Beyond Rebounds: Which Players Have Emerged as NBA's Best on the Boards?

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistSeptember 10, 2014

Beyond Rebounds: Which Players Have Emerged as NBA's Best on the Boards?

0 of 23

    Bill Baptist/Getty Images

    Looking solely at rebounds per game just doesn't cut it anymore. 

    Though that standard statistic is a decent measuring stick for evaluating players' work on the boards, it's not perfect. It gives equal credit for all types of rebounds, whether they're coming in crowds of big men or in open space after getting a lucky carom into the corner. Nor does it account for pace or the number of opportunities a team's offense and defense can create. 

    Rebounder Rating fixes all of that. 

    Bleacher Report's Kelly Scaletta and I have combined our mental resources to solve these problems and create a new ultimate metric that should be the standard for evaluating rebounding efforts, just as we did previously for passing (available here and here). 

    In a separate piece, Kelly will elaborate upon Rebounder Rating, delving into the primary takeaways, the flaws in this new system and some of the notable outliers. But before that happens, let's take a look at the players who owned the NBA's boards throughout the 2013-14 season. 

    Note: All stats, unless otherwise indicated, come from's SportVU data and

What Is Rebounder Rating?

1 of 23

    Chris Covatta/Getty Images

    Rebounder rating answers one query above all else: If the player in question played on a team that produced an average number of rebounding opportunities per game and every opportunity was contested, how many boards would he produce? 

    By contested, we're referring to the definition from's SportVU data, which explains that a contested board is a "rebound gathered where an opponent is within 3.5 feet." Naturally, it's more difficult to haul in a missed shot when there's an opposing player fighting for it, and that's the basis of this new metric. 

    "But wait!" you might exclaim. "Shouldn't players be getting credit for uncontested rebounds as well? Doesn't it take skill to find yourself in a position where you can grab a rebound without another player in the immediate vicinity?" 

    In rebounder rating, they do. And it does. 

    There are two components to this metric. The first simply shows how many contested rebounds per game a player records (as given by SportVU cameras), and the second estimates how many more would be added if all the uncontested rebounds recorded had been contested. 

    If we assume that a player's uncontested rebounds are the equivalent of his uncontested rebounding opportunities (an assumption, but a safe one since the times a player blows a wide-open rebound are few and far between), we can subtract that number from the total number of rebounding opportunities. The difference represents the number of contested rebounding opportunities that player generated per game. 

    Dividing the number of actual contested rebounds gathered by that difference gives us the percentage of contested opportunities that were successfully converted. Then, multiplying that percentage by the actual number of uncontested rebounds per game essentially converts the uncontested boards to how many the player in question would have recorded if they'd all been contested instead. 

    By using this method and adjusting to pretend every player suits up for a team that produces a league-average number of rebounding opportunities, we're successfully answering that opening question and making sure that uncontested boards are still valuable. After all, players with more uncontested rebounds will still have higher scores because they'll have a higher starting point for the uncontested-to-contested conversion. 

    Getting to spots and picking up easy rebounds matters here. But so too does fighting off opponents. 

    Best of all, rebounder rating is presented in a form that's easy to understand. This is just an adjusted per-game metric, though it's now significantly harder to break into double figures.

    In fact, only one of the 242 players who recorded at least five rebounding chances per game while playing in at least 20 contests managed to do so. If you'd like to see how all 242 stacked up and correlated with their more traditional rebounds per game, you can do so here

    Just as was the case with passer rating, do note that the strong correlation is a good thing. Once more, we're not trying to reinvent the wheel; just provide more finishing touches to it. You can see the exact formula for how this was done here

30-26: Anthony, Hickson, Varejao, Asik, Horford

2 of 23

    USA TODAY Sports

    30. Carmelo Anthony: 5.22 Rebounder Rating

    Despite not playing center and routinely splitting time at the two forward positions for the New York Knicks, Carmelo Anthony still exerted so much effort on the boards that he managed to stand out as one of the NBA's best rebounders. 

    Though his 8.1 rebounds per game don't allow him to shine as much as others, he's incredible at converting opportunities. In fact, Anthony hauled in 71.2 percent of his chances during the 2013-14 season, more than any other player in this top 30 except the No. 1 finisher. Now he just needs to work on putting himself in position to pull down more contested boards. 

