Dwight Howard Is Rebounding At A Historic Level...Even For Dwight Howard

Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images

Story by KL Chouinard
Twitter: @KLChouinard

Most NBA fans already know that Dwight Howard is an all-time great rebounder.

If they didn't already know that fact, it was displayed in reverse when the Howard-less Hawks played the New York Knicks Monday in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day matinee. The Hawks won in brilliant fashion - Dennis Schröder hit a game-winning three and Paul Millsap made a game-saving block – but one reason that the Knicks stayed in the game for 48 minutes was that they outrebounded Atlanta by a 53-36 margin.

"Every possession it felt like they got three shots," Head Coach Mike Budenholzer said sarcastically after the game. "Kind of like the old Hawks."

This season Atlanta is 13th in rebounding, pulling down 44 boards per game.  Prior to Howard's arrival, the Hawks were 24th, 28th and 28th over the past three years respectively in rebounds per game.  When Howard is in the lineup, these Hawks are no longer the old Hawks.

Howard missed the game for some routine rest, a wise move for a 31-year-old center who could fundamentally change the team's prospects in April and May. The 6-foot-11 big man has brought efficient scoring and stonewalling defense to the Hawks this season, but more than anything else, Howard has been a dominant rebounder. 

Again, Howard being great on the glass should come as no surprise; he has averaged 12.7 rebounds per game for his career. Parsing those numbers into two reveals that Howard ranks seventh all-time in offensive rebounds per game (3.6) and second all time in defensive rebounds per game (9.1). The NBA began tracking numbers for offensive and defensive rebounds in the 1973-74 season, so there is a reasonable case to be made that Howard is the most dominant rebounder in the history of the modern NBA.

This season, by grabbing 13.3 rebounds per game, Howard is above his career rebound average for the first time since 2011-12, his last season playing for the Orlando Magic. But what is most impressive is that he has collected so many rebounds despite playing fewer minutes per game than at other points in his career. If you look at his rebound rates, Howard is actually posting some career-best marks.  

His 17.5 percent offensive rebound rate and 24.6 percent overall rebound rate this season are far and away the best marks of his career. And his defensive rebound rate of 31.5 is just a whisker away from his career peak.

Howard said his motivation for rebounds lies in the chances he creates for his team. 

"I'm just trying my best to get as many as I can for my teammates," Howard said. "The more rebounds I get, the more opportunities we have to score. So I'm doing everything I can to help this team win." 

Then he summed things up with a tacit nod to his superlative capability.

"If I want it, I'm going to go get it."

Even though Howard is still in the prime of his career, he has already risen into the upper echelon of the all-time career rebound list. Friday, Dwight passed Patrick Ewing for the 24th spot, and he acknowledged one of his mentors with a grateful tweet.

If he keeps rebounding as well as he has this season, it's a certainty that Howard will continue to rise up that list and thank even more of his heroes.