Is Andre Drummond now the league's best rebounder?

Mar 4, 2:33 PM

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.

Raw Rebounding

As mentioned, Drummond ranks "just" third in rebounds per game. Note the second column, however.

PlayerMPGRPG
DeAndre Jordan3613.9
Kevin Love36.313.2
Andre Drummond32.513.1
Dwight Howard34.212.5
Joakim Noah34.211.4
LaMarcus Aldridge36.811.2
Zach Randolph34.210.3
Tim Duncan29.610.1

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.

PlayerRPGRb/36
Andre Drummond13.114.5
DeAndre Jordan13.913.9
Dwight Howard12.513.1
Kevin Love13.213.1
Jordan Hill6.812.7
Bismack Biyombo5.212.2
Tim Duncan10.112.2
J.J. Hickson9.412.2
Joakim Noah11.412

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.

PlayerRPGRb%
Andre Drummond13.122.2
DeAndre Jordan13.921.5
Dwight Howard12.520.2
Kevin Love13.219.6
Tim Duncan10.119.4
Bismack Biyombo5.219.1
Joakim Noah11.418.9
Samuel Dalembert6.518.7
Jordan Hill6.818.7

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.

PlayerRPG% of Chances
Kevin Durant7.774.9
LeBron James773
Kendall Marshall3.172.5
DeAndre Jordan13.971.2
Kevin Garnett6.870.9
Carmelo Anthony8.570.8
Andrew Iguodala4.970.5
Gordon Hayward5.570.3
Andre Drummond13.169.6

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.

PlayerRb/36% of ChancesChances/36
Anderson Varejao12.257.521.1
Andre Drummond14.469.620.8
Andrew Bogut13.768.620
Kevin Love13.166.819.6
DeAndre Jordan13.871.219.5
Tristan Thompson10.654.819.2
Dwight Howard13.168.319
Joakim Noah11.962.818.9

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.

PlayerRPGContested RPG
Andre Drummond13.16
DeAndre Jordan13.95.5
Kevin Love13.25
Joakim Noah11.44.8
Dwight Howard12.54.7
Robin Lopez8.84.4
Anthony Davis9.94.4

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.

PlayerJordanDrummondHowardLoveNoah
RPG Rank13425
Rb/36 Rank21349
Rb% Rank21347
Chance% Rank49172367
Contested Rank21534
------
Average Rank2.236.47.218.4

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.

Dec 15, 3:45 PM

A look at the leaders in different rebounding components

Dec 15, 3:45 PM

There's more to rebounding than just the rebounds per game tally.

As Joseph Casciaro broke down a few weeks ago, there are essentially three key factors that go into a rebounding total:

  • opportunity (playing time and missed shots)
  • positioning (being in the right place)
  • rebounding (getting the ball)

There's also the matter of what position a player plays and, in many cases, the style of play a team employs (e.g. a team that crashes the boards at the expense of transition defense should have more offensive rebounds).

Luckily, NBA.com's new player tracking data allows us to separate these factors to some degree.

First, let's have a look at the raw rebounding leaders:

NameORB/GmDRB/GmRBS/Gm
Kevin Love49.913.8
Dwight Howard3.89.513.3
DeAndre Jordan4.18.712.8
Andre Drummond57.712.7
LaMarcus Aldridge2.48.510.8
DeMarcus Cousins2.97.910.8
Blake Griffin2.28.210.4
Tristan Thompson3.66.410
Serge Ibaka2.779.8
Andrew Bogut2.57.29.7

This list is hardly surprising; it's a lot of bigs, and bigs who play a lot of minutes, at that. (Note: Nikola Vucevic and Anthony Davis would be on here but technically don't qualify based on the league's leaderboard requirements.)

At a macro level, the first way to get a more clear picture of actual rebounding ability is to strip out the bias towards players with more opportunities. By looking at Rebound Rate, we can see who grabs the largest percentage of misses while on the floor:

NameRBS/GmRebound Rate
Andre Drummond12.721.9
Dwight Howard13.321.8
Kevin Love13.820.9
DeAndre Jordan12.820.7
Jordan Hill8.320.6
DeMarcus Cousins10.820.1
DeJuan Blair7.519.8
Kevin Garnett7.519.6
Andrew Bogut9.719.5
Bismack Biyombo6.719.3

This list is similar, but we see a few players who receive less playing time - and therefore have fewer opportunities to rebound - appear.

Taking somewhat of a step backward, we can also get a gauge for a player's positioning by seeing how many rebounds they get near during the course of a game. As an example, Kevin Love's anticipation and timing are impeccable, and as such he's able to get close to a lot of potential rebounds.

This list shows the leaders in rebound chances per game, measured as the number of times a player gets within 3.5 feet of a rebound:

NameRBS/GmChances/Gm
Kevin Love13.821.2
Dwight Howard13.319.1
DeAndre Jordan12.818
Andre Drummond12.717.8
Tristan Thompson1017.2
Nikola Vucevic11.217.2
Joakim Noah9.517.1
Zach Randolph9.217
David Lee9.616.8
LaMarcus Aldridge10.816.7

Did you notice earlier how Thompson was among the league leaders in rebounds per game but not rebound rate? Here, we see that he actually gets near a lot of rebounds but does somewhat less with them than similar players. Ekpe Udoh is the worst offender in this regard, averaging just 3.9 rebounds despite 8.7 chances a game.

Speaking of converting chances, we can actually use the percentage of chances a player grabs as a measure of rebounding acumen of sorts. Basically, it shows how well a player does grabbing a rebound once he's in position for it.

NameRBS/Gm% of Chances
Michael Beasley474.7
Kevin Durant8.274.2
Terrence Ross2.774
Kevin Martin3.573.1
Kevin Garnett7.572.8
Travis Outlaw3.172.7
LeBron James6.772.5
Andre Drummond12.771.4
J.R. Smith4.271.4
DeAndre Jordan12.871.3

Now this isn't to say Ross is a great rebounder - his low rebound average is in part because he doesn't get close to enough rebounds, whether by scheme design or by a lack of sound positioning and anticipation.

As a similar measure, we can see how often a player comes down with a contested rebound, which is when an opponent is also within 3.5 feet, thus taking away wide-open rebounds where a lot of luck might be involved. (Keep in mind multiple players can be fighting for a rebound, so a mark of 50 percent is still strong.)

NameRBS/Gm% of Contested
Ian Mahinmi2.861.3
Ryan Anderson5.855.7
Steven Adams4.855.7
Enes Kanter5.855.6
Jan Vesley4.352.2
Amir Johnson6.751.8
Jeff Adrien4.350.7
Cody Zeller4.350.5
Andrew Bynum550.5
Timofey Mozgov6.148.9

None of these measures on their own tells us enough about a player's rebounding ability. Getting in good position and getting opportunities is a skill, converting those opportunities is a skill, and fighting for contested boards is one, too.

If we double back to our original leaderboard, perhaps we can get a picture of who the top rebounder really is:

NameRBS/GmRebound Rate% of Chances% of Contested
Kevin Love13.820.965.140.8
Dwight Howard13.321.869.734.4
DeAndre Jordan12.820.771.340.3
Andre Drummond12.721.971.445.7
LaMarcus Aldridge10.820.16530
DeMarcus Cousins10.816.468.134
Blake Griffin10.41666.738.5
Tristan Thompson1017.358.142.2
Serge Ibaka9.815.859.945.1
Andrew Bogut9.719.56635.8

Love sure does well across the board here, as do Howard, Jordan and Drummond in particular. It's hard to give any of these guys a definitive edge, but suffice it to say, their raw rebounding average isn't inflated at all.