Sonics History Top Ten: Rebounders
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  • Kevin Pelton, SUPERSONICS.COM | Nov. 18, 2004
    Seattle SuperSonics rebounding specialist Danny Fortson is off to a great start to his Sonics career. Fortson has recorded a pair of double-doubles in his first seven games and is averaging 6.9 rebounds per game - but in just 16.4 minutes of action. Fortson, who led the NBA in rebounds per 48 minutes last season, is joined by starting forward Reggie Evans, whose average of 9.2 rebounds per game is the highest by a Sonics player since Shawn Kemp averaged 10.0 rebounds per game during the 1996-97 season.

    In honor of one of the NBA's top rebounding duos, SUPERSONICS.COM is taking a look at the top rebounders in Sonics history.

    First, let's take a look at the top overall rebounders in franchise history:

    Player
    Reb
    Jack Sikma
    7,729
    Shawn Kemp
    5,978
    Gary Payton
    4,240
    Michael Cage
    3,975
    Spencer Haywood
    3,954
    Nate McMillan
    3,222
    Xavier McDaniel
    2,839
    Tom Meschery
    2,813
    Bob Rule
    2,643
    Fred Brown
    2,637

    That's one way of looking at it, but it's doubtful you've ever thought of Fred Brown as one of the great rebounders in team history. Obviously, by playing 963 games in Sonics Green and Gold, Brown has something of an unfair advantage. So how about the players with the most rebounds per game (minimum 80 games)?

    Player
    RPG
    Marvin Webster
    12.6
    Spencer Haywood
    12.1
    Jack Sikma
    10.8
    Bob Rule
    10.0
    Shawn Kemp
    9.6
    Jim Fox
    9.0
    Bob Boozer
    8.7
    Tom Meschery
    8.7
    Pete Cross
    8.5
    Zaid Abdul-Aziz
    8.2

    This list gets us a lot closer to what we want. Still, however, there is the question of opportunity. What about bench players who didn't play as many minutes but still inhaled rebounds when they were in there, a la Fortson? Here's the list of top rebounds on a per-48 minute basis, again with a minimum of 82 games played:

    Player
    R48
    Pete Cross
    19.4
    Zaid Abdul_Aziz
    17.5
    Dorie Murray
    17.5
    Marvin Webster
    17.1
    Reggie Evans
    15.5
    Shawn Kemp
    15.4
    Jim Fox
    15.3
    Alton Lister
    15.3
    Jack Sikma
    15.0
    Ervin Johnson
    14.9

    Ah, there's our guy Evans. This is also the first list that Fortson, if he had already played 80 games with the Sonics, would appear on. In fact, Fortson's average of 20.0 rebounds per 48 minutes would top the list! However, it should be noted that this list has its own problem, in that rebounds aren't as common now as they were early in Sonics history. In 14 of the first 17 seasons in team history, at least one player averaged double-figures rebounds. That hasn't happened since 1997-98, as mentioned above. That's not because the Sonics have struggled on the boards - well, it's not just because of that - with slower-paced games, average rebounds per season by one team have declined from 5,431 in 1967-68 (the Sonics inaugural season, but you already knew that) to 3,461 last year. That's a lot less rebounds to go around.

    The way to correct for this is to look at what percentage of all rebounds a player collected while he was in the game, based on the total rebounds collected by his team and its opponents. For example, there were 6,723 rebounds in 3,961 minutes of Sonics action last year, or 1.7 per minute. Evans played 1,280 minutes, so we'd expect about 2,200 rebounds to have been collected in that span. Evans himself grabbed 408, or 18.8%. Where does that stack up? Unfortunately, we only have data since the NBA started tracking opponent rebounds in the 1977-78 season. The top ten list (data provided by Basketball-Reference.com) in the last 27 years looks suspiciously like Kemp and the gang:

    Player
    Year
    Reb %
    Shawn Kemp
    1991-92
    21.2%
    Shawn Kemp
    1995-96
    20.3%
    Shawn Kemp
    1994-95
    19.8%
    Alton Lister
    1987-88
    19.5%
    Shawn Kemp
    1993-94
    19.4%
    Reggie Evans
    2002-03
    19.2%
    Ervin Johnson
    1994-95
    19.0%
    Reggie Evans
    2003-04
    18.8%
    Shawn Kemp
    1992-93
    18.8%
    Michael Cage
    1989-90
    18.6%

    Fortson, incidentally, is currently at an off-the-charts 27.3% of rebounds, Evans at 21.8%.