    29. J.J. Hickson: 5.23

    J.J. Hickson wasn't as successful as Anthony at converting opportunities, but he also put himself in position to earn 2.9 additional chances per game. Plus, many of them were of the contested variety (35.7 percent of his rebounds came with someone in range, as opposed to Anthony's 28.3). 

    The Denver Nuggets big man had a raw score that would have put him in even more impressive position, but the pace adjustment impacted him negatively. Whether in the Mile High City or elsewhere, the Nuggets tend to create far more rebounding opportunities on both ends than the league average, which forces Hickson down into this No. 29 spot. 

    28. Anderson Varejao: 5.3

    Perhaps Anderson Varejao would have fared better if he'd always been playing at full strength, but this formula doesn't allow for such subjective tweaks. We can only go with what the numbers show, and they indicate that Varejao is an energy rebounder, not necessarily a true specimen on the boards. 

    Due to his nonstop hustle and solid positioning, the long-haired center created 16.6 rebounding opportunities per game. However, he grabbed only 58.4 percent of those chances, and it's the uncontested variety that allows his traditional figures to stand out more than they should. 

    27. Omer Asik: 5.35

    Chalk this up to playing time, as Omer Asik struggled for minutes behind Dwight Howard in the Houston rotation. He should rocket up these standings in 2014-15 as the New Orleans Pelicans give him far more run next to Anthony Davis. 

    Asik played only 20.2 minutes per game during the 2013-14 season, and he still managed to rank in the top 30. If all Rebounder Ratings were prorated to per-36-minute figures, he would trail only the two players who finished well ahead of the pack in these rankings. Of course, that assumes he could maintain his high activity rate with the increase in minutes, which is never something that should just be taken for granted.

    26. Al Horford: 5.36

    Al Horford might have missed most of the 2013-14 season with a pectoral injury (again!), but he did assert himself as a terrific rebounder while playing just enough games to qualify. This center doesn't tend to create an abundance of opportunities, but—just as he did with the contests he played in—he makes them count. 

    While grabbing 67.5 percent of his opportunities, Horford also fared decently for his work with other players within 3.5 feet of him. A contested percentage of 36.2 is by no means elite, but it's not below average for a player in this portion of the rankings, either. 

25-21: Aldridge, Valanciunas, Lopez, Sullinger, Kanter

3 of 23

    USA TODAY Sports

    25. LaMarcus Aldridge: 5.38

    According to rebounder rating, LaMarcus Aldridge is the most overrated player on the boards throughout the NBA. He may have averaged 11.1 rebounds per game (No. 7 in the Association), but just about every component of the metric works against him here. 

    Aldridge doesn't convert an elite percentage of his myriad opportunities, which is problematic because so many are of the uncontested variety. In fact, only 27.4 percent of his boards are contested, which puts him in a tier occupied by decent rebounding shooting guards and small forwards. Carmelo Anthony, Carlos Boozer, LeBron James and Kevin Garnett are the only other members of the top 50 with a sub-30 percentage. Plus, the Portland Trail Blazers led the league in rebounding opportunities per game, which forces Rebounder Rating to adjust Aldridge's score negatively. 

    24. Jonas Valanciunas: 5.41

    Only 27.4 percent of LaMarcus Aldridge's boards were contested; 42.1 percent of Jonas Valanciunas' rebounds fall into that category. That alone makes a huge difference, enough to overcome the 1.3 additional chances created by Aldridge during the average game.

    Valanciunas is a strong player with positioning that gets better and better as he spends more time operating in the NBA environment. His offensive, defensive and total rebounding percentages have risen during his two seasons in the Association, and it wouldn't be at all surprising to see the trend continue in 2014-15 for this 22-year-old Lithuanian center.  

    23. Robin Lopez: 5.42

    Robin Lopez is a behemoth on the glass. He's not an incredibly mobile player after a shot goes up (possibly due to the system more than his own physical skills), but he makes up for both that and the negative adjustment for Portland players with his strength and ability to hold box-outs at all times. 

