Where Does Lance Stephenson Rank Among Greatest Rebounding Guards in NBA History

Lance Stephenson‘s tenure with the Charlotte Hornets has gotten off to a rough start on the offensive end, as he’s failed to mesh with his new teammates and thrive in Steve Clifford’s offense, which is markedly different from the one run by Frank Vogel and the Indiana Pacers

The shooting guard fondly known as Born Ready has averaged only 9.5 points per game on 37.8 percent shooting from the field through his first 11 appearances, and it’s not as though his work from beyond the arc has aided the cause. After all, Stephenson has taken 20 downtown attempts and connected on just five of them. 

This will surely improve as the season progresses, especially as Stephenson gets used to playing without the ball in his hands as often and becomes less reliant on high screens set for him on the wings. But even while he finds more iron than net, Stephenson is making history.

Though there’s plenty of time left in the season for him to regress to more typical numbers, the 2-guard from Cincinnati is poised to assert himself as the greatest single-season rebounding guard in NBA history. 

That’s not an exaggeration, even if players such as Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson have always been viewed as untouchable glass-cleaners thanks to their gaudy per-game averages. 

Let’s start there. 

It’s not as though great rebounding numbers are new for Stephenson, as he averaged an impressive 7.2 boards per game during his final season with the Pacers. He has a remarkable knack for reading the ball off the rim, and it doesn’t hurt that he sometimes likes padding his numbers by thieving an easy rebound from one of his teammates. But in 2014-15, he’s taken things to a new level. 

After 11 outings, Stephenson is averaging a jaw-dropping 9.2 rebounds per game, a number that positions him among the elite at any position, much less among guards. This isn’t the result of one fluke performance, as that average may actually be misleadingly low: 

Stephenson has consistently put up impressive totals, even breaking into double figures in four consecutive games at one point. The aberration came against the Golden State Warriors. In that game, he was held without a single rebound for the first time since April 4, 2013, when he produced a goose egg in a blowout loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder

If we strike the exception from the record, Stephenson would be averaging an even more impressive 10.1 rebounds per game. But we can’t do that, since he did throw up a zero, so we’re left looking at how 9.2 stacks up against the best per-game averages from guards throughout all of NBA history: 

Case closed, right? 

Well, not exactly. While Stephenson is far from the top of the per-game leaderboard, that’s not the most telling number we have at our disposal. After all, some players have far more opportunities than others to collect rebounds based on pace of play and number of missed shots forced. 

Which player is more impressive? 

  • Player A: Grabs 10 rebounds per game while on a team that sprints at all times but is terrible at shooting and forces a lot of misses. 
  • Player B: Grabs 10 rebounds per game while on a team that slows everything down, shoots at high percentages and can’t play defense. 

Their per-game totals are even, but Player B should be far more impressive because he’ll have fewer opportunities. That’s where total rebounding percentage comes into play, as it shows the percentage of rebounds a player grabs out of the ones that are available while he’s on the floor. It takes both pace and team ability out of the equation. And here’s why that’s so remarkably important. 

In 1951-52, the first time the NBA tracked rebounds, the average team pulled in 54.52 rebounds per game. This season, that number has dropped to 40.36. In fact, here’s how the average number of rebounds per game has progressed throughout all of league history: 

That alone makes for a pretty big difference. Shooting percentages have gone up as basketball history has progressed, and pace has simultaneously dropped rather significantly. 

Stephenson’s 9.2 rebounds per game are essentially the equivalent of 16.3 during Robertson’s record-setting season in 1961-62. They’re the same as 9.9 during Magic Johnson’s best rebounding campaign, so you can see how eras come into play. Still, we’re not factoring in team-to-team variance, which total rebounding percentage will do: 

Playing on a team that operates at a sluggish pace during a year in which there have been fewer rebounds per game available than at any other point in NBA history, Stephenson jumps to the very top of the rankings. In fact, the top 10 as a whole looks quite different and features a number of players from this season, some of whom will regress to the mean as the sample size grows larger. 

Of course, there’s one inherent flaw. 

Total rebounding percentage isn’t calculated for seasons prior to the 1970s, which means a number of candidates from the original per-game list are no longer appearing, simply because we don’t have the necessary data.

While we won’t be able to account for team-by-team variance, let’s take a look at how Stephenson would have fared on a league-average squad in each of the years that hosted the players who finished above him on the per-game leaderboard: 

It’s not even close. In fact, the disparity is so large each season that it seems like a safe assumption neither Tom Gola nor Robertson would appear above Stephenson on the rankings for total rebounding percentages. 

