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Mitchell Robinson, Rudy Gobert lead top 12 players in putbacks

Take a closer look at the players that lead the NBA in putback scoring.

New York’s Mitchell Robinson leads the NBA with 3.5 points per game on 75% shooting on putbacks.

There are 312 players that have averaged at least 15 minutes per game and played at least 15 games through Jan. 25. New York center Mitchell Robinson ranks 300th among that group in usage rate (10.9%). The Knicks have six players with usage rates over 20%, led by Julius Randle (26.7%) and RJ Barrett (24.6%), while Robinson ranks 12th on his team in usage and sixth in minutes played.

Long story short – the Knicks are not running offensive plays for Robinson. He’ll get a few lobs as the roll man on pick and roll (he’s 27 of 31 on alley oops so far this season), but for the most part if he wants to score, he has to create his own opportunities. A key way for Robinson to contribute offensively is to crash the offensive glass and look for tip-ins and putback dunks off missed shots from his teammates.

The putback is one of the quintessential hustle plays in basketball. It starts with positioning after the ball has been shot, whether it’s boxing out an opponent or finding the open space near the basket while also tracking the shot trajectory to have a better idea of where the rebound will carom off the rim. Then there’s a matter of timing so that the peak elevation of your jump allows you to either redirect the miss for a tip in, corral the ball and throw it down in the same jump for a dunk, or secure the rebound and go back up with a shot, while often doing so through contact.

Robinson leads the NBA in putbuck scoring at 3.5 points per game as he shoots an outstanding 75.0% on those opportunities, which ranks second among the 23 players in the league that average at least one putback bucket per game behind Orlando’s Wendell Carter Jr. (81.0%. 2.0 ppg). This is Robinson’s third straight season ranked in the top 10 in putback scoring, but his 3.5 ppg marks a career-best for the fourth-year pro. Here is a look at this year’s top 12 as there was a four-way tie for ninth place.

All stats and rankings through games played on Jan. 25.

This list ranges from role players (six players have usage rates below 18%) to All-Stars (five players have usage rates between 20-27%) and a reigning Most Valuable Player winner (Nikola Jokic at 30.6% usage).

Rudy Gobert: Gobert leads the league in rebounding (career best 15.1 rpg), is tied for the lead in double-doubles (35) and ranks fifth in offensive rebounding (3.7 orpg). In addition to being the league’s top screener, Gobert also ranks seventh in scoring as the roll man in pick and rolls (4.5 ppg) and adds another 3.4 ppg on putbacks.

Jonas Valanciunas: Valanciunas led the NBA in putback scoring last season while in Memphis with a career-best 4.3 ppg. He’s ranked in the top 10 in putback scoring five times in the seven seasons in which we have play type data available from Synergy.

Nikola Jokic: Jokic is the polar opposite to Robinson as he essentially dictates the scoring opportunities in Denver. He ranks seventh in scoring (26.2 ppg), 10th in assists (7.6 apg) and first in touches (100.5). In addition to everything he does to facilitate Denver’s offense, he’s also ready to do the dirty work inside and fight for putbacks and tip-ins. Here’s one from last year’s playoffs against Portland off a missed free throw that sealed a victory.

Robert Williams III: Williams ranks last on the Celtics in usage rate so far this season (11.5%), but still ranks sixth on the team in scoring (9.9 ppg) and first in rebounding (9.4 rpg). Williams ranks fourth in the NBA in offensive rebounding (3.9 per game) to provide extra opportunities for his teammates (12.9 second chance points per game) and himself (2.8 putback points).

Domantas Sabonis: Sabonis is averaging career highs of 3.2 offensive rebounds and 2.6 points per game on putbacks in his sixth NBA season. He joins Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid as the only four players in the league averaging at least 19 points, 10 rebounds and four assists so far this season.

Richaun Holmes: Of the 245 players that have attempted at least 200 shots so far this season, Holmes ranks third in field goal percentage (70.4%) behind only Gobert (70.7%) and Williams III (73.8%), who also join him on this leaderboard. Holmes shoots an even higher percentage on putbacks at 73.3%.

Montrezl Harrell: There are 36 players that have at least 50 putbacks possessions so far this season; Harrell leads that group in points per possession on putbacks (1.44). Harrell ranks 37th in the NBA in offensive rebounds (2.0 per game), but makes the most out of them as he converts those chances into 2.5 putback points on 71.7% shooting.

Clint Capela: Capela is on the opposite side of that putback efficiency ranking compared to Harrell. Capela ranks second in the league in offensive rebounds (4.0 per game), but converts his putback opportunities at just 41.6% for 2.4 points per game and 0.84 points per possession.

Jarrett Allen: Allen is in the middle of a career year in nearly every statistical category: points (16.1), rebounds (11.0), assists (1.9), steals (0.8), field goal percentage (68.9%), so it should come as no surprise that he’s grabbing a career-best 3.4 offensive rebounds per game and scoring a career-best 2.6 points per game on putbacks.


Deandre Ayton: Ayton’s putback game has been consistent since he entered the NBA as the No. 1 overall pick in 2018. He averaged 2.7 points per game on putbacks as a rookie, 2.9 ppg in his sophomore season (seventh in league), 2.5 ppg last season as the Suns made it to the Finals, and 2.4 ppg so far this season (tied for ninth).

Karl-Anthony Towns: Towns ranks third in the league in second-chance points individually (4.0 ppg) and the Timberwolves rank third in the league as a team (15.5 ppg). It is interesting to see the disparity in Towns’ second chance points (4.0) and his putback points (2.4); that 1.6 ppg differential is the largest of any player in this top 12. There are players like Robinson and Harrell that have little to no difference between their putback points and second chance points. But putbacks are a larger part of their scoring output than a player like Towns, who ranks 14th in the league in scoring (24.1 ppg). Towns has opportunities to score on many of Minnesota’s 12.4 offensive rebounds per game since he’s one of the team’s highest usage players; he doesn’t have to just rely on his own 2.8 offensive rebounds per game for his second-chance scoring.