This image says the words: How Good Was Dennis Rodman?

How Good Was Dennis Rodman? Way Below Average And Amazing

Dennis Rodman was one of the most versatile defenders, and best rebounders, to ever play in the NBA.  He won five rings with the Pistons and the Bulls. While Rodman was a great player, he was also unique. His near-complete  lack of offense keeps him from being ranked as highly as some of the greatest of all time. 

How good was Dennis Rodman’s career? 

Games PointsAssistsBlocksT/ORebounds

Dennis Rodman grew six inches at the age of twenty and that growth spurt completely changed his life. The Worm did not play high school basketball. 

But after the growth spurt, Rodman began to play in local pickup games and was offered a chance to play first at a junior college and then at SE Oklahoma State. After dominating at the NAIA level, Rodman was chosen in the second round of the 1986 NBA Draft by the Detroit Pistons. 

Rodman joined a talented Bad Boys squad featuring the likes of Joe Dumars, Isaiah Thomas, Rick Mahorn and many more stars. Rodman came off the bench initially for those talented Pistons teams but still made the All NBA Defensive 1st Team while coming off the bench and only playing 27 minutes a night. 

While it is rare for a backup to make 1st Team anything, the Piston’s championship probably convinced some voters. Rodman would help the Bad Boys win another NBA title, and would rack up 2 Defensive Players of the Year, after becoming a starter for the Pistons. 

After things unraveled in Detroit, Rodman had a strange two years in San Antonio paired up with David Robinson. The Admiral and Demolition Man were not a match. 

Rodman shot his way off the Spurs after racking up suspensions from the team and the league for various offenses. It looked like his career might be done, but Michael Jordan, remembering the trouble a motivated Worm had given him in the playoffs, pushed for Rodman as a replacement for Horace Grant. 

Rodman, despite his escalating antics, worked well in the Bulls lineups. He rebounded like a fiend and fought like hell on defense. Jordan and Pippen handled the offense. 

With Rodman, Pippen and Jordan on the floor together, it is hard to imagine how teams scored against them. I guess they didn’t very often: the team won 3 straight NBA titles, set the record for regular season wins (since eclipsed by the Warriors) and had two of the four best regular season records in history. 

After three stratospheric years with the Bulls, Rodman finished his career playing parts of two more unsuccessful NBA seasons for the Lakers and the Mavericks. 

In addition to his two NBA DPOY’s and 5 NBA titles, Rodman was chosen 1st Team All Defense 7 times and 2nd Team All Defense once. He made two All Star teams and was 3rd Team All NBA twice. 

Rodman led the league in rebounding seven straight seasons including the 91-92 season when he averaged an absurd 18.7 rebounds per game. 

How Good Was Dennis Rodman on Offense? 


I have chosen to compare Rodzilla to two distinct groups on offense above. The first group with KG and the Big Fundamental is a fair comparison if you want to judge The Worm vs the best players at his position during his era.

Of course Duncan and Garnett also happen to be two of the greatest players to ever live. While they are a fair comparison to Rodman on defense, the comparison on offense shows that they were at another level. Not only did they contribute on offense, they excelled at it. 

Dennis Rodman often had close to no role in his team’s offenses. He made himself available for offensive rebounds, but it is tough to call that much of a role. 

You can see in his usage percentage that he was used around 11% of the time on offense. On a completely balanced team, you’d expect a player to be around 20% since there are five players on the court together. 

Rodman was almost half of that number! He simply did not do much on offense beyond extending possessions with his offensive rebounding. There is value in that and we’ll return to it in a moment. But it is not the same thing as being offensively skilled. 


Ben Wallace and Dikembe Mutombo are better comparisons on offense for Rodman. 

Both Wallace and Mutombo played great defense and very little offense. Their stats show just that. You can also see they are close to Rodman’s stats in nearly every case. All three were players who could carry your team on one end, but offered little on the other. 

Let’s return to Rodman’s one great offensive skill.  He did get offensive rebounds. His rate of offensive rebounds was nearly double Duncan’s and 50% higher than Wallace’s. 

Some of the comparison to Duncan is not fair because Rodman shot so many fewer shots than Duncan, he was much more available for rebounding. But the comparison to Wallace is more fair and Rodman outshined him a lot in offensive rebounding. 

Rebounding was Dennis Rodman’s biggest, and really only, offensive contribution.  It is hard to say how valuable offensive rebounding is, but the overall stats point to it not counting anywhere near as much as passing, scoring or shooting. 

If you can say anything else positive about Dennis Rodman on offense, it is that he did not miss many shots. 

He had a great field goal % because he pretty much only took shots very close to the rim that he could make. There is at least something to be said for knowing your limits and not making the offense worse by taking shots you cannot make. 

But offense is about scoring ultimately, and Rodman could not do that at the NBA level. 

How Good Was Dennis Rodman on Defense? 

