April 16, 2012; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets center Samuel Dalembert (21) blocks Denver Nuggets shooting guard Arron Afflalo (6) during the first quarter at the Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Campbell-US PRESSWIRE

On the Milwaukee Bucks, Samuel Dalembert, and Rebounding


When an avid NBA fan thinks about Samuel Dalembert, chances are that their mental image is one of him fouling things up for the opposition with his preternaturally long arms.  He blocks shots, he alters shots. Standing 6-feet-11, with a knack for defense and a wingspan of 7-feet-7 inches, Dalembert will give the Bucks an interior presence in the starting lineup to match the one coming off their bench in the form of Larry Sanders and Ekpe Udoh.

For a franchise traumatized by Andrew Bogut’s injuries, the surprise factor most often mentioned following the trade for Samuel was his durability:  he has played 473 of 476 possible games over the past six seasons.  Or perhaps the other surprise was his free-throw shooting ability, a skill that has improved greatly over the course of his career.

However, Samuel Dalembert is not a good rebounder.  Dalembert is an excellent-to-elite rebounder — and I think that may be what is most surprising about the Bucks’ new center.

Samuel isn’t a superstar-caliber, 35-minutes-per-game player.  He played 24 minutes per game for Sacramento in 2010, and 22 for Houston last season.  Looking at his rebounds on a per-game basis won’t do his skill any justice; he’s not on the court as much as some other players.  Instead, look at his rebounding as a percentage of shots taken when he is on the court:  offensive/defensive/total rebounding percentages.

Dalembert’s rebounding percentages are both impressive and balanced. Last season, Samuel reeled in 12.5% of available offensive rebounds — the 13th-best mark in the league among qualified players.  On defense, he collected 24.1% the shots his opponents missed when he was on the court — good enough for 15th best in the NBA.

Here is a list of the league’s best overall rebounders from 1 to Ersan, based upon total rebounding percentage.  (The list includes only players who met the minimum qualifications for the league leaders, which in the lockout-shortened season was 1207 minutes played.)  With the dual advantage of crashing the boards well from both sides, Dalembert finished with the sixth-best overall percentage in the NBA.

Totals Shooting
Rk Player Age Tm G MP ORB DRB TRB BLK TOV PF PTS FG% FT% TRB%
1 Marcus Camby 37 TOT 59 1352 157 373 530 85 57 126 287 .446 .453 22.8
2 Dwight Howard 26 ORL 54 2070 200 585 785 116 175 159 1113 .573 .491 21.9
3 DeMarcus Cousins 21 SAC 64 1950 265 438 703 75 170 257 1160 .448 .702 19.8
4 Kevin Love 23 MIN 55 2145 226 508 734 28 128 152 1432 .448 .824 19.0
5 Andrew Bynum 24 LAL 60 2112 192 517 709 116 152 104 1123 .558 .692 18.7
6 Samuel Dalembert 30 HOU 65 1446 158 298 456 111 82 162 490 .506 .796 18.3
7 Tim Duncan 35 SAS 58 1634 110 410 520 88 97 98 895 .492 .695 18.3
8 Kris Humphries 26 NJN 62 2162 233 448 681 74 119 173 855 .481 .752 18.3
9 Greg Monroe 21 DET 66 2082 239 398 637 46 161 180 1015 .521 .739 18.3
10 DeAndre Jordan 23 LAC 66 1798 202 344 546 135 74 189 486 .632 .525 18.1
11 Joakim Noah 26 CHI 64 1945 242 387 629 92 92 162 652 .508 .748 18.0
12 Blake Griffin 22 LAC 66 2392 218 499 717 48 150 216 1368 .549 .521 17.8
13 Derrick Favors 20 UTA 65 1376 158 267 425 65 103 145 570 .499 .649 17.7
14 Udonis Haslem 31 MIA 64 1589 117 353 470 24 60 142 385 .423 .814 17.7
15 JaVale McGee 24 TOT 61 1535 163 314 477 132 87 166 691 .556 .461 17.7
16 Marcin Gortat 27 PHO 66 2114 185 474 659 99 90 142 1017 .555 .649 17.6
17 Ersan Ilyasova 24 MIL 60 1655 196 333 529 44 76 133 782 .492 .781 17.6
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/7/2012.

As a point of emphasis, it should be noted that this list includes some of the league’s worst free-throw shooters.  Dalembert was just a tick below 80% for the season.

For the record, Dalembert has finished in the top ten in total rebounding percentage for the last five seasons: 10th, 5th, 3rd, 7th, and 6th. By way of comparison, Andrew Bogut’s three career-best finishes (as a full-season qualifier) were 11th, 12th, and 26th. And Dalembert has done it with three teams in three cities, so you know that his results are not a product of any one system, player-personnel combination, or any other type of fluke happenstance.

The only real concern is that his productivity could taper off with age, but that is unlikely, as rebounding is usually one of the last skills to erode; in recent seasons, players like Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, and Marcus Camby have been terrific rebounders well into their mid-30s.

There are few things that bother me as an NBA fan more than an average power forward taking up tons of playing time, putting in some points and grabbing 10 rebounds per game, and then parlaying that job into a massive contract. (This notion isn’t a knock at Ersan — who is reportedly very close to a 5-year, $45 million deal with the Bucks. His deal, both pro and con, is a separate matter as a stretch-4 power forward.)  Defense matters, even more than rebounding, for an interior player.  But Samuel’s reputation as a defender precedes him, to the extent that his skilled rebounding has often gone without notice.


Tags: 2011-12 NBA Bucks Featured Milwaukee Bucks Popular Rebounding Samuel Dalembert