Imagine you’re playing 2-on-2 with a few friends in your local gym/playground/hoop/trash can to 16. (Or 14. Or 20. Or whatever your local rules are. But for this, let’s imagine it’s an even number.) Your team wins, and you scored 8 of your team’s points. Pretty good, but your friend also scored 8, and assuming you shot roughly the same, it’s safe to say you guys split the duties pretty evenly.
Now instead of a 2-on-2, imagine it’s a 5-on-5. You still score 8 points, and the rest of your team combined scores 8 points too. Again assuming you’re not dirt-roading the offense by needlessly chucking, that’s a much different story — there’s a clear distinction between effectively how you scored and how everyone else did.
What does this have to do with Reggie Evans?
One of the better ways of gauging how well a player’s rebounding is looking at total rebound percentage. Rebound percentage is exactly what it sounds like: out of all the potential rebounds a player could have grabbed, what percentage of them did he get? For instance, if you had a chance to grab 40 rebounds when you were on the floor, and you grabbed 5 of them, your rebound percentage would be 12.5%, or 5/40. That sounds low, but with ten players on the floor, a league-average rebounder would be expected to grab 10%, or 4. Ten players, 100% of rebounds, average player gets 10%. Pretty simple.
Depending on if you trust Basketball-Reference or NBA.com, Reggie Evans has a rebound percentage this season of either 25.9% or 26.7% (the two sites calculate possessions slightly differently, which accounts for the difference). The number, if it holds, would rank as the fifth-best rebounding percentage of all time. Currently, Dennis Rodman holds every one of the top seven, meaning Evans would be the only player ever to break into Rodman’s rebounding throne.
Or, to put it another way: grabbing 25.9% of available rebounds means you’re rebounding about what an average rebounder would get in a 2-on-2. So while everyone else rebounds like there are nine other people to compete with, Evans rebounds like there are only three.
Or, another way to look at it: Evans has grabbed 728 total rebounds this year, playing in under half the team’s available minutes. The New York Knicks have grabbed 704 offensive rebounds all season.
Evans famously said before the season that he “ain’t trying to score,” and even though his aggressiveness on the offensive end has ticked up this season, his rebounding has too — a 25.9% rebound rate would rank as a career high for Evans, who already has a career rebound rate that would rank him second all-time if he had the minutes to qualify. His rebounding has been at its best in the month of March, which has coincided with his most aggressive offensive month. Maybe it’s coincidence, but maybe the two go hand-in-hand in some weird pseudopsychological way: the more he feels comfortable involving himself in spot moments in the offense, the more aggressive he gets rebounding the ball.
What makes Evans’s acumen particularly outstanding is that opponents know his reputation as a rebounder, and often he’s fighting two or more opponents to corral a ball. Watch the video from Wednesday night’s career-high 26-rebound performance again, and look out for how many times he gets a rebound over multiple opponents.
So maybe it’s more accurate to say that Reggie Evans is rebounding like he’s in a 1-on-3. And he’s winning.