Numbers Game: How Much Does Team Rebound Percentage Matter?

Happy new year all. Welcome back to Numbers Game, where we investigate the math behind fantasy basketball.

"Start Myles Turner against the Nets on Thursday, because the Nets have the worst rebounding percentage the league" — a brilliant young analyst (and did I mention dashingly handsome) last week.

It sounded good, but was this analyst full of malarkey? Also, spoiler, I'm the analyst.

On paper, the recommendation makes sense, but it got me thinking — the Nets' Trevor Booker is one of the league leaders in rebounds. In fact, several of the worst rebounding teams boast top-20 individual rebounders, while the three best rebounding teams don't have a single forward or center on that list. Teams average more than 40 rebounds per game, while the elite players only account for nine to 15 of those. Maybe a team with poor rebounding numbers is more indicative of the supporting cast, and not the primary glass-cleaners down low?

Several times this season, we've investigated a commonly held assumption only to find that we were off base. The impact of pace and back-to-backs were both more nuanced than conventional wisdom would have you believe. In that vein, we'll continue our investigations to check if our assumptions are mathematically valid.

This week: is the performance of good rebounders related to the quality of the opposing team?

The Problem

Most teams grab close to 50 percent of the roughly 90 available rebounds each game. The best rebounders – all of whom are bigs, save Russell

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rikleen writes the NBA column "Numbers Game," which decodes the math that underpins fantasy basketball and was a nominee for the 2016 FSWA Newcomer of the Year Award. A certified math teacher, Rikleen decided the field of education pays too well, so he left it for writing. He is a Boston College graduate living outside Boston.