Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond tied Dwight Howard's NBA season-high by grabbing 26 rebounds on Monday night against the New York Knicks.
All necessary Knicks caveats aside, 26 rebounds is an incredible single-game output. It happened just four times last season and just twice in the two years before that, with only 20 such instances over the past 10 seasons.
Now, a single game does not an elite skill make (looking at you, Tony Delk), but it's pretty tough to grab 26 rebounds without being a really good rebounder. That's something Drummond, at just age 20, has certainly become.
To wit, Drummond has five other outings with 20-plus rebounds this season, just one shy of DeAndre Jordan for tops in the league. He also ranks third in the NBA with 13.1 rebounds a game and leads the pack with 5.4 a night on the offensive glass.
These are all very impressive notes (especially considering the personal issues he's been working through of late), but they're lacking a bit in relevant context. He's good - anyone with a television or access to NBA.com can tell you that. He's 6-foot-11, 279 pounds and retains the athleticism of a 20-year-old. He is a physical specimen. A problem, in short.
But is he the best? Not that it really matters, but we like to put rankings and bows on things, and Drummond may very well be deserving of the "Best in Show: Rebounding Division" ribbon.
Let's slice it a few different ways.
As mentioned, Drummond ranks "just" third in rebounds per game. Note the second column, however.
Because Drummond is young, sharing the frontcourt with Greg Monroe and Josh Smith, and occasionally foul-prone, he plays fewer minutes than some of these other names.
Rebounding on a Per-Minute Basis
So let's control for the playing time and look at rebounds per-36 minutes.
Drummond grabs more rebounds than anyone when playing time is controlled for. That's not really enough, however. His Pistons play at an above-average pace and, while they allow the highest field goal percentage in the league, they don't show particularly well. All of that together could give Drummond more total rebounding opportunities.
Rebounding Based on Opportunities
To control for those factors, we can look at Rebounding Rate, which is simply the percentage of available rebounds a player grabs when on the floor.
Drummond's rebounding looks even better through this lens. To dig even further and really be sure, though, NBA.com tracks a few other related metrics, explained in more detail below.
Converting Chances and Contested Rebounds
Specifically, the NBA logs actual rebounding opportunities (when a player is within three-and-a-half feet of a rebound) rather than total available rebounds.
|Player||RPG||% of Chances|
This obviously serves to even the playing field between guards, wings and bigs, and the result is that Drummond slides down the rankings. He's still third among bigs, however.
It's also important to keep in mind that getting rebounding chances is important, too, and while it's based in part on position, instincts and positioning can factor in. Again, we control for playing time.
|Player||Rb/36||% of Chances||Chances/36|
Here we see that Drummond is better (or luckier, or both) than almost anyone at creating rebounding chances and, among the leaders, he's one of the best in terms of converting them.
Finally, we can see how often a player converts a contested rebounding opportunity into a rebound.
Once again, Drummond shines. In the immortal words of Zaza Pachulia, "nothing easy."
Is Drummond the Best?
If we look at everything together, it would be difficult to argue that Drummond isn't, at worst, a top-three rebounder in the league. His name keeps resurfacing with DeAndre Jordan's and Kevin Love's. Let's take a closer comparative look.
It's a toss-up between Drummond and Jordan depending on how you weigh each category (and using an average ranking isn't really fair, it's just a shorthand to sort by). Jordan narrowly tops Drummond in total rebounds and conversion percentage but Drummond has the edge on a per-minute, per-total opportunity and contested basis.
For our money, Drummond has a slight edge but we're really splitting hairs here. They're both very good and very young and very exciting.