Milwaukee Bucks: Rebounding may go from bad to worse in 2017-18

MILWAUKEE, WI - APRIL 02: Greg Monroe
MILWAUKEE, WI - APRIL 02: Greg Monroe /

Somehow, the Milwaukee Bucks might be even worse at rebounding in 2017-18 than the team was in 2016-17.

The Milwaukee Bucks are pretty good at a lot of basketball things, relative to the other 29 teams in the NBA (they’re extremely good at everything basketball-related when compared to the general population).

One thing the Bucks are not good at — and by not good I mean terrible — is rebounding. Milwaukee could not grab a board if the team’s lives depended on it last season. Only the Dallas Mavericks grabbed less rebounds than the Bucks in the regular season.

The Mavs were worse because they couldn’t grab contested boards — Dallas was last in the NBA and tallied just 11.0 contested boards per game last season. That makes some sense, as the Mavericks played Dirk Nowitzki at center pretty often and he’s not exactly jumping out of the gym.

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At 22nd in the league, the Bucks weren’t much better at getting those contested boards. General instability at the center position didn’t help matters, nor did Miles Plumlee having a horrid time grabbing boards in his 12 Bucks starts and 32 games played with Milwaukee.

Thon Maker also wasn’t very good at grabbing boards. Plumlee was last among the Bucks centers with 6.2 rebounds per 36 minutes, but Thon wasn’t far ahead with 7.3 boards per 36.

Greg Monroe, despite not being known as a prolific leaper, was the Bucks’ best rebounder. He grabbed 10.5 boards per 36 minutes, more than any other player to get significant minutes last season.

The real problem was all the uncontested boards Milwaukee let get into opposing hands, though. The Bucks were dead last in uncontested rebounds per game, grabbing just 27.2 of them per game.

The blame for that falls on everybody’s shoulders. Guards and forwards have to work on grabbing those bricks that bounce off of the rim harder, but many teams that grab tons of uncontested boards get help from their big men boxing out opposing players.

The Oklahoma City Thunder were one of the best teams at grabbing uncontested boards, mostly because Russell Westbrook got so many. In addition to Russ being absolutely tenacious, Steven Adams and company helped him get the boards necessary for his triple-double average.

Here’s where the bad news gets worse: There’s almost no reason to expect the Bucks to be any better at rebounding next season. Milwaukee lost Michael Beasley, the fourth-best rebounder to see significant minutes according to rebounds per 36 minutes.

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Beasley was essentially replaced by D.J. Wilson, who despite being about Beas’ height managed to snag just 5.3 rebounds per game in his last season at Michigan. It’s much harder to grab rebounds in the NBA than it is in the NCAA, as evidenced by Wilson often looking small against the competition in Las Vegas Summer League.

Mirza Teletovic potentially seeing more minutes with Jabari Parker out for the first part of the year isn’t good news either. Jabari is good for about a rebound and a half more per 36 minutes than Teletovic, who barely pulls down five boards in that amount of time.

The good news for the Bucks is there, even if it’s a small silver lining. Plumlee is gone, and he’s taken his weak glass-cleaning ability with him. Thon is another year older, another year stronger, and another year smarter.

His ability to transfer that additional experience into rebounds he lost last season will be the biggest reason for a change in Milwaukee’s rebounding ranks, if such a change is for the better.

Next: Milwaukee Bucks: An ode to Michael Beasley

Generally it’s wise to avoid placing too much pressure on such a young player, but it’s simply true: for the Milwaukee Bucks to be a better rebounding team, Thon Maker has to be a better rebounder, assuming he maintains his starting role on the team.