    Lopez recorded 4.3 contested and 4.2 uncontested rebounds per game, making him the only player in the top 30 with a contested percentage above 50. Enes Kanter had an even split, and Nikola Pekovic's 47.5 percent checks in as the No. 3 mark in the category. 

    22. Jared Sullinger: 5.46

    Remember when medical red flags were supposed to hold Jared Sullinger back? They may have caused him to slip in the draft-day proceedings until the Boston Celtics snatched him up, but they haven't prevented him from asserting his physicality and keen body awareness after a missed shot clangs off the rim. 

    Sullinger generated only 13.3 opportunities per game—a number depressed by the amount of run he received with the C's—but he sure made those count. Not only did the Ohio State product convert 60.9 percent of those chances, but 45.8 percent of his successful boards were of the contested variety. That's a recipe for success, even when working with limited playing time, at least compared to the other elite rebounders in the league. 

    21. Enes Kanter: 5.52

    Largely due to the 26.7 minutes per game he played for the Utah Jazz in 2013-14, Enes Kanter was only able to record 12.9 rebounding chances per game. Among players in the top 30, only Al Horford, Omer Asik and Carmelo Anthony had a lower number in that category, and no player ranked above Kanter checks in at fewer than 14.2. 

    Nonetheless, Kanter thrived when players were fighting with him for the board, joining Robin Lopez as one of two players with a contested percentage of at least 50. That, along with the Utah Jazz as a whole earning a sub-average 69.1 opportunities per game, aided him greatly. 

20. Nikola Pekovic: 5.6 Rebounder Rating

4 of 23

    USA TODAY Sports

    Rebounding Chances per Game: 15.3

    Contested Rebounds per Game: 4.1

    Uncontested Rebounds per Game: 4.5

    Nikola Pekovic is a strong man. 

    In fact, he's so physically gifted that Thaddeus Young, being introduced by the Minnesota Timberwolves this offseason, said the following about his new teammate, via the team's official Twitter feed: "Pekovic is the strongest guy I've ever played against. Just wanted to put that on the record."

    That strength helps him out on the glass, where he's consistently able to fight off opponents working to either end a Minnesota possession or create a second chance for their own squad. During the 2013-14 season, 47.5 percent of Pekovic's rebounds were of the contested variety, which is rather easily one of the highest percentages out there. 

    What should be interesting now is seeing how the big man fares without Kevin Love next to him. On one hand, he should have more opportunities without a board-gobbler like Love working to corral the same rebounds. But on the other hand, he'll be the subject of far more box-out attention. 

    According to's statistical databases, Pekovic recorded an additional 2.5 rebounds per 100 possessions when Love was off the court, a spike due largely to his work on the offensive glass. Now we get to see if that's a trend or a fluke. 

19. Pau Gasol: 5.71

5 of 23

    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Rebounding Chances per Game: 15.4

    Contested Rebounds per Game: 3.1

    Uncontested Rebounds per Game: 6.5

    Pau Gasol generally doesn't get enough credit for his work on the glass, as it's far easier to focus on his offensive versatility than such a non-glamorous aspect of his well-rounded game. 

    Let's change that. 

    Though Gasol isn't particularly skilled at fighting through contact and gathering contested rebounds (only 32.5 percent of his boards were contested in 2013-14), he's fantastic at finding space and freeing himself from the opposition. It takes skill to record 6.5 uncontested rebounds per game, particularly when playing for the Los Angeles Lakers. 

    Why the Lakers? Because there are some teams that just don't allow their players to produce many rebounding opportunities, due to a combination of pace and percentages—both their own and those of their opponents. 

    The Lakers as a whole generated just 69 rebounding opportunities per game, making Gasol's numbers all the more impressive. After all, the league average was 72.5, and only the Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks and Lakers were lower on this particular totem pole. 

18. Greg Monroe: 5.78

6 of 23

    USA TODAY Sports

    Rebounding Chances per Game: 16.2

    Contested Rebounds per Game: 4.1

    Uncontested Rebounds per Game: 5.2

    It's not easy to pull down rebounds when you're sharing a court with Andre Drummond, but Greg Monroe still managed to excel after a shot was missed. Not only did he average 9.3 rebounds per game during the 2013-14 season, but he also did so while fighting off other players. 

