Top 10 Underrated Rebounders
It’s not just 7-footers wiping the glass clean anymore.
by Andrew Macaluso / @_andymac
How do you make a name for yourself without scoring the basketball? Rebounding.
Rebounding is the most overlooked skill in the game of basketball today but many coaches don’t shy away from preaching how important it is. Although height plays a vital role when it comes to bringing down boards, it’s at the bottom of the list compared to the other characteristics of being a well-known player who cleans the glass.
Those characteristics are physical strength, determination, positioning and aggressiveness. There are players in the League who were born to rebound, some who are mediocre at rebounding and those who have other skills that ‘mask’ their rebounding aptitude. That said, here are the top-10 most overlooked players in the League at cleaning the boards.
Arguably the best rebounding point guard since the Jason Kidd era, rebounds are very important to Rondo’s game. When you watch the Celtics play, the first thing you notice about Rondo is his passing ability and defense. He’s leading the League with 15.1 assists this season, but is pulling down 5.2 rebounds per contest, which ties him with Jarret Jack. His rebounding rate of 8.0 places him seventh among point guards. Because Rondo can jump so high, he causes big men fits in the paint and uses his 6-9 wingspan to his advantage. Many believe he’s overrated because of the talent around him, but his hustle and determination to rebound make him the complete player. Now about those free-throws.
Since Westbrook plays alongside Kevin Durant, he doesn’t get nearly the credit that he deserves. Coming out of UCLA, he was known for his hardnosed defense, rebounding and out-of-this-world athleticism. In the Thunder’s first 10 games, you could say that he’s having a breakout season with averages of 23.5 points per game, 5.5 rebounds and 7.7 assists — all the while being ranked as the second-most efficient player in the League, behind Chris Paul, with a PER of 27.01. He’s ranked fourth among point guards with an 8.8 rebounding rate, an offensive rate of 5.6 and a defensive rate of 11.8. Russ is a triple-double waiting to happen every time he’s on the court and he doesn’t need Durant to do so (he dropped 17-10-10 on Dallas last season without him).
Most of you are probably scratching your head and wondering why Barnes is even on the list, especially with his career average of 4.4 rebounds, but it’s the rate at which he does so that stands out. For the past three seasons, and playing more minutes, Barnes has averaged 5.5, 5.5 and 5.9 rebounds per game. Despite only playing 20 minutes off the bench this season for the Lakers, Barnes still managed to lead all small forwards with a 15.5 rebounding rate. He also ranks seventh in defensive rebounding (17.7) and first in offensive rebounds (13.2), which is remarkable considering the minutes. He’s always been known for his toughness on the court and physical play, which shows he isn’t afraid of going in the paint and mixing it up with some of the League’s best big men.
In nine years, Gooden’s played for nine different teams. The crazy thing is that he has a career average of 11.9 points and 7.9 rebounds, which I would consider great, given his situations. Through 11 games this season with Milwaukee, he’s pulling down 6.7 rebounds, which gives him a Rebounding Rate of 16.6 — that ties him with Josh Smith and places him 16th out of 70 power forwards. His defensive rebounding rate of 22 and offensive of 11.6 is impressive as well. It might be safe to say that Drew isn’t going to another team for a while, since he signed a five-year, $32 million deal this summer.
Despite being 6-7 (with shoes) and weighing 265, Blair is rather a short and stocky center. But due to his size and aggressiveness in the paint; he’s able to out-muscle the opposing team to clean the glass. During his rookie campaign with the Spurs, he averaged 6.4 rebounds but has since bumped it up to 7.9. Among power forwards, Blair ranks fourth with a rebounding rate of 20.1. His 24.8 defensive rate is remarkable for someone his size, along with his 15.1 on the offensive side. His scoring is rather inconsistent but with Tim Duncan declining, I expect Blair’s opportunities too continue to rise and become one of the best rebounders in the League for years to come.
The young Raptors haven’t had an agitator since the days of Charles Oakley, but now that Evans made his way up to T-Dot, things have changed. Even though he’s not the player Oak Tree was, he still provides the Raptors with defense, rebounding, inside play and physicality. In his early years with Seattle and Denver, Evans was one of the best big men on the boards before falling off the map in Philadelphia. Even with Kevin Love going off on the boards these past weeks, Reggie still ranks at the top of the list among power forwards with a 25.7 rebounding rate. We all know Andrea Bargnani is allergic to the glass — he should have 5 rebounds by accident — so Evans’ 11.8 rebounds per night certainly helps.
An 11-year veteran out of Notre Dame, Troy Murphy is one of the best when it comes to rebounding the basketball when healthy. In five and a half seasons with the Warriors (he was dealt to the Pacers 26 games into ‘06-07), he averaged 7.9 rebounds per game while recording three double-digit rebounding seasons. With three years put in for the Pacers, Murphy brought down 11.8 rebounds in ’08-09, which was a career high, and 10.2 in ‘09-10. He tied for 12th last season among power forwards with a 17.2 rebounding rate, second in defensive rate with 28.5 and he even pulled down 6 offensive rebounds. Despite only playing in five games this season due to a foot injury, Troy’s still managing to pull down 5.2 rebounds per contest in just 20 minutes off the bench.
After earning the Oscar Robertson Trophy in 2003 with Xavier, which is rewarded to the College Player of the Year, West then went on to be a two-time All-Star with the Hornets. So what’s so overlooked about him? Well, everything. If it weren’t for the coaches voting him as an All-Star and playing alongside Chris Paul, most would never even hear about David West. He’s a very good outside shooter, especially from the free-throw line, and he crashes the boards better than most would think. From 2006-2009, West averaged 8.5 rebounds per game before taking a slight dip the past two seasons due to less minutes. Despite a somewhat low rebounding rate this season (12.0), his defensive rebounding (17.9) and offensive rebounding (6.4) have always been solid. He’s worked hard every year to get where he’s at so it’s time he gets a little recognition.
Best known for his prodigious combination of blocks and steals, Gerald has suddenly become one of the League’s best rebounders. Starting from the ‘08-09 season, Wallace upped his rebounding from 7.8, 10.0 and 8.3 this season. He also was leading the League in rebounding last year before fading away toward the end of the season. Wallace ranks fifth among small forwards with a rebounding rate of 12.9, a defensive rate of 20.8 and an offensive rate of 4.2. Despite his injuries throughout the years, Wallace is able to rebound at a high rate due to his exceptionally quick vertical, which ultimately puts him at an advantage over slower, yet bigger players. His hustle has never been in question, but it’s his rebounding that’s the most important part.
At 6-8, Carmelo is undersized in certain match-ups when he’s placed at the power forward position, which he’s played more often this season due to injuries to Kenyon Martin and Chris “Birdman” Andersen. Despite a rebounding average of 6.3 for his career, and never pulling down more than 7.4 in a season, ‘Melo is snatching up 9.4 rebounds through 10 games. His rebounding rate of 14.1 places him second among small forwards, fourth in defensive rebounding with 18.8 and he’s pulling down 7.3 offensive rebounds, which are career highs. With rebounding spurts this season of 7, 10, 15, 8, 13 and a career-high 22, one thing that’s evident — Carmelo loves contact. Everyone knows about him being arguably the best scorer in the League, but his rebounding is hardly ever spoken of, why else do you think they call him, “The Bully?”