Bledsoe Helping Suns Rebounding Effort

Barry Gossage/NBAE

You can point to nearly anything Eric Bledsoe has done recently and use it as proof of how he has spurred the Suns to a 6-2 stretch since his return.

Perhaps the biggest part of the 6-1 guard’s affect, however, can be found where very few guards venture on a regular basis: the glass. Bledsoe is averaging 5.6 rebounds per contest since his comeback from knee surgery.

The effort is appreciated and necessary for a Suns team that ranks in the bottom 10 in defensive rebounding percentage. Phoenix snags just over 73 percent of the boards on defense, meaning more than a quarter of them end up in the opponent’s hands and become second-chance opportunities. Not coincidentally, the Suns give up the fourth-highest amount of second-chance points per game (14.4).

Enter Bledsoe, who has managed to both leap and dart in for missed shots. Sometimes it is an individual effort. On other occasions, he is cleaning up a rebound made possible by a teammate boxing out his specific matchup.

Either way, the fourth-year guard’s glass-work goes hand-in-hand with what Head Coach Jeff Hornacek has asked from his perimeter players. He recognizes that outside of still-coming-along rookie Alex Len, the Suns don’t boast an extraordinary amount of size inside.

“When you’re little, you’ve got to box out every time,” Hornacek said. “You can’t do it 80 percent of the time. Every time a shot goes up, you’ve got to step into somebody. You’ve got to gang rebound. The guards have to get in there. Hopefully, if we can’t grab the ball ourselves, and there’s a loose ball around, our guards are around to grab it.”

The rebounding strategy doubles up as an ever quicker start to the Suns’ preferred fast break offense. Since Bledsoe’s return, Phoenix has upped its Pace (possessions per 48 minutes) from 98.23 to 99.28 (a significant jump in that stat). As a result, they’re getting the looks they want earlier in the shot clock and shooting 48.4 percent from the field (up from 46.3 percent).

“The way he can create, it’s a lot of fun to play with a guy like that,” Miles Plumlee said. “You’re going to find yourself open a lot. It’s fun to have him for the pace of our offense.”