The Milwaukee Bucks have led the league in rebounding under Mike Budenholzer, but their performance in that span also sees them pace the NBA’s modern era.
Unless you’re a new Milwaukee Bucks fan who’s fortunate enough not to remember any of the countless miseries the franchise suffered through prior to Mike Budenholzer’s arrival and the team’s two most recent seasons at the top of the standings, you’ll remember years of watching rebounds slip through Milwaukee fingertips.
In 2017-18, the season immediately prior to Coach Bud’s arrival, the Bucks ranked dead last in the NBA in terms of rebounds per game, with just a sorry 39.8 boards per contest.
Working backward from that point, the Bucks ranked 29th, 27th, 24th, and 24th to round out their five seasons prior to the current regime taking charge.
All of that means the Bucks leading the NBA in terms of rebounds per game, as they have for two consecutive seasons now, was already worthy of a double take. But perhaps the unfamiliarity for Bucks fans in seeing their team exercise such control on the boards has somewhat disguised just how that performance stacks up in a historic context.
The truth on that front is that the Bucks have managed to haul in volumes of rebounds from game to game at a rate that hasn’t been seen since the advent of the 3-point line put a shape on the modern NBA back in the 1979-80 season.
If the current season doesn’t resume and it ultimately goes in the record books as is, the Bucks will set a new high mark for rebounds per game in the modern NBA, while also becoming the first team in over 40 years to average over 50 rebounds per game.
Beyond their 51.7 boards per game this season, the Bucks’ 49.7 rebounds per game from 2018-19 slots in at second place, with the 1979-80 Washington Bullets next up in third place.
Of course, pace factors into the Bucks’ positioning in top spot as NBA games have routinely seen their total possessions per game ratchet up in recent years after something of a relative down period for the best part of 15 to 20 years.
Still, the Bucks aren’t the only team to have pushed the pace over the last 40 years of the NBA, as evidenced by the fact that their 2019-20 squad rank just 29th in pace over that period, while the 2018-19 team are way back in 74th spot.
Milwaukee’s rebounding is standout even when adjusted for pace. For example, when turning to per 100 possessions to level the playing field among this season’s NBA rankings, the Bucks still lead the league with 48.9 boards per 100 possessions.
Of course, key to this is Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s outstanding individual work on the glass, but also the cumulative boost the Bucks receive from Brook Lopez and Robin Lopez, two of the league’s box-out masters.
The Bucks have been special in a variety of ways over the last couple of years, and have certainly left their mark on the league’s record books. Rebounding should not be an afterthought in that conversation, though, as particularly after years of struggles, the Bucks have completely turned the tables under Coach Bud’s guidance and since the arrival of Brook Lopez, in particular.