The Danny Fortson File
Drafted: 1997 first round (pick 10) by Milwaukee
Born: March 27, 1976, Philadelphia, PA
Experience: Seven years
In a word association game, there is one obvious answer when the prompt "Danny Fortson" comes up: rebounding. Take away the fluctuating hair color, the tattoos and the attitude and add some girth, and Fortson might be the NBA's best current answer to Dennis Rodman.
Of active players, Fortson is the best per-minute rebounder in the NBA, averaging 17.7 rebounds per 48 minutes played during his career. Others in the top ten behind Fortson include Ben Wallace, Dikembe Mutombo, Shaquille O'Neal and Tim Duncan.
Like Rodman, new Sonics teammate Reggie Evans and many of the league's greatest rebounders, Fortson doesn't have the advantage of being a 7-footer, though, at 265 pounds, he is one of the league's most physical players in the paint. Fortson has compensated for his height with hard work.
"I try to put myself in a good position to rebound," he said during an NBA.com chat three years ago, explaining his prowess. "I lift weights and try to put my hand on the ball every time it goes up."
While Fortson doesn't get his hands on every rebound, he comes as close as anyone in the league. Last season, Fortson himself collected 21.8% of the estimated rebounds while he was on the court for the Dallas Mavericks. Do the math, and the 10 players on the court at any one time average 10% of the total rebounds. Fortson more than doubled that mark.
Fortson doesn't pad his stats with easy rebounds his teammates would have gotten anyway. According to 82games.com, Fortson improved Dallas' rebounding percentage by 3.4% when he was in the game last season. By comparison, none of the league's top five rebounders (by rebounds per game) improved their teams by even 2% on the glass. The Mavericks overall 53.8% rebounding percentage with Fortson in the game was better than any team posted over the course of last season.
When Fortson entered the NBA as the 10th pick of the 1997 Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks (he was traded to the Denver Nuggets on Draft night as part of a package for former Sonics center Ervin Johnson), he was known more as a scorer than a rebounder. During his final junior season at the University of Cincinnati, Fortson averaged 21.3 points and 9.1 rebounds per game, shooting better than 62% from the field to earn All-America honors.
As a rookie on the Nuggets, Fortson averaged 10.2 points per game, and his 5.6 boards were nothing spectacular. That would change the following season, the lockout-shortened 1998-99 campaign. Fortson started 38 of Denver's 50 games and averaged 11.0 points and 11.6 rebounds per game, the latter mark good for fourth in the NBA.
After the season, Fortson was dealt to Boston in a six-player trade. The fit was never a good one, with Antoine Walker playing nearly 40 minutes a game at power forward, and Fortson averaged just over 15 minutes a game. He was traded to Toronto in a three-player February trade that was undone after Alvin Williams failed his physical, and rumors swirled around Fortson before that season's trade deadline, but he finished the year out with the Celtics.
Despite the limited opportunity in Boston, Fortson was still a strongly coveted free agent in the summer of 2000 after completing his rookie deal. On August 16, Fortson was re-signed by the Celtics to a seven-year contract and immediately traded to Golden State as part of a four-team, nine-player trade. With the Warriors, Fortson immediately became a starter and one of the team's centerpieces up front, along with forward Antawn Jamison. He got off to a great start in 2000-01, averaging 16.7 points and 16.3 rebounds and shooting 58.0% from the field in six games before his season was ended by a stress fracture of the fifth metatarsal in his right foot. At the time, Fortson was leading the league in rebounding, field-goal percentage and double-doubles.
The following season, Fortson returned to his starting spot and put up numbers similar to what he'd done his last full season as a starter in Denver, averaging 11.2 points and 11.7 rebounds per game to again rank fourth in the NBA. The struggling Warriors, however, felt a need to go younger, and Fortson was replaced at power forward in 2002-03 by second-year player Troy Murphy. He played in just 17 games, all of them off the bench.
A summer ago, Fortson was included in an eight-player trade that sent him and Jamison, amongst others to Dallas. It looked like Fortson would have an opportunity to give Dallas the rebounding it needed, but, just a week before the start of the season, Walker intervened again. The trade that sent Walker to the Mavericks created a logjam of him and Dirk Nowitzki at power forward for Dallas. While Fortson still saw time in the middle, starting 20 games, he averaged barely more than 11 minutes per game.
For a rebounding specialist, Fortson has always been a quality scorer. He's averaged double-figures whenever he has had the opportunity to play starters' minutes, and shot 51.1% from the field last season. He's also a very good free-throw shooter for a big man, hitting 76.6% of his attempts during his career and a career-high 81.5% last season.
Fortson has showed his new employers what he can do. In the one game he played against the Sonics last season, Fortson scored five points and collected eight caroms in 11 minutes of action. Two seasons ago, while in Golden State, Fortson averaged 13.5 points and 12.8 rebounds in four matchups with the Sonics.