Rebounding is often an overlooked part of a defensive possession. Getting a stop is great, but not if the other team secures the offensive board and gets another crack at it.
The Phoenix Suns have struggled in this area for an extremely long time. The last time they ranked in the top five of defensive rebounding percentage — the percentage of available missed shots by opponents they corralled — was during the 2000-01 season, when Jason Kidd, Penny Hardaway, Shawn Marion, Clifford Robinson, Rodney Rodgers and Tony Delk were the six players who saw the most minutes.
This chart shows the Suns futility on the defensive glass through the years:
Since that 2000-01 season, Phoenix’s average ranking in defensive rebound percentage has been 24th.
It’s only been four games, but it looks like that’s set to change with this incarnation of the Suns. They’ve grabbed 83.8 percent of the available defensive rebounds, good for fourth in the NBA.
That number will assuredly go down as the sample size increases; the Hornets were the best defensive rebounding team last season and their defensive rebounding percentage was 79.3.
Some of the Suns’ early success has do with who they’ve played. The Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers all ranked in the bottom third of offensive rebounding percentage last season. That fact aside, the Suns do have the personnel to make this a strength.
“Obviously, with Tyson (Chandler) in there we got some guys who can fill it if he can’t necessarily get it,” said head coach Jeff Hornacek. “Markieff (Morris) has been getting in there, Tuck (P.J. Tucker), Jon (Leuer) is coming in there and getting us a lot of rebounds. Probably on top of that, defensively, teams are a little worried about when we run, so that helps us out.“
Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight are also solid rebounding guards.
Defensive rebounding is an individual skill but also takes teamwork. It’s about already being in the correct position defensively to box out a defender when a shot goes up.
“If you’re out of position defensively and you’re flying around, you’re not going to be able to get a body on a body,” Chandler said. “Guys gotta be on a string, so that you know what spot they’re in, so you know whose boxing out who. If guys are kind of cluttered, it’s hard to communicate whose going to be getting the box out.”
Chandler’s work on the defensive glass exemplifies this. For his career, he’s averaged a solid yet unspectacular 6.1 defensive rebounds per game, but his teams have always rebounded better with him on the court (+1.5-percent).
His ability communicate and keeps things organized on the defensive end helps in many areas, including rebounding.
Phoenix’s next two home games — Wednesday against the Sacramento Kings and Thursday against the Detroit Pistons — will provide the toughest challenges yet in this department. Those teams rank second and third in offensive rebound percentage early in the season.
If the Suns are able to control the defensive glass in these two contests, they could be looking at not only a team strength, but potentially becoming one of the best defensive rebounding teams in the NBA.