    Of those 9.3 boards, 4.1 were of the contested variety. 

    That's a huge number, one that places him ahead of nearly every player in the Association. In fact, only Anthony Davis, Andre Drummond, Dwight Howard, DeAndre Jordan, Kevin Love and Joakim Noah recorded more last season, and that's a rather elite group of glass-eating big men. 

    It's also worth noting—though it doesn't affect his rebounder rating—that Monroe is excellent on the offensive boards. 

    In 2013-14, he averaged 3.1 per game, and only six players throughout the entire NBA were able to create more second (or third) possessions for their respective teams over the course of the campaign. That type of versatility makes him subjectively more valuable, though it doesn't factor in objectively. 

17. Marcin Gortat: 5.87

7 of 23

    USA TODAY Sports

    Rebounding Chances per Game: 15.9

    Contested Rebounds per Game: 3.5

    Uncontested Rebounds per Game: 6.0

    Wondering why Marcin Gortat was able to earn a five-year contract worth a total of $60 million? There are plenty of reasons, ranging from his steady scoring to his defensive presence, but his rebounding certainly comes into play. 

    After all, the Washington Wizards could usually rely on him for consistent production on the boards. And given the team's overall inability to generate many rebounding opportunities per game (which was sometimes a good thing because it meant the squad was shooting a high percentage), that's even more valuable than it would have been elsewhere. 

    Gortat's 9.5 rebounds per game in 2013-14 came with a fairly uneven distribution—3.5 came with another player within 3.5 feet, and 6.0 came when Gortat was standing by himself. The big man isn't quick enough on his feet to gain access to so many uncontested opportunities on a regular basis; instead it was the Washington schemes, ones that had him anchoring the defense in the paint, producing a wealth of those chances. 

    That's not to say Gortat's rebounder rating is misleadingly high, just that he's playing in a system capable of maximizing his talents. 

16. Derrick Favors: 5.89

8 of 23

    USA TODAY Sports

    Rebounding Chances per Game: 14.2

    Contested Rebounds per Game: 3.6

    Uncontested Rebounds per Game: 5.2

    What Derrick Favors has already managed to do on the boards is astoundingly impressive, given the presence of Enes Kanter next to him and his own youth. After all, Favors played just 30.2 minutes per game for the Utah Jazz last season, and, still only 23 years old, is working his way into a larger role going forward. 

    Of the top 20 rebounders in this article, only Tim Duncan and Andrew Bogut spent less time on the court while producing such an impressive rebounder rating. Remember, this is not a per-minute or per-possession metric, but rather one that represents an adjusted number of rebounds the player in question produces during his average game. 

    "His" is a key word there, because it includes more or less time on the court than others enjoyed. 

    So, how does Favors get better? 

    It's all going to be about positioning, as he isn't as quick to react as others around him. Though he has sticky hands and plenty of lower-body strength, allowing him to thrive when players are in his vicinity, he doesn't take advantage of easy opportunities like some of the players ranked ahead of him. 

15. Serge Ibaka: 5.91

9 of 23

    USA TODAY Sports

    Rebounding Chances per Game: 14.2

    Contested Rebounds per Game: 3.9

    Uncontested Rebounds per Game: 4.9

    If you're into tier-based rating systems, then Serge Ibaka is the headliner of the fourth tier of rebounders, based on data from the 2013-14 season.

    There are two players alone at the top, then a group of five players who are tightly packed together. After that, seven players are clustered. Beyond those 14, Ibaka stands out as the front-runner for a group of 19 players whose scores range from 5.91 (Ibaka) to 5.09 (Kenneth Faried). 

    In order to improve, though, Ibaka might have to stop focusing so heavily on rejecting the attempts of his opponents. This is admittedly speculation, since I haven't run a statistical analysis on the correlation between shot-blocking and uncontested rebounds, but I'm willing to posit that attempting to swat away opponents' attempts prevents Ibaka from positioning himself for easy caroms. 

    Of the big man's 8.8 rebounds per game, 44 percent are of the contested variety. That's more than all but one of the players who have yet to appear in this countdown, which speaks quite highly to Ibaka's natural talent on the glass. 

