3 players key to improving the Phoenix Suns’ rebounding

Phoenix Suns, Deandre Ayton (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns, Deandre Ayton (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images) /

The Phoenix Suns possessed a variety of elite aspects last season, but it’s fair to say rebounding certainly wasn’t one of them.

For a team that finished the regular season eight games clear atop the NBA standings, the Suns ranked just 13th in rebounding percentage. Phoenix were solid on the defensive boards, but their lack of presence on the offensive glass prevented the second opportunities that can often prove the difference in close-fought games.

They finished 21st in offensive rebounding percentage last season, and only 20th overall in total offensive rebounds. As a subsequent result, Phoenix finished 23rd in second chance points.

While it may never be a top-tier feature of this generation of the Phoenix Suns, the rebounding department is undoubtedly an area for improvement in 2022-23.

There are three key players that can be identified as specific focus points to make the Suns a better rebounding team moving forward.

1. Deandre Ayton’s Physicality

The best rebounding teams do it by committee, but there’s little doubt it starts with the biggest presence in the paint. Ayton is that for the Suns, averaging the 11th most rebounds in the league last season at 10.2 per game.

He does, however, get a lot of rebounds purely because of his position and the lack of notable rebounders alongside him. He ranked 18th in the league for contested rebounds, which while good, is a clear indication of his greater proportion of easier, uncontested rebounds.

Ayton is a good rebounder, but much like the rest of his game, increased physicality and assertiveness could make him great in that aspect.

Phoenix Suns, Deandre Ayton
Phoenix Suns, Deandre Ayton (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

2. Mikal Bridges channels Wiggins and other respective small-forwards

If Ayton does become more physical around the rim, then he needs help from wing players like Jae Crowder, Cameron Johnson and Mikal Bridges. We should focus on the latter here, with the 25-year-old having averaged under four rebounds per game over his career.

Sure, Bridges does take the primary opposition perimeter threat, but that shouldn’t mean he shies away from rebounding responsibility. Andrew Wiggins averages similar rebounding numbers across his career, yet exploded for 8.8 per game through six NBA Finals matches.

Wiggins’ rebounding was a big reason behind his own Finals success and the Golden State Warriors’ 2022 NBA championship. With equally impressive length and athleticism, why can’t Bridges produce similar numbers moving forward?

3. Devin Booker becomes a box-score breaker.

The Phoenix superstar may already be one of the best two-guards in the league, but his potential development remains an exciting factor heading into next season. Much of this focuses on his offensive skill set and greater ball-handling duties, but Booker also made strides defensively last season.

He averaged a career-high five rebounds, a number on which to work with as he continues to build an elite all-around game. The idea of Booker grabbing boards and pushing in transition is a salivating thought for Suns fans.

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Ultimately, rebounding requires a team-first approach. Of players still on the roster, only Ayton averaged more than 5.3 rebounds per game. That’s a statistic Phoenix will need to work on if they’re going to be a top ten rebounding team in the league.