ESPN scribe Neil Paine caused a bit of a stir in some corners of the basketblogosphere on Tuesday with this Insider post (subscription required) about the NBA's most "overrated" rebounders, a piece which singled out players whose gaudy individual rebounding numbers have no effect on their teams' overall rebounding margin. Dwight Howard, formerly of the Orlando Magic, headlines the list.
Paine's list made no attempt to be comprehensive in identifying all of the league's overrated rebounders, so I set out to check if second-year center Nikola Vučević, whom Orlando acquired from the Philadelphia 76ers as part of the trade which sent Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers, would have qualified. Vučević gained some recognition in a loss to the Miami Heat wherein he broke Shaquille O'Neal's team record for boards in a single game, as he snared 29.
The data show that Vučević's presence, unlike Howard's, helps his team on the glass. With Vučević on the bench, Orlando holds the slimmest of rebounding advantages, grabbing 50.1 percent of available boards. With Vučević on the floor, however, Orlando's rebounding advantage increases to 51.4 percent. That trend carried over from his rookie season in Philly, where the Sixers' team rebound percentage increased from 49.1 percent with Vučević on the bench to 51.2 percent with him playing.
Vučević has room to grow in all phases of the game, but his size, long arms, and instinct have already made him one of the league's best rebounders. Given his age and key role on an Orlando team looking to develop young talent, it's likely that he'll only continue to improve as his career progresses.
NBA.com/stats provided statistical support for this post.