Yes, that means the Charlotte 2-guard is indeed on pace for the greatest rebounding season by any guard in NBA history. 

He’ll have his work cut out for him maintaining the numbers throughout the entirety of a grueling 82-game campaign, and he has plenty of years left before we can begin to claim he’s one of the greatest backcourt rebounders over the course of his career. But everything looks promising right now. 

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Cavaliers make 3-point history, beat Hawks

The Cavaliers made their first 11 3-point attempts to rout the Atlanta Hawks

      
 

 

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Kobe Bryant breaks John Havlicek’s record for most missed shots in NBA history (video)

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant etched his name into the record books again on Tuesday night. But this time, it was for something he’s probably not going to be boasting about.
He’s now missed more shots than any player in NBA history—a record previously held by John Havlicek.
In the fourth quarter of Tuesday’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies, Bryant attempted a difficult turnaround jumper over Courtney Lee. He missed the 14-footer. Normally it’s no big deal, but this record-breaking shot was No. 13,418…

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Memphis Grizzlies: Breaking down the best season start in franchise history

Zach Randolph, Mike Conley, and Marc Gasol during a timeout.
Since their inception in the league in 1995, the Grizzlies (Vancouver or Memphis) have never started a season 4-0. After defeating the Pelicans at home 93-81, this is no longer the case. Even with several playoff teams under former coaches Hubie Brown and Mike Fratello, the Grizzlies were unable to start a season playing this well. With several consecutive playoff appearances and a Western Conference finals appearance, this team may be poised to get over the hump and make it all the way to the NBA finals. With so much competition in the west, this will be no easy feat. But the cream rises to the crop, right? Only time will tell. But what is certain though, is that this Memphis Grizzlies roster has all the tools to make a deep run. It’s just a matter of avoiding injuries, catching a bit of luck, and playing hot when the playoffs come around. After watching the first four games of the season, there are a few notable areas with room for improvement.

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Hornets make biggest comeback in franchise history

Charlotte was down 24 points in the third quarter.

      
 

 

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Ranking Top 25 Single-Season Team Performances in NBA History

Figuring out how modern-day offenses and defenses stack up against the units of the 1950s and ’60s isn’t exactly an easy task, but it’s quite necessary when attempting to determine the very best teams of all time.

Yes, if you’ve been following along with this series, we’re finally to the big kahuna: the top 25 squads throughout all of NBA history. 

Just looking at points scored and allowed doesn’t do the trick because that doesn’t give pace an opportunity to come into play. For that reason, defensive and offensive ratings—pace-neutral metrics that show how many points a team allows and scores per 100 possessions—are much better gauges to measure prowess on those ends of the court.

But when attempting to rank teams historically, as we’re doing here, that’s still not good enough. After all, not every team with identical defensive ratings is on the same level. Nor is every team with an identical offensive rating equally competent at scoring the rock.

If two teams gave up 95 points per 100 possessions, which is worse—Team A, which did so during a year in which defenses rose to the top of the heap, or Team B, which did so when everyone was scoring points like the video-game sliders were all the way up?

Team A should be the easy answer because context is crucially important. That, in a nutshell, is why DRtng+, or adjusted defensive rating, is the best inter-era metric for comparing defensive performances. 

The same holds true for ORtng+, or adjusted offensive efficiency.

Calculating these metrics isn’t particularly troublesome: Just divide the league-average defensive rating from the year in question by the team’s defensive rating and then multiply the result by 100 to achieve DRtng+. Similarly, ORtng+ is derived by dividing the team’s offensive rating by the league average and then multiplying by 100.

A score of 100 means the defense or offense was perfectly average that year. That does tend to happen fairly often, given that we’re working with the 1,315 teams throughout league history for which we have data. 

The final step in determining the strength of a team is averaging the two metrics. The result, called TeamRtng+, weighs offense and defense evenly to ascertain the overall effectiveness of any team in NBA history.

When determining the best squads throughout the NBA’s many seasons, the style of play doesn’t factor into the equation. Neither does points scored/allowed per game nor memorability, subjectivity and win-loss records. 

TeamRtng+ is all that comes into play. We’ll be looking at the worst team in each franchise’s history, counting down toward the very worst squad of all time. Analyses like this have been run before, notably by Hardwood Paroxysm’s Andrew Lynch and Ian Levy, but this is taking it to a whole new level by calculating things before and after the 1976 ABA/NBA merger. 

