Things aren't quite as dire on the glass as they used to be for the Milwaukee Bucks. Still not great by any means, but better. Milwaukee is 18th in the NBA in offensive rebound percentage, grabbing roughly a quarter of their own misses. They rank even lower on the defensive glass, 24th in the league with a 73.0% DRR. The latter number is a marginal improvement over last year's mark, when they were the second-worst defensive rebounding team in the NBA at 71.4%. The offensive rank has seen a comparable drop though, falling to 18th from 12th last season.
Rebounding remains arguably the biggest flaw in Milwaukee's defensive resume. While they force turnovers at an elite rate and are eighth in opponent eFG%, finishing possessions continues to confound them. Giannis Antetokounmpo is doing his best to remedy that. Prior to last night's game (he didn't play in the second half) Giannis was leading the Bucks in per-game rebounding, and he's bumped his per-36 rebounding total from 6.4 to 8.0 since last year. But here's the thing: almost all of his production has come on the defensive end. He's second on the team in DRR and was averaging seven defensive rebounds per game over his last five prior to his short stint against Philadelphia. Those numbers aren't quite so good on the other end of the floor. Giannis is 7th on the team in ORR and averages just 1.6 offensive boards per 36 minutes. Nearly all his gains as a rebounder have come on defense.
Oddly enough, some advanced metrics tell a slightly different story. According to Basketball-Reference.com, the Bucks are almost five percentage points better on the offensive glass when Giannis is on the floor, and marginally worse on the defensive end. The Bucks' on/off stats are a showcase of bizarre numbers this season, but they're an accurate record of what has happened so far. The Bucks also turn the ball over a lot more when Giannis is on the court, so it could be a simple case of grabbing a few more rebounds out of a smaller volume of shots.
In any case, improvement is improvement, and even the one-sided gains as a rebounder have gelled nicely with other elements of Giannis' expanding game. He's effective in the open court as a scorer and passer, so any extra chances to get the ball in his hands with the defense retreating are a big plus. His ability to handle the ball helps set up an expanded roster of capable shooters for Milwaukee, and Giannis is certainly capable of finding guys who spot-up in transition. The general idea is the same in most cases--the sooner after a defensive possession Giannis can get the ball, the more likely he is to be facing a defense scrambling to get reset, which is when he's at his most lethal. If nothing else, Giannis being a capable defensive rebounder means the Bucks can be a little more flexible in lineups they deploy around him without worrying so much they'll get absolutely smoked on the glass.
Giannis definitely plays a perimeter-oriented style on offense, typically floating around the three-point line as he looks for cutting lanes and working off screens to get into the paint. As a result, his opportunities to crash the offensive glass may be artificially limited. It's also safe to say most NBA teams aren't as bad at boxing out as the Bucks. Giannis' athleticism could make him a terror in these situations, and it might be worth exploring whether a more aggressive approach could earn he and his team a few more easy buckets (not to mention some more highlight-reel plays). That would of course threaten the Bucks' transition defense, where Giannis' value is obvious, so as always the proper balance must be struck.
But seriously, we just want more skying putback dunks.