Dennis Rodman may deserve another rebounding record

Dennis Rodman in 1990 - NBAE / Getty Images

A more precise measure of rebounding rate could leave Dennis Rodman with yet another NBA season record. For those unfamiliar with the rebounding rate (or rebounding percentage) stat, it’s a gauge of how effective a player is at obtaining available rebounds. It’s useful for comparing players because it negates variables such as game pace, shots taken, and FG%. The method is used for offensive, defensive, and total rebounds alike. Since the stat is only an estimate, the close contest for best defensive rebounding rate in a season is up for debate.

Defensive rebounding rate is the percentage of defensive rebounds grabbed from the available opportunities…team defensive rebounds plus opponent offensive rebounds. While with the San Antonio Spurs, Dennis Rodman finished the 94-95 season with a DRB% of 37.80%. That has since been topped by Reggie Evans formerly of the Brooklyn Nets by 0.18%. Here are the top five as listed by Basketball Reference:

Season Player DRB%
2012-13 Reggie Evans 37.98
1994-95 Dennis Rodman 37.80
1992-93 Dennis Rodman 36.78
2010-11 Marcus Camby 35.20
2002-03 Ben Wallace 34.94

The formula uses team’s average rate of rebound opportunities and the individual’s rebounds per minute to estimate the rebounding percentage.

DRB% = 100 * (DRB * TmMP / 5)/(MP *(TmDRB + OppORB))

[DRB=defensive rebound, TmMP=team minutes played, MP=minutes played, TmDRB=team defensive rebounds, OppORB=opponent offensive rebounds]

An Improved Estimation

One fault with this metric is that it includes data from games missed. Why should games that the player didn’t participate in affect their individual rebounding rate? By filtering out the missed games, the more appropriate estimation vaults Rodman to the top:

Season Player Games DRB%
1994-95 Dennis Rodman 49 38.58
2012-13 Reggie Evans 80 37.76
1992-93 Dennis Rodman 62 36.70
2010-11 Marcus Camby 59 36.09
2002-03 Ben Wallace 73 34.45

True Rebounding Percentage

Similar to how missed games skew the results, so does bench time. The true calculation must only include data from when the player is on the floor and uses the following formula:

DRB% = 100 * DRB / (Tm DRB + Opp ORB) {while on the court}

Game play by play was used to determine which rebounds occurred while the player was on the court. Unfortunately, play by play data isn’t available until the 00-01 season. Here are the true results:

Season Player DRB TmDRB OppORB DRB%
2012-13 Reggie Evans 628 1235 380 38.89
1994-95 Dennis Rodman Play by Play Not Available
1992-93 Dennis Rodman Play by Play Not Available
2010-11 Marcus Camby 424 875 315 35.63
2002-03 Ben Wallace 833 1820 605 34.35

Winner Unknown

With the true DRB% known for three players, the estimated values are evaluated for accuracy. Original DRB% estimates have errors of 2.3%, 1.2%, and 1.7%. The estimates obtained using only pertinent games give errors of 2.9%, 1.3%, and 0.3%. Using the improved estimation and adjusting for just a 1% error, Rodman can place ahead of Evans with a DRB% as high as 38.97%.

To better appreciate how good he was that year, the list is reorganized by defensive rebounds per 36 minutes:

Season Player Games min/GM DRB/36
1994-95 Dennis Rodman 49 32.00 12.60
2012-13 Reggie Evans 80 24.59 11.49
1992-93 Dennis Rodman 62 38.87 11.43
2002-03 Ben Wallace 73 39.36 10.44
2010-11 Marcus Camby 59 26.10 9.91

Without all of the play by play data, it’s impossible to prove Rodman belongs ahead of Evans for the best defensive rebounding rate in a season. But there’s enough reasonable doubt established to make the case that Worm really came out on top.

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