PHOENIX — On paper at least, the Phoenix Suns will struggle most this season rebounding the basketball.
For all the criticism he took about his lack of boarding, the Suns lost a guy in Amare Stoudemire who has still pulled down nine boards a game throughout his career and replaced him in the starting lineup with a player who has never even averaged as many as six boards in a year in Hedo Turkoglu.
Then the Suns let their rebounding specialist off the bench — Lou Amundson — depart in free agency, and many of his minutes will be replaced by Hakim Warrick, who averages 4.3 boards per game for his career. Robin Lopez’s career rebounding numbers underwhelm for a man of his size, and Channing Frye will never be confused with a quality rebounder.
But what the Suns lack in quality big man rebounders, they make up for with elite guard/wing boarders, although perhaps that’s out of necessity.
Last year Jason Richardson ranked fifth among guards in rebounding average (5.1 per game) and seventh in rebound rate, grabbing 9.2 percent of the available boards. Goran Dragic, meanwhile, ranked 10th among point guards in rebound rate, corralling 6.7 percent of the available boards. and Grant Hill placed 15th among small forwards with a 10.3 percent rate.
The Suns heavily emphasized wing rebounding last year, and that’s only going to be a bigger focal point this season with the addition of Josh Childress, one of the better wing rebounders around.
Childress was a top 10 guard rebounder during all four of his previous NBA seasons before leaving for Greece, ranking sixth in 2007-08 (9.5 rebound rate), sixth in 2006-07 (10.1), fifth in 2005-06 (10.3) and third as a rookie in 2004-05 (11.8). Childress has been particularly good on the offensive glass, ranking first twice and second twice in offensive rebound rate among guards during his first four NBA seasons.
“That’s been something over my career I’ve tried to do from the guard position, and I don’t see that changing,” Childress said. “I’m going to crash the glass. That’s something coach Gentry is expecting of me, that’s something I plan on doing.”
Added head coach Alvin Gentry, “He’s probably as good an offensive rebounder as there is in the NBA, gets his hands on a lot of balls.”
Along with his rebounding prowess, Childress has shown little difficultly adjusting to the Suns’ style of basketball, with Paul Coro writing him up as one of the standouts of camp. Childress has clicked with Jared Dudley and the second unit, and his slashing game should be a perfect fit for a team that already possesses a number of scorers.
That’s not to mention the fact that Childress’ biggest impact will likely come on the defensive side of the ball. His length and athleticism that allows him to guard multiple positions will come in handy in man-to-man situations, and he should be a terror in the Suns’ zone defense.
“Josh is a smart player,” Steve Nash said. “He’s a good athlete, he offensive rebounds, he gets to the basket, he defends, he understands the game and is a good teammate, so he brings a lot to the table.”
Childress also might have picked a nice time to return to the States because his alma mater is embarking on the kind of special football season he just could not enjoy as much from Europe. ESPN Game Day is in Eugene, Ore., today as the No. 4 Oregon Ducks host Childress’ No. 9-ranked Stanford Cardinal in tonight’s ABC showdown matchup with both teams undefeated and in the top 10. Childress could not be more proud.
“They’re balling right now,” he said. “Balling. I’m so excited for them. I actually was up at Stanford this summer training. I saw them out there working hard, and I’m excited for them to be in the position. They’re playing really well and working hard and playing the right way.”
Kind of like the Suns’ newest Afro Man.