14. Tim Duncan: 6.12

10 of 23

    D. Clarke Evans/Getty Images

    Rebounding Chances per Game: 14.8

    Contested Rebounds per Game: 3.7

    Uncontested Rebounds per Game: 6.1

    Tim Duncan is a machine. 

    He's incredibly good at converting opportunities into actual rebounds, as his 65.8 percent conversion rate is undoubtedly one of the elite numbers produced by any big man, much less one getting close to earning AARP status. Additionally, he has a nice balance between contested and uncontested boards, especially considering the San Antonio Spurs don't always keep him right around the hoop. 

    I could regale you with plenty of tales about how good Duncan is right now, but instead let's think about how little he's declined over the years. Unfortunately, we don't have any SportVU data on earlier seasons of his career, which prevents me from displaying his prior rebounder ratings, but we can still look at percentages. 

    This past season, Duncan reeled in 18.8 percent of the available rebounds when he was on the floor. His career-average total rebounding percentage is 18.5 percent, and his marks over the last six years have all been within the confines of 1 percent. 

    Death and taxes might not deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence as this defending champion. 

13. Zach Randolph: 6.21

11 of 23

    Joe Murphy/Getty Images

    Rebounding Chances per Game: 17.5

    Contested Rebounds per Game: 4.1

    Uncontested Rebounds per Game: 6.0

    If you're looking for a single word to describe Zach Randolph on the glass, it would be this one—relentless. 

    Randolph might not be an athletic specimen, possessing neither elite springs in his leg nor quick movements on the basketball court, but he's managed to carve out an incredible rebounding reputation (justifiably so) through strength and technique. 

    Somewhat surprisingly, though, Randolph doesn't haul in a high percentage of his many rebounding chances. By creating 17.5 opportunities for himself during the average game, the power forward is doing a lion's share of the work for the Memphis Grizzlies, but he only brings in 57.5 percent of them. 

    Among players ranked in the top 15, Serge Ibaka (61.5 percent) is the next lowest. After him, Joakim Noah (62.5) and Anthony Davis (64 percent) check in. 

    Clearly, Randolph is the aberration, proving once more that sheer effort can do wonders in the NBA. 

12. Al Jefferson: 6.27

12 of 23

    USA TODAY Sports

    Rebounding Chances per Game: 16.4

    Contested Rebounds per Game: 3.4

    Uncontested Rebounds per Game: 7.5

    Al Jefferson's overall game is underrated by the general public, but he's actually a bit overrated on the boards. Granted, I'm taking "rated" status solely from placement on per-game leaderboards, as that's been the standard used for some time now. 

    With 10.8 rebounds per game, Jefferson trailed only eight players throughout the NBA last season. All of them, save LaMarcus Aldridge, are ranked ahead of him here. 

    However, Jefferson is "only" ranked No. 12, as he pulls in a shockingly low number of contested rebounds. That uncontested mark is quite impressive, but it just makes his contested work look even worse, as a minute 30.9 percent of his conversions came with another player within 3.5 feet. 

    To put that in perspective, over half the top 20 is above 40 percent, and no one in that realm has a lower percentage than Jefferson's. 

11. Andrew Bogut: 6.31

13 of 23

    USA TODAY Sports

    Rebounding Chances per Game: 14.7

    Contested Rebounds per Game: 3.8

    Uncontested Rebounds per Game: 6.2

    Somehow, Andrew Bogut finished at No. 11 in these rankings despite spending just 26.4 minutes per game on the court, a number that's lower than anyone else in the top 25. In fact, only Omer Asik, Jordan Hill, Larry Sanders, Miles Plumlee and Samuel Dalembert ranked in the top 40 while playing fewer than 26.4 minutes during the average contest. 

    If Bogut had maintained his rates while playing 36 minutes per game (a big assumption, but work with me here), his rebounder rating would have been a stellar 8.55, one that would be higher than all but two players in these rankings. Even if everyone's scores were prorated to 36 minutes, he'd trail only four players throughout the entire NBA. 

    How's that for impressive? 