Stat.Kevin Garnett 
(rank on
all-time NBA
top 250 list)
Dennis Rodman
(rank on
all-time NBA
top 250 list)
Tim Duncan
(rank on
all-time NBA
top 250 list)
26.0 (15th)29.6 (6th)26.5 (13th)
3.0 (81st)1.2%(NR)4.6 (26th)
1.9 (200th)1.1% (NR)1.1 (NR)
99.1 (19th)100 (36th)96 (3rd)
Box +/-
2.09 (20th).5 (184th)2.3 (11th)
91.5 (7th) 54.5 (36th)106.3 (2nd)

On defense, comparisons to KG and Tim Duncan are totally fair. I have written a whole post on the defense of each of these players. You can find Rodman’s here.  I encourage you to read the it to get into depth on Rodman’s defense. 

In that post, I dive deep into this comparison and come to the same conclusion I will offer here: Dennis Rodman is one of the very best defensive players to ever play, but still not quite as good as players like Duncan, Garnett or Hakeem Olajuwon. 

Let’s start with all the good about Rodman. He was one of the very best one-on-one defenders to ever play the game. Check out this video below of Rodman playing Michael Jordan one on one in the 1989 Eastern Conference Finals.

Now check out this video of an older Rodman battling Shaquille O’Neal in the playoffs for those Bulls years later in the 1996 Eastern Conference Finals.

I can’t think of many words I can say to explain Rodman’s greatness on defense that those videos don’t show! 

On the biggest stage, in the biggest moments, his coaches trusted Rodman to guard the other team’s stars. But they are not just any old stars. 

Shaq is one of the best offensive players in history noted for his complete physical dominance over other centers. Rodman was 6’7” 210 pounds: enormous by normal human standards. But Shaq was 7’1” and 325 pounds of granite! 

And Michael Jordan was quite possibly the greatest guard to ever play. In his awesome series on the greatest peaks of NBA players since the ABA merger, Ben Taylor calls Shaq and Jordan two of the three greatest players of the modern NBA era. 

Rodman guarded both of these players in the biggest moments of the season. He could guard anyone! And he did. 

Rodman’s one-on-one defense was insane. He wanted to stop the player in front of him as badly as anyone ever has in the history of the league, and it showed. 

Not only was Rodman great at stopping players one on one, he was great at getting rebounds. He led the league for seven straight years and has the highest defensive rebounding percentage of any retired player in history. 

The five players ahead of him on that list are all active and likely to slip below him by the time they hang them up. But this is where I start to transition on Rodman.

If you scroll up, you’ll notice that KG and Duncan are behind Rodman on defensive rebounding percentage but not ridiculously so – ranked 13th and 15th to Rodman’s 6th (with many current players ahead of all 3). 

KG and Duncan were not the defensive rebounders Rodman was, but they were close. They also were not quite as elite at one-on-one defense but, again, were pretty close. They may not have been able to guard anyone like he could – but KG was pretty close in that area as well. 

Ultimately, players like KG and Duncan were better defensive players than Rodman because they provided better team defense than he did. Rodman could shut anyone down and that is valuable. But Duncan, KG, Olajuwon and a few other elite defenders could help in a way Rodman couldn’t. 

Defense requires much more team play than offense. Players who could not only guard one player but could also help everyone else are more valuable to their teams. 

That is why the big picture numbers like defensive rating, box plus/minus and defensive win shares all favor KG and Duncan over Dennis Rodman.

Dennis Rodman was a great defender. He was one of the best individual defenders in the history of the league. His rebounding was also incredible. He did not provide as much help defense as the best players ever but still did things almost no one else did in the history of the league. 

How Good Was Dennis Rodman overall? 

PlayerPERWin SharesBox Plus/Minus
Dennis Rodman14.689.8.9
Kevin Garnett22.7206.45.6
Tim Duncan 24.2191.45.6
Ben Wallace15.593.52.5

The three stats in the table above all attempt to measure a player’s overall contribution to their team. Player Efficiency Rating, or PER, came first and many other stats like it have since been developed. 

None of them is perfect. But looking at three of them can give us some idea of how much a player impacted his team. I think in this case they make a lot of sense. 

Players like Garnett and Duncan were two way players. Their ability on both ends of the court put them among the greatest players to play in the NBA. 

Ben Taylor, in his greatest peaks video I embedded above, puts them at #9 and #10 since the ABA merger – one place above Magic Johnson. I generally agree with his thinking about basketball and his rankings as a whole. Their great value was elite play on both ends.

That is where they differ so greatly from Dennis Rodman. Rodman was a one way player. A great one for sure, but also limited. 

The better comparison for Rodman is a one way player like Ben Wallace. There really are not that many great one way players like them – Bruce Bowen comes to mind, maybe Dikembe Mutombo. 

Often players who are elite defenders have more offense than guys like Wallace and Rodman. They are defensive unicorns. 

In the comparison between the two, I’d take Rodman – at least if we can set aside off-court issues. The reason I’d take Rodman over Wallace is his defensive versatility and his elite rebounding. 

Wallace was a better rim protector and that has great value but Rodman had a couple of outlier traits that make him my choice. Wallace actually has the better career overall statistics as you see above. But I’d still take the Worm in a close call. 

The stats show that Dennis Rodman and Ben Wallace are a much closer comparison than Rodman and all-time greats like KG or Tim Duncan. 


Dennis Rodman is one of the most unique players in the history of the NBA. His defensive versatility and elite rebounding make him a Hall of Fame player and all-time great. But Rodman’s complete lack of offense puts him several notches below the best players to ever play. 

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