NBA Analysis: How Impactful Was Dennis Rodman's Rebounding?

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Before the days of lineup data and statistical nerdom, there was an overwhelming belief that Dennis Rodman was the King of Rebounding. He led the league in the category for seven consecutive years in the 1990′s, and grabbed more rebounds by percentage than Bill Russell or Wilt Chamberlain.

However, ”Impact Rebounding” is quite difficult to gauge. We know that the Worm grabbed more than a quarter of all available rebounds while he was on the floor, but we don’t know how much that helped his team. More specifically, we don’t know if he poached rebounds from teammates that otherwise would have grabbed them, or if he pilfered those boards from opponents. Measuring this is not an easy task.

One figure we can examine is the overall team rebounding differential — the total number of rebounds grabbed by a team compared to its opponents — to build a broad picture of rebounding. Good boarding teams are typically a few rebounds better per game than their opponents. A rebounding differential of around plus-five per game will typically lead the league. For example, here are the 1987 rebounding differentials for the 23 NBA teams at the time:

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