    Of course, durability is always the big question for Bogut, who has been the subject of way too many freak accidents over the course of his career. Chances are, he wouldn't be able to maintain that rate if his playing time were upped. 

    Nonetheless, the Golden State Warriors still have to be thrilled with what he's providing on the glass. 

10. Tyson Chandler: 6.53

14 of 23

    USA TODAY Sports

    Rebounding Chances per Game: 14.8

    Contested Rebounds per Game: 3.4

    Uncontested Rebounds per Game: 6.3

    It didn't pay to play for the New York Knicks during the 2013-14 season, as that franchise was a hotbed for controversy, turmoil and overall dysfunction, both on and off the court. Phil Jackson is already changing that reputation, but it won't have an effect on Tyson Chandler, who has since been traded to the Dallas Mavericks. 

    However, Chandler actually benefited from suiting up for the Knicks last year. New York as a whole recorded only 65 rebounding opportunities per game, due to the team's pace and knack for letting other squads score easy buckets and shoot high percentages. 

    Only the Brooklyn Nets had a lower number there, and that gives Chandler a big boost from his raw score, which would have left him ranked only No. 18. 

    Chances are, Chandler will fare somewhere in the middle of that spot and this one while with the Mavericks. They won't give him the same type of adjustment, but health should allow Chandler to gather more contested boards than he did throughout his final go-round in Madison Square Garden. 

9. Blake Griffin: 6.61

15 of 23

    USA TODAY Sports

    Rebounding Chances per Game: 14.6

    Contested Rebounds per Game: 3.8

    Uncontested Rebounds per Game: 5.7

    It is not easy to generate rebounding chances while playing for the Los Angeles Clippers. Nor is it easy to grab them when sharing the court with DeAndre Jordan, which Blake Griffin did so often during the 2013-14 season. 

    Nonetheless, Griffin used his springs, overall athleticism and impressive motor to create 14.6 chances per game.

    There are plenty of players who fared better in that category (24 of them, to be specific), but generating that many opportunities while playing on Doc Rivers' squad helps Griffin out rather significantly. So too does what he did with those chances. 

    Griffin is always at a natural disadvantage because his arms are disproportionately short, given his height, but his athleticism and hand strength allow him to convert plenty of those chances, even when they're contested. With a 64.6 percent conversion rate and 40.3 percent of his boards coming with a player in reaching distance of the ball, there's no doubt Griffin is a stellar rebounder. 

8. Anthony Davis: 6.71

16 of 23

    USA TODAY Sports

    Rebounding Chances per Game: 15.7

    Contested Rebounds per Game: 4.3

    Uncontested Rebounds per Game: 5.7

    From short arms to long arms we go. 

    Anthony Davis doesn't have any physical restrictions keeping him from pulling in rebounds at an elite rate, other than his stature. He was still quite skinny during his second season with the New Orleans Pelicans, and the extra weight he's put on this offseason should allow him to stand out even more during his third go-round. 

    Even when bigger players could bully him in the paint, Davis used his athleticism, quickness and timing to establish himself as an elite player on the boards. Normally, you might expect a weaker big like this unibrowed one to have trouble gathering contested rebounds, but that simply wasn't the case. 

    On the contrary, Davis hauled in 4.3 contested rebounds per game, a mark that left him trailing only five players throughout the entire Association. He was a master at using those lanky arms to elevate above the other outstretched limbs, and the ball often stuck to his hands like there was some glue involved. 

    Davis' overall game is terrifyingly advanced and possesses a nearly unlimited ceiling. Yet somehow, he still doesn't get enough mentions for his sheer talent as a rebounder. 

    Even though he'll play alongside Omer Asik next season, it would be shocking if he didn't work his way into the top five for rebounder rating. 

7. Nikola Vucevic: 7.02

17 of 23

    USA TODAY Sports

    Rebounding Chances per Game: 16.3

    Contested Rebounds per Game: 3.8

    Uncontested Rebounds per Game: 7.2

    It's time the world started to recognize just how good Nikola Vucevic is on the glass for the Orlando Magic. While most names in the top 20 resonate among casual fans, the young big man from USC is still fighting for recognition, as he's largely labored away in obscurity for a lackluster squad. 

