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Rebounding guards - A Jennings/Ellis conundrum and a curious draft-day consideration

The Bucks struggled in the second half of last season thanks in large part to their poor work on the defensive glass. Some of the blame might lay with their small backcourt, which makes us wonder: which guards in this class do the best job on the boards?


There was a brief time, early in the season, when the Bucks were the best defensive rebounding team in the NBA. Those were the days. Back then, missed shots would sometimes lead to fast breaks for Milwaukee, which sometimes led to points. Sweet, precious points.

But the good times didn't last forever, and by around the All-Star break the Bucks had plummeted to the bottom third of the league. They eventually finished as the third-worst squad in terms of defensive rebound percentage (71.3), ahead of only the Bobcats (71.1) and Kings (71.0). That inability to finish off possessions put a lot of extra strain on Milwaukee's defense while also robbing the offense of easy opportunities in transition.

Larry Sanders greatly improved his own rebounding numbers last season, jumping from below-average on the defensive glass into the top-15 in individual DREB%. Ersan Ilyasova had good individual numbers, though the Bucks once again, confusingly, performed better on the glass with Ersan on the bench. Small forward was a rotating cast of roughly average rebounders. The two highest-minute players on the team, however, were less than helpful: Brandon Jennings' career-low 7.2 DRR was 94th among qualifying guards, while Monta Ellis ranked 45th. Lineups featuring those two players had a defensive rebound rate of 70.7.

Jennings has seems due for regression in his rebounding--he topped 10.0 in DRR his first two seasons before apathy took over, and the frequency with which he would leak out on defensive possessions surely hurt his numbers on the glass. Even if he bounces back a little, he'll likely be around average at best. Ellis was right in line with his career numbers last season, so improvement seems unlikely barring a drastic change in style. Larry Drew has suggested he'll keep an up-tempo style in place, so expect to see more emphasis on transition offense from the Bucks' guards (whoever they end up being) at the expense of rebounding help.

Rebounding performances from guards feels like a luxury topic for a team with as many holes as the Bucks, but it shouldn't be overlooked. This is especially true around draft time, when teams have a chance to consider every element of their prospective pick's game. Perhaps more important, rebounding numbers for college guards are usually decent indicators of things like athleticism and "motor", so they can sway opinions and projections of players on the whole.

With that in mind, let's run down a few of the best and worst rebounding guards from among those expected to be drafted in the first round:

Best on the Boards

Jamaal Franklin - SG, San Diego State. Arguably the best rebounding guard in all of college basketball last season, Franklin averaged almost 10 rebounds per game and was one of four players under 6-6 in the top 50 in DRR.

Ben McLemore - SG, Kansas. The numbers don't blow you away, but he uses his length and athleticism well on the glass, and scouts suggest he'll be good at the next level.

C.J. McCollum - G, Lehigh. McCollum's numbers were better in his previous two seasons than in his injury-shortened senior year.

Victor Oladipo - SG, Indiana. Notable for his production on the offensive glass. Like Kenneth Faried, Oladipo's energy makes up for a lack of size when it comes to chasing down rebounds.

Gassed on the Glass

Trey Burke - PG, Michigan. Burke's smallish stature and average athleticism limited his effectiveness in the rebounding game. Apparently he isn't quite Chris Paul.

Michael Carter-Williams - PG, Syracuse. The numbers are a bit underwhelming considering his size, though it's possible the zone scheme took him out of a lot of opportunities.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope - SG, Georgia. The defensive numbers are good, but they obscure the fact that KCP averaged just 1.3 offensive rebounds per 40 minutes.