By Kyle Pineda
Dennis Rodman always gave it his all whenever he was on the court. He didn’t do too much, but all he needed to show were his tenacious rebounding and killer interior defense. Standing at only 6’6″, Rodman was able to make a career in the NBA with his all-out effort every night which led to five championship titles and two Defensive Player of the Year awards.
Two decades after the Chicago Bulls dominance in the ’90s, one could wonder how one of the best defensive players of the game will fit in today’s NBA? Modern day comparisons would be Draymond Green and Marcus Smart rolled up into one non-stop package.
What does Rodman bring?
It could be said that Rodman was the missing piece for Chicago’s push for another three-peat from 1996 to 1998. He brought the defensive tenacity, energy, and mindset which led the Bulls to the highest defensive rating of that season, at 101.8 in 1995-96 with a slight uptick to 102.4 the season after. Even with an older roster, the 1995-1998 Bulls kept their numbers relatively similar as their stats from the first three-peat run with a fuller roster.
In an era filled with towering players like like Patrick Ewing, Dikembe Mutombo, and Hakeem Olajuwon, the Worm led all rebounders with 15.3 rebounds per game in his three-year stint with the Bulls. His grit, energy, and hustle plays are also unmatched in being able to defend all five positions like when he guarded Penny Hardway and Gary Payton on switches and bigs like Shaquille O’Neal or Karl Malone in the paint.
Rodman has shown he could fit in well into the modern NBA as his conditioning, athleticism, and strength were elite during his prime. Phil Jackson even went as far as to describe Rodman as the “best athlete he has ever coached”—high praise for a coach that managed several superstars from 11 championship teams.
He will, however, need to tweak his game a little to add at least a mid-range game for 2020 teams to respect him on offense. Teams will have to take the good and the bad with Rodman. So if they can swallow his lack of offense and loud personality, then the five-time champion would fit well in a team that is looking for a player with championship experience, relentless rebounding, and defensive versatility.
Who needs Rodman?
The current lineup of the Boston Celtics is one of the top offenses already in the NBA. If they add a talent like Rodman, they fill one of their biggest weaknesses: interior defense.
The Celtics are 18th in Opponents Second Chance Points and 19th in Opponents Offensive Rebounds. Adding a player like Dennis Rodman would fill that gap. Rodman will gobble up rebounds and fight for loose balls, preventing Celtic opponents from grabbing another crack at the basket.
A lineup of Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Gordon Hayward, and Dennis Rodman would terrorize teams on both sides of the ball. The Celtics currently have enough weapons on offense, they will need an interior defender who doesn’t need touches on the other end. Rodman only averaged 5.8 field-goal attempts during his career; as such, Boston will be fine with him just defending and rebounding surrounded by offensive juggernauts to compliment his game.
Rodman would continue the Boston tradition of hard-nosed basketball and would dive carelessly on the famous TD Garden parquet floor just to help his team win a championship.
If we got a The Last Dance episode of Rodman’s mid-season Las Vegas trip, we might get a whole series of his Miami adventures if he lands with the Heat.
The Heat have hard workers (Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo), great leadership (Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra), and a winning culture in South Beach (three titles). The Heat currently sit at 41-24 and fourth in the Eastern Conference. They have the right pieces with players who can hit the open shots and create for the rest of the team. To rise up to the next level they need to improve their defense and offensive rebounding. That’s why Rodman and the Miami are a perfect fit.
The Heat rank 14th in Defensive Rating, 12th in opponents second-chance points and 23rd in Offensive Rebounds. Aside from Bam Adebayo (who averages only 10.5 rebounds a game), only Meyers Leonard and Kelly Olynyk help out the bigs in rebounding with both averaging less than five a game.
This is where the Worm comes in. He provides a rebounding presence no other power forward has ever been able to duplicate. He can single-handedly change a game with his hustle on the court. Adding Rodman into the roster will not only continue the team’s defensive versatility, they will have an interior anchor than can help bring this team over the hump. It also doesn’t hurt that Rodman won’t wilt under pressure just like the rest of the team.
Dennis Rodman, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Seems like a familiar trio of players right? Just imagine Rodman as Montrezl Harrell with a better basketball IQ and even more physicality in the paint. When the likes of Joel Embiid and Karl Anthony-Towns would wan to try to do battle in the paint, Rodman’s presence will surely make them think twice.
While the Los Angeles Clippers already have one of the best defenses in the NBA (5th in Defensive Rating and 3rd in Rebounds), they tend to get caught up in miscommunications and mismatches against Playoff teams. Teams would often use Anthony Davis and Brook Lopez to attack the Clippers in the post and from the three-point area.
While Dennis Rodman is undersized guarding the bigs, he can certainly hold his own no matter the height and weight of the opposition. He will continue to use his high basketball IQ to defend this new generation of big men. Playing alongside the best player in the league during his time in Chicago, Rodman will not shy away in Los Angeles under the blinding lights. If you thought these Clippers were scary, just imagine a lineup of Patrick Beverley, George, Leonard, Rodman, and Harrell. Adding Rodman means the Clippers will box out contenders for the crown.
Rodman is arguably the best defender in the NBA, his addition to any team will surely change their team dynamic in terms of defense and rebounding. Being able to guard in space and securing both long and short rebounds are a premium in the league.
One thing to watch out for is his place on the offensive end. In an era that relies heavily on spacing and shooting threes, Rodman looks like the odd man out. With the value of traditional centers slowly fading away, being able to convert Rodman into a prototypical stretch five in the modern NBA will be an unfair advantage for any team.
As the NBA landscape favors offensive talent now, the addition of Rodman can bring back the flair and fun of hardnoses defense many fans from the previous eras are craving. Pairing Rodman with an offensive superstar and a good head coach, and that team could easily be a championship candidate and a box office hit for several years.
Stats via basketball-reference.com