    Interestingly enough, Vucevic was never dominant on the boards while he was a member of the Trojans. During his final two seasons, he averaged 9.4 and 10.3 rebounds per game for his school, neither of which really stands out against smaller, less-skilled competition. 

    But for his NBA teams, Vucevic has just been ridiculous.

    As a rookie with the Philadelphia 76ers, he produced 10.9 boards per 36 minutes. During the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons with the Magic, he averaged 12.9 and 12.4 over the same time frame, respectively. 

    And scarily enough, he still has plenty of room for improvement. Vucevic isn't much of a rebounder when players are contesting the opportunities, and even elevating that skill to average levels will do wonders for him. 

    After all, he ranks No. 7 despite just 34.7 percent of his boards coming with players within that 3.5-foot range. 

6. Joakim Noah: 7.24

18 of 23

    USA TODAY Sports

    Rebounding Chances per Game: 18

    Contested Rebounds per Game: 4.6

    Uncontested Rebounds per Game: 6.6

    Only three players in the NBA happened upon more rebounding chances per game last year than Joakim Noah did with the Chicago Bulls. Although "happened upon" doesn't give Noah nearly enough credit, as his psychotic, energy-filled style of play allows him to gain access to plenty of rebounding chances that most players would just give up on.

    Of course, that also inflates his numbers more than he deserves, as the fringe opportunities don't really give him a realistic shot at either ending a possession or creating a second-chance bucket. Fortunately, rebounder rating negates that impact because it focuses on conversion rates and successful opportunities, and the fringe chances drive that first number down for Noah while leaving the second alone.

    He converted 62.5 percent of his opportunities in 2013-14. That's a great number, sure, but it's not one of the standout marks throughout the entire Association.

    At least he has no trouble at all when it comes to pulling in the contested boards.  

5. DeMarcus Cousins: 7.26

19 of 23

    USA TODAY Sports

    Rebounding Chances per Game: 17

    Contested Rebounds per Game: 4.1

    Uncontested Rebounds per Game: 7.7

    Seventeen rebounding chances per game is quite a few, and DeMarcus Cousins sure does a lot with them. 

    He turned 11.7 of them into actual rebounds, not just chances, and that conversion rate comes out at 69.4 percent. To put that in perspective, only eight of the 242 players analyzed had a higher number in that category, and not all of them should count. 

    Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Kevin Garnett, Andre Iguodala, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook all produced better conversion rates, but they did so while generating 8.1 opportunities or fewer. It's obviously harder to maintain that type of rate when over doubling the number of chances, as Cousins did. 

    And that leaves just two players, who just so happen to be the top two finishers in these rankings. 

    Of course, Cousins is still young and improving. He could easily work his way up into the top tier as soon as this next season with the Sacramento Kings, though doing so would require him to start converting a lot more contested rebounds, as 34.6 percent just isn't going to cut it among the true elites. 

4. Dwight Howard: 7.66

20 of 23

    USA TODAY Sports

    Rebounding Chances per Game: 17.8

    Contested Rebounds per Game: 4.5

    Uncontested Rebounds per Game: 7.6

    It's amazing how similar DeMarcus Cousins and Dwight Howard were on the boards during the 2013-14 season. 

    Cousins' conversion rate of 69.4 percent was slightly higher than Howard's 68.5 percent, but the latter produced that percentage while spending an extra 1.2 minutes per game on the court and recording 0.8 more opportunities during the average contest. 

    What puts the Houston Rockets big man slightly ahead, though, is the work he does when there's another player close by. While only 34.6 percent of Cousins' rebounds fell into the contested category, 37.3 percent of Howard's qualified as such.

    That's a fairly substantial difference, even if neither number is all that impressive.

    To complete the similarity profile, the Rockets and Sacramento Kings produced 75.0 and 74.7 rebounding opportunities per game, respectively. Even the pace adjustments don't do much to differentiate between these two, leaving the contested work free to do the heavy lifting.  

3. Kevin Love: 7.8

21 of 23

    USA TODAY Sports

    Rebounding Chances per Game: 18.9

    Contested Rebounds per Game: 4.9

    Uncontested Rebounds per Game: 7.6

    What? Kevin Love is only at No. 3? 

