The Chicago Bulls exited the 2021-22 season with a clear weakness around the rim.
The Bulls were one of the worst rebounding teams in the NBA, finishing third-last in overall rebounds (42.3 per game) and second-last in offensive rebounds (8.7 per game).
Center Andre Drummond, acquired this offseason, offered a solution for the Bulls: himself.
“You have the best rebounder of the past century on your team,” Drummond said Wednesday after shootaround. “I take rebounding very seriously.”
Drummond isn’t bluffing about his prowess — no one has out-rebounded him in the 21st century. He leads the NBA in rebounds per game since 2000, averaging 13.2 — nearly two more per game than his closest competition in Dwight Howard with 11.8 per game.
And while no player is likely to ever reach the herculean feats of Wilt Chamberlain (22.9) and Bill Russell (22.5), Drummond currently ranks as the 11th overall rebounder in NBA history — the only currently active player ranked in the top 20 in the statistic.
“I know that’s something this team was lacking,” Drummond said. “I think our team now, we’re tough. We’re a very tough team. It’s getting down to each and every one of us, knowing that we can’t take those possessions lightly.”
After a Bulls season with little backup at center, Drummond is a much-needed supplement to All-Star big man Nikola Vučević.
Vučević is a mainstay for the Bulls offense, averaging 18.3 points along with his 13 rebounds per game this season. Drummond’s contribution is less splashy, but his scoreline against the Boston Celtics reflects his preferred way of playing: 2 points, 12 rebounds.
Both players are extremely familiar on the court after a decade as opponents. Now, that competition drives them to build a better unit for the Bulls — although Drummond noted that he and Vučević rarely go full-out in practice.
“It’s not worth fighting for in practice, we have bigger things to worry about,” Drummond said. “So there’s been times where I’ll let him go and vice versa. We’re not going to hurt ourselves in practice.”
The competition for minutes could push Drummond into one of the most efficient seasons of his career. Through the first four games of the season, Drummond is averaging 20.1 rebounds per 36 minutes — a more accurate test for a bench player than per-game statistics.
That’s a hard standard to maintain and the physical wear-and-tear of the season is likely to eat away at Drummond’s efficiency. But if Drummond can maintain that presence around the rim, the Bulls will be better prepared to outlast opponents this season.
“I’m doing something right,” Drummond said. “I’m making the best out of my minutes.”