 

Note: All stats, unless otherwise indicated, come from Basketball-Reference.com. This introduction is an adapted form of what was used when ranking the top 20 offenses in NBA history as well as the top 20 defensesbottom 20 defensesbottom 20 offensesbest teams for each franchise and worst teams for each franchise throughout the same period. 

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Ranking the 5 Most Surprising Seasons in Pittsburgh Basketball History

One of the trademarks of the Jamie Dixon era in Pittsburgh has been, for all the unmet expectations of fans, the Panthers have exceeded just as many expectations under his watch. However, for a better perspective, how would some of Dixon’s surprising Pitt teams measure up with some of the school’s most surprising teams of years past?

We didn’t just look at bottom lines. We looked at how certain teams found success, or even failure, in some cases, and why that success or failure might have been thought hard to come by at the time.

It isn’t just coach-speak—or athlete-speak, as it were—to say there are inherent challenges with comparing one season to another. This is especially true when tasked with making apples-to-apples comparisons among different teams in different eras of college basketball.

For example, one surprising season that just missed our cut involved the 1940-41 Panthers, who bounced back from an 8-9 campaign to reach the Final Four. On one hand, they made it further in the NCAA tournament than any team in school history one year removed from not making the tournament at all. On the other hand, is it fair to call that team as surprising or more surprising than the teams that did make our cut, when factors like a smaller bracket and a shorter season made quick turnarounds more possible?

Giving the next generation its due credit without selling short the previous one, or vice versa, isn’t much easier. I’m not one to date myself, but, in the interest of maintaining candor with our readers, I’m not old enough to fully appreciate the playing careers of such Pitt legends as Charles Smith (pictured), Billy Knight or Don Hennon. Such limitations will inevitably alter my perspective, even though it’s common knowledge those guys turned quite a few heads in their day.

Nevertheless, we’ve given this assignment the same good-faith effort we give the rest. Let our ranking of the most surprising seasons in Pitt men’s basketball history begin—and let the debating begin as well.

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Minnesota Timberwolves: The five best trades in Timberwolves history

In honor of the Kevin Love and Andrew Wiggins trade, this past week I looked at the five worst trades in Minnesota Timberwolves history. To finish this theme on a happy note, here are the five best trades the Timberwolves have ever done.
5. Minnesota trades Jonny Flynn and the draft rights to Donatas Motiejunas to the Houston Rockets for Brad Miller, the draft rights to Nikola Mirotic, the draft rights to Chandler Parsons and a first round pick:
This trade, if the Timberwolves had kept the right players from this trade they actually would have recovered from investing a first round pick in Jonny Flynn. Mirotic was a great player in Europe and shows a lot of promise, while Chandler Parsons is a young player who plays good defense and was good enough to get a huge $45 million dollar deal this summer.
4. Minnesota trades Kevin Garnett to the Boston Celtics for Al Jefferson, Gerald Green, Ryan Gomes, two first round picks and cash considerations.
Al Jefferson now leading the Charlotte Bobcats
 
While it always i

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Minnesota Timberwolves: The five worst trades in Timberwolves history

Will Wiggins make up for losing Love?
This whole summer, the main story about the Minnesota Timberwolves was the Kevin Love trade to Cleveland, which ultimately ended with the Timberwolves receiving Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and Thaddeus Young. Time will tell whether the Timberwolves made a good trade or not, but that’s not going to stop me from looking back at the best and worst trades the Timberwolves have made in franchise history. I will start off with the worst first and save the best for next week.
5. Minnesota trades Ty Lawson to the Denver Nuggets for cash considerations:
The Minnesota Timberwolves drafted three point guards in the 2009 NBA draft and got rid of possibly the best one of the bunch. Admittedly the Timberwolves getting three point guards through draft would be hard to put on the roster. However this move looks much worse considering that one of the point guards the Timberwolves drafted and kept over Lawson was Jonny Flynn, who is already out of the NBA while Lawson averages 18 po

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Ranking the Top 5 Uniforms in Los Angeles Clippers History

The Los Angeles Clippers franchise doesn’t have a history of winning in bunches, but in terms of uniforms, their tradition is as rich as it gets.

The Clips have won many times in the looks department, and part of the intrigue in their success lies in the fact that they’ve had two substantial relocations to San Diego from Buffalo in 1978 and from San Diego to Los Angeles in 1984. 

As for the criteria, the goal is to look at the five best looking outfits. One thing to note is that these have nothing to do with the success of the team that wore them, though there’s plenty of background info for context alone.

Which jerseys belong in the all-time top 5 in franchise history? Let’s take a look, starting where it all began. 

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