Thursday, May 26, 2011

Off the Index: What Makes a Great Rebounder?

For some reason, rebounding is always a hot topic on the Wages of Wins Network and there has been lots of math and statistics provided in those discussions.

Is rebounding really that complicated? Do rebounds just fall into the hands of the closest player? I remember Chris Bosh said after a game this season that rebounding is really just about "going to get it." So why are some players better at getting them than others? I think there's a big factor in rebounding that's pretty simple.

This article will use Win Score, a statistical model created by Professor David Berri from the Wages of Wins Journal, to measure how much a player's box score statistics contributed to their team's efficiency differential and wins. More information on these stats can be found at the following links:

Simple Models of Player Performance
Wins Produced vs. Win Score

Before explaining what I think is a key factor for a great rebounder, I need to vent a little...

There are a lot of things I don't like when it comes to sports and a lot of them are documented on the Heat Shit List page or by the Dead Basketball Poets Society (or DBPS for short).

One of the things I don't like about professional sports are the drafts and I don't like them for several reasons — 1) They should be illegal and 2) They tend to be over-hyped. Another thing I don't like about sports is the worship of the NFL and the attempt to view everything in relation to "The Shield." I think the NBA should do everything to differentiate itself from the NFL, so I was a little disappointed that the pre-draft camp in Chicago was re-named the pre-draft "Combine."

Anyway... the only thing that I ever find interesting about the draft is the measurements of the players. I find this interesting because the pre-draft camp in Chicago always publishes each player's true height and weight, not the fudged numbers that will appear in a team's media guide once the season starts. The measurements for this year's attendees were released on Monday.

What jumps out in these measurements is that Kenneth Faried, the college player with the highest Win Score in the draft, stands 6'6" tall in socks but has a standing reach of 9'0"!

Here's a list of the players with a standing reach taller than Faried:
  • Keith Benson — Height: 6' 10", Reach: 9' 1.5"
  • Enes Kanter — Height: 6' 9.75", Reach: 9' 1.5"
  • Tristan Thompson — Height: 6' 7.5", Reach: 9' 0.5"
  • Jeremy Tyler — Height: 6' 9", Reach: 9' 2.5"
  • Nikola Vucevic — Height: 6' 10.25", Reach: 9' 4.5"

Thompson is 1.5 inches taller than Faried but his reach is only half-an-inch longer. The rest of the players with a longer reach than Faried are at least three inches taller than him. The player projected to be the #2 pick in the draft, Derrick Williams, is 1.25 inches taller than Faried but has the same reach.

What does any of this have to do with rebounding? Well, Faried led the NCAA in rebounding this season. He averaged 14.5 rebounds per game and that's a big reason why he has the highest Win Score in the draft. It's also a big reason why sports economist, and Pistons fan, Dr. David Berri wants him on the Pistons so bad.

Perhaps a big reason Faried is so good at rebounding is that he simply has a longer reach than his opponents. Do the rebounds just fall into his hands? If they do, it's probably because his hands are a lot closer to them than most players. Rebounding doesn't seem that complicated to me at all.


  1. It would be interesting to look at this further based on some other "short" players who rebound exceptionally well. My suspicion, however, is that you won't find that many of the short, great rebounders have long reach. Some examples that spring to mind:

    Charles Barkley
    Kevin Love
    Reggie Williams
    Joey Dorsey

    I think being good at rebounding is a lot about timing + placement (boxing out, evaluating how ball will bounce), determination (it's easy to miss 1 board a game because it is the one time you didn't crash the glass or box out, so doing it EVERY time is key), and having good hands (so you grab more than your "fair" share of the contested ones), and is not very much about height and/or reach (although these things can make up for shortcomings in the above-mentioned areas).

  2. @Patrick:

    Do you mean Reggie Evans instead of "Reggie Williams"?

    Dr. Berri and the Wages of Wins Network plans to study the relationship between the anthropometrics for college players and their NBA productivity. We'll keep you posted...