is by far the most competitive position.
Centers are known for their rebounding skill, and they're also the biggest players on an NBA court. It's their job to clean up the glass, and it's tough to justify playing a center who isn't great on the boards unless they have highly marketable skills in some other facet of the game.
Of the top 15 rebounders in the Association—ranked solely by rebounds per game—Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Anthony Davis and Zach Randolph are the only non-true centers. And as a logical next step, that means there are quite a few candidates to hold down the fort as the starting center on this team.
Even though Dwight Howard has the best reputation on the boards and DeAndre Jordan is leading the league by a rather significant margin, the honor goes to a second-year player from the Detroit Pistons—Andre Drummond.
There are two things that push him to the top of the pile.
First, the 20-year-old center is the best offensive rebounder in the league. He has 75 more offensive boards than anyone else in the league, and his 17.3 offensive rebound percentage just leaves everyone else in the dust. Here are the top five in that category:
It's just not even close. The gap between Drummond and Lopez (3.5 percent) is as large as the gap between Lopez and...someone outside of the current top 20.
On top of that, few players are better at grabbing contested boards than the Connecticut product, who has had to contend with Greg Monroe and Josh Smith throughout the season.
None of the league's top 20 rebounders per game have a better percent contested than Drummond, and Anthony Davis (43.8) is the second-best among the group.
Iman Shumpert, SG, New York Knicks
Mike Woodson may keep Iman Shumpert on a short leash, but there's no doubt he gives the New York Knicks a significant threat on the glass.
Shumpert averages "only" 4.3 rebounds per game, but he's pulling down 5.9 boards per 36 minutes. And when you look at his percentages, his case for making the team only gets strengthened—4.5 offensive rebounding percentage, 14.9 defensive rebounding percentage, 9.5 total rebounding percentage.
The Georgia Tech product has seen all three numbers rise each year of his career, and he's now in fairly uncharted territory for a guard.
Only four qualified backcourt members have topped four, 14 and nine, respectively, during the 2013-14 season. Two were featured in the starting lineup, and the other two are Russell Westbrook and Shumpert.
Russell Westbrook, PG, Oklahoma City Thunder
As if the text about Westbrook during Michael Carter-Williams' featured section didn't make his appearance feel inevitable, you probably could've guessed he'd be here based on both the picture you see up above and the last stat about Shumpert.
Westbrook has only been on the court for 36 games during the 2013-14 season, but he's already recorded double-digit rebounds in five of those outings. And there are another five games in which he's come up only one shy of the barrier.
The OKC floor general has been an absolute terror on the defensive glass, and it's quite clear his athleticism has returned.
- Kevin Durant, 75.2
- LeBron James, 72.9
- DeAndre Jordan, 71.4
- Carmelo Anthony, 71.0
- Kevin Garnett, 70.9
Anthony Davis, PF, New Orleans Pelicans
Is there anything "The Brow" can't do?
Anthony Davis is one of only 15 players averaging double figures on the glass, but he's one of only four players in that group who doesn't spend the majority of his time at center. Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge and Zach Randolph are the others.
However, Davis' numbers stand out because he does phenomenal work on the offensive boards—3.3 per game—and grabs a high percentage of his contested rebounds. Here's how he stacks up in those two categories against the other three:
Let's go ahead and get rid of LaMarcus Aldridge, who is more the product of easy rebound opportunities than anything else. Kevin Love already got the nod as the starting 4 thanks to the sheer quantity and quality of his work on the defensive boards.
That leaves Davis and Zach Randolph, but Davis gets the edge by virtue of being slightly superior on contested boards and grabbing 0.3 more total rebounds on 1.6 fewer chances per game.
Blake Griffin, PF, Los Angeles Clippers
You might have thought this spot would belong to Z-Bo, but not so fast.
Blake Griffin only barely missed out on qualifying for the group of double-digit rebounds, but let's remember that he has to crash the boards right next to the league's leading rebounder. DeAndre Jordan takes away quite a few of his opportunities.
The LAC power forward, Randolph and Serge Ibaka are the finalists for this spot, but Griffin has the best combination of quality and quantity. Not only does he grab a higher percentage of contested rebounds than Z-Bo, but he has 0.4 fewer total boards per game and 2.8 fewer opportunities each contest.
Once more, he does more than dunk.
Kevin Durant, SF, Oklahoma City Thunder
The team needs a backup small forward, or else Ibaka would be getting the nod here with a razor-thin margin over Z-Bo.
Kevin Durant may get more credit for his scoring than anything else, but he's been a terror on the boards, which is just a microcosm of his overall improvement.
Among the 72 players averaging at least six boards per game—Durant has 7.7—only five players are grabbing more than 70 percent of their rebounding opportunities:
'Melo was already featured—by virtue of the added quantity and the fact that he leaves Durant in the dust when it comes to grabbing contested boards—but not even LeBron James can come close to earning this backup spot.
It's all Durant's.
Dwight Howard, C, Houston Rockets and DeAndre Jordan, C, Los Angeles Clippers
These are so obvious that I'm just combining them into a single section.
DeAndre Jordan is the leading rebounder in the NBA, and he's also one of just five players averaging at least six boards per game to grab at least 70 percent of his chances on the glass. Only the fact that his rebounds aren't as tough as Andre Drummond's and the slightly less impactful work on the offensive boards kept him from earning the featured spot.
As for Dwight Howard, isn't he always great on the glass?
Jordan, Howard and Tyson Chandler are the only players in the NBA to rank in the top 10 for both offensive and defensive rebound percentage. Now Chandler does rank slightly above D12 in each category, but he's spent significantly less time on the court, both in terms of games and minutes played.
Howard no longer has a stranglehold on a spot, but his grip hasn't been pried completely off.
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