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Lack of consistent rebounding is compounding issues for the Suns

The team is mired in the middle, and their rebounding is a significant reason why. 

Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Lakers: Quarterfinals - 2023 NBA In-Season Tournament Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Phoenix Suns are a team in the middle right now.

With a 12-10 record, which is near the .500 mark, they are in the middle of the standings in the Western Conference; they are currently slotted as the seventh seed. They are in the middle of the pack in scoring (115.1, 12th), three-pointers made (12.3, 16th), assists (26.0, 15th) and field goal percentage (47.3%, 15th).

One thing that isn’t helping their cause is that they are also in the middle in rebounding. They average 43.9 total rebounds (18th), 10.7 offensive rebounds (17th), and 33.2 defensive rebounds (10th).

I don’t need to go into all of the “whys” relative to the importance of rebounding. Extra possessions, negating the opposing team’s extra possessions, an indicator of energy and will. You know this.

But we know that in Phoenix, throughout their history, rebounding hasn’t been something the franchise has been good at.

When the Phoenix Suns acquired Jusuf Nurkic, while we knew they were shipping out the more talented player in Deandre Ayton, the hope was that rebounding would be a skill he would bring to the team. The 7’0”, 290-pound behemoth from Bosnia is doing his part. He’s averaging a team-high 9.1 rebounds per game. He is 10th in the NBA in rebounding percentage, grabbing 18.6% of missed shots.

Nurk can’t do it alone.

We witnessed once again on Friday night a challenge that the Suns’ possess, for as they watched their lead slip away to the Sacramento Kings, their lack of ability to secure rebounds sealed their fate in their loss. Phoenix was outrebounded 50 to 40, and the Kings grabbed 15 offensive rebounds. 3 of those came in the fourth as the Suns were mounting their comeback.

What is killing Phoenix is they are giving up 12 offensive rebounds per game. The is fourth most in the NBA. This is leading to 14.2 second chance points (12th).

I know, I know. No Kevin Durant (who is second on the team with 6.5 boards a night), no Grayson Allen (5th with 4.5). But the team rebounding philosophy that we’ve seen deployed by Frank Vogel team’s in the past isn’t present on the court. Over his 11 seasons as head coach, Vogel’s teams have averaged an 11th-place finish in rebounding per season.

Box outs aren’t occurring (especially on the weak side...I can’t tell you how many times I’ve screamed at my TV or in person to watch the weak side when the opposing team jacks up a three-pointer), and confusion ensures when a long rebound ultimately finds it’s way into the hands of the opponent.

What’s the issue?

Size is a factor. The Suns aren’t the biggest team in the NBA, rather, they are in the middle once again. The team averages a height of 6’5” (14th). They are (still) a finesse team rather than a physical team, and physicality is needed to garner rebounds.

The focus on rebounding, most notably from the non-center position, isn’t occurring.

It isn’t as if this is a team trying their best to get out in transition and run the break. They’re dead last in the NBA in fastbreak points. Their focus on netting extra possessions by crashing the glass simply isn’t occurring. Suns’ guards are 29th in offensive rebounding (3.4), as are their forwards.

And that is how you become a team in the middle.

Phoenix has outrebounded the opposition 12 times through 22 games. They are 7-5 in those games. In the 9 games in which they’ve lost the rebound battle, they are 4-5. They’ve tied in total rebounds once (a win against the Warriors).

Something needs to be addressed from a coaching perspective. Rebounding is effort and energy, imposition of will and physicality. We need to see the guards crash the glass with more regularity. We need to see weak side box outs. We need to see the effort.

And if you think Bol Bol is the answer, please go check the fluid in your headlights. I think it’s getting low.

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