    After taking all of that into account, as well as subjective things that can't be seen in the stats, here are SUPERSONICS.COM's top ten rebounders in Sonics history (with Fortson waiting to make his appearance until he gets a few more games under his belt):

    10. Paul Silas
    (1677 rebounds/6.8 rpg/14.1 reb48)

    Silas' numbers in a Sonics uniform weren't necessarily outstanding, but the current Cleveland Cavaliers coach averaged double-figures rebounds 8 times in nine seasons during the prime of his career. At just 6-7, the Creighton grad was like Fortson in terms of working to get position to outrebound taller players. During his three years in Seattle, Silas' veteran presence was as important as his performance on the floor, but he improved his rebounding average to 8.5 per game during the 1978 playoffs.


    Cage doing what he did best.
    9. Michael Cage
    (3975 rebounds/8.1 rpg/14.0 reb48)

    On reputation alone, Cage would likely rank much higher. Before joining the Sonics, Cage grabbed 30 rebounds against them while with the Los Angeles Clippers on the last day of the 1987-88 season to nudge in front of Chicago's Charles Oakley to win one of the closest rebounding titles in league history, 13.03 rebounds per game to 13.00. With the Sonics, however, Cage only once averaged double-figures, making him a good, but not quite great rebounder.

    8. Alton Lister
    (1877 rebounds/7.9 rpg/15.3 reb48)

    In terms of rebound percentage, Lister actually has the best season of any Sonics player not named Shawn Kemp, pulling down 19.5% of rebounds in 1987-88. Better known as the player the Sonics got for Jack Sikma, Lister wasn't nearly that good in his other Sonics seasons, but was still a quality rebounder.

    7. Spencer Haywood
    (3954 rebounds/12.1 rpg/14.4 reb48)

    Amongst players with lengthy Sonics careers, Haywood had the highest career rebounding average, and his 13.4 rebounds per game in 1973-74 is the best mark in franchise history as well. However, Haywood benefited from two things in particular - playing a heavy number of minutes (he also holds the team record in minutes per game, 43.4 in 1971-72) and the high number of rebounds available in the early 70s. When these are taken into account, Haywood ranks further down the list than you'd expect.

    6. Zaid Abdul-Aziz
    (1198 rebounds/8.2 rpg/17.5 reb48)

    In recent years, Abdul-Aziz has gotten more attention as the father of former Seattle Pacific University star Yusef Aziz. Back when he was still known as Don Smith, however, Abdul-Aziz was an outstanding rebounder who averaged 11.3 rebounds per game (as well as 13.8 points) in just over 30 minutes during the 1972-73 season, one of three seasons during his career in which he averaged a double-double.

    5. Pete Cross
    (1515 rebounds/8.5 rpg/19.4 reb48)

    Even amongst Sonics fans, Cross, who played in Seattle for two seasons and part of a third, is hardly a household name. That's probably because he's a poor scorer who averaged only 8.0 points on 44.2% shooting as a rotation player as a rookie after being taken in the second round out of San Francisco. But Cross also averaged 12.0 rebounds per game, and his average of 19.4 rebounds per 48 minutes during his Sonics career is the best in team history. Again, because of the era in which he played, Cross isn't the best rebounder in team history, but he belongs in the discussion.

    4. Marvin Webster
    (1035 rebounds/12.6 rpg/17.1 reb48)

    Okay, Webster's only season in Seattle wasn't even good enough to rank in the top ten in rebound percentage and eight players had better averages during the 1977-78 season. Still, it's tough to overlook an average of more than 12 rebounds per game. Webster also had the best rebounding half in Sonics history, pulling down 21 against the Atlanta Hawks in November 1, 1977. His total of 29 for the game was one behind the Sonics record of 30, held by Jim Fox (a tough omission from this list).


    Evans has quickly established himself as a rebounding force.
    Glenn James/NBAE/Getty
    3. Reggie Evans
    (853 rebounds/6.0 rpg/15.5 reb48)

    How many other players on this list can boast of earning a nickname with their rebounding prowess? "The Collector" can, and he's earned it in his first two seasons after going undrafted out of the University of Iowa. Evans and Kemp are the only players to have multiple seasons in the top ten in Sonics rebounding percentage, and he's off to an even better start this year.

    2. Jack Sikma
    (7729 rebounds/10.8 rpg/15.0 reb48)

    Sikma wasn't as spectacular a rebounder as some players in Sonics history, but he was consistently very very good in that regard, posting double-figures rebound averages seven straight seasons. Sikma also holds the Sonics record for 20+ rebound games, doing so 21 times.

    1. Shawn Kemp
    (5978 rebounds/9.6 rpg/15.4 reb48)

    At the top of this list, we'll agree with SUPERSONICS.COM voters who selected Kemp as the best rebounder in team history in conjunction with the Sonics 35th Anniversary. When you look at the era he played in, Kemp is clearly dominant. He is the only player in franchise history to grab more than 20% of available rebounds - which is twice what the average player gets - and cleared that mark twice. Kemp averaged double-figures five straight years despite playing less minutes than Haywood or Sikma (admittedly partially because of his own foul trouble). But Kemp better watch out, because it may not be long before he's replaced by Fortson.