    I can hear the complaints now, but I'll go ahead and double-down instead of succumbing to the cries: Not only is Love coming in at No. 3, but he's so far behind each of the top two rebounders that he's in a different tier. 

    Don't get me wrong. Love is a fantastic player on the boards, and only one player in the NBA produced more rebounding chances per game than the 18.9 he generated in his final season with the Minnesota Timberwolves. 

    He just doesn't convert them at a high enough rate (66.1 percent), and he thrives on uncontested rebounds. Only 38.9 percent of his conversions were contested, which is significantly fewer than the 40.3 and 45.8 percent boasted by the two remaining players in this countdown. 

    Then again, there are two reasons for that.

    First, Love spends more time on the perimeter than most other players in the top 20, and long caroms are more likely to result in uncontested boards than ones right around the basket. Additionally, Love has such a strong reputation on the glass that some players won't even bother fighting with him for a board. 

    "Love is also the only active player to have ever grabbed over 30 boards in a single contest, making him arguably the best rebounder in the NBA today," wrote Basketball Insiders' Joel Brigham earlier this offseason. "There's no telling how his trade to Cleveland might change that, but until this point he’s been living proof that the dominant rebounder is not a dead fad."

    There's no doubt Love belongs in the "best rebounder" conversation, but it's a good thing Brigham used the word "arguably." 

    After all, Love only belongs at No. 3.

2. Andre Drummond: 9.38

22 of 23

    Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

    Rebounding Chances per Game: 18.8

    Contested Rebounds per Game: 6.1

    Uncontested Rebounds per Game: 7.2

    Despite playing four fewer minutes per game, Andre Drummond's 18.8 rebounding chances during the average outing fall only a hair short of Kevin Love's 18.9. On top of that, his 70.3 percent conversion rate is far better than Love's 66.1 percent. 

    And it gets better still. Well, better for Drummond, at least. 

    While only 38.9 percent of Love's rebounds come with another player within a 3.5-foot distance, 45.8 percent of Drummond's qualified in that manner. That's a huge gap, especially when players are recording around 1,000 boards in a season. 

    Love shouldn't feel bad, though.

    No one in the NBA can touch what Drummond does in the contested department. His 6.1 contested boards per game just blow everyone else out of the water, as only 11 players were above four per contest. The lone remaining player in the countdown was the only other player above five, and he checked in 0.6 shy of this young center. 

    If you want to make a claim that Drummond is the best rebounder in the NBA, despite his tender young age of 21, feel free to do so. After all, his rebounder rating is head and shoulders above the rest of the league, save one player, and he's at the very top of the pack in a minute-neutral set of rankings. 

1. DeAndre Jordan: 10.12

23 of 23

    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Rebounding Chances per Game: 19

    Contested Rebounds per Game: 5.5

    Uncontested Rebounds per Game: 8.1

    There's really only one combination of statistics needed to justify DeAndre Jordan's place at the top of the heap. 

    Not only did the Los Angeles Clippers big man pace the NBA with 19 rebounding chances per game, but he also converted 71.6 percent of those chances. Among the 242 players looked at for this article, only two players had a higher conversion rate: Kevin Durant and LeBron James. However, the two leading MVP vote-getters combined to average 14.3 rebounding chances per contest, which is still well shy of Jordan's individual mark. 

    In terms of raw rating (not factoring in the team adjustment) and the per-36-minute version of rebounder rating, Andre Drummond comes out on top. But in the final version of the stat, Jordan benefits from his extra 2.8 minutes per game on the court and the fact that the Clippers as a whole averaged 7.2 fewer rebounding opportunities than the Detroit Pistons. 

    As it turns out, rebounds per game gets it right. 

    Jordan leads the league in that category, and this metric isn't going to argue with his finish. In fact, it's just going to cement the impressive nature of his campaign. 

    If you didn't look at the chart presented in the introduction of this metric, one that charts all 242 players for rebounds per game vs. Rebounder Rating, do so now. If you did earlier, do so once more. 

    Jordan isn't just leading the league. He and Drummond are in a class of their own, and you could even argue that Jordan creates another tier within that already exclusive two-man group. 


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.