Rebounding has traditionally been the domain of big men throughout NBA history. As perimeter players have grown larger and more athletic, however, it has become more and more important for outside players to help out on the boards. Indeed, the last three seasons have even featured a guard (Russell Westbrook) averaging over 10 rebounds per game on his way to averaging a triple double.
Who are the best-rebounding guards in the league? To answer this question, I evaluated the relative difficulty of acquiring each rebound based on whether the rebound was contested or uncontested. By finding the success rates for the offense and the defense on each type of rebound and comparing the expected value with the observed value in each case, I was able to assign an appropriate value for each type of rebound – contested defensive rebounds, uncontested defensive rebounds, contested offensive rebounds, and uncontested defensive rebounds. The result gives us the total rebounding value added by each player. (For a more detailed description of the method for evaluating rebounds, consult The Basketball Bible)
In order to give a complete picture, I also estimated how many rebounds a player lost his team (out of the total rebounds given up by his team). This estimate depends upon the player’s ratio of contested rebounds to uncontested rebounds. A player who grabs more contested rebounds is likely to give up relatively fewer rebounds to opponents, while a player who only grabs uncontested rebounds is a prime suspect for giving up rebounds to the opposition. Subtracting the rebounds a player lost from the rebounding value he added gives us the player’s net rebounding value.
The next step in answering our question requires us to compare players’ rebounding output with the average rebounding production at their position. In order to make the comparison fair, we need to compare players’ net rebounding value per 48 minutes with the average value per 48 for their position. Since we want to determine the best-rebounding guards, I filtered the results in two ways: 1) I removed all players who were not a defensive “1” or “2” according to my position algorithm; 2) I removed players who were a defensive “2” by my algorithm but who spent less than 30% of their time covering opponents designated as “shooting guard” in the play-by-play data compiled by https://www.basketball-reference.com/ in order to avoid letting a bunch of 6’6” swingmen overshadow true guards.
So, who are the top 25 rebounding guards in the NBA? The table below presents the results, sorted by Total Net Rebounding Value per 48:
As expected, Russell Westbrook is far and away the best rebounding guard in the league. The rest of the top 25, on the other hand, has several surprising names. Pat Connaughton had a breakthrough season last year, and his rebounding was a big part of his contribution. Despite being unable to perfect his jump shot to this point, Lonzo Ball ranks as the fourth-best rebounding guard in the league. Jeremy Lamb and Delon Wright are not extremely highly regarded, but their rebounding value as guards may help to explain the healthy contracts they both signed this offseason. Patrick Beverley is another player on the list who got a big payday this summer, and his rebounding is certainly one of the reasons why. Terry Rozier signed a shockingly huge contract with Charlotte this offseason; though his shooting efficiency leaves much to be desired, he provides nice value in many other areas, including rebounds.
I’d also like to highlight a few underrated players who provide rebounding value as guards, as many NBA fans may have overlooked these players’ contribution. Alec Burks bounced around last year after an up-and-down career with Utah that has been marred by injuries and inconsistency on multiple occasions. Alex Caruso has a bit of a cult following among Lakers fans, but is relatively unappreciated around the rest of the league. Tim Frazier, one of my favorite players, is a journeyman who has not yet established a role on one team despite being very effective in nearly all of his stopovers. These three players have their warts, but can help teams clean the glass as guards.
Which players are you surprised to see on the list? Let me know in the comments!