With the compressed NBA season underway, a team’s bench will be more important than ever, particularly to veteran teams. So who has the advantage when it comes to the reserves? We’ll start at number ten and work our way up.
10. Boston Celtics
Key Members: Brandon Bass, Marquis Daniels, Mickael Pietrus, Keyon Dooling, Chris Wilcox
With a very dense schedule due to the lockout, this aging Celtics team really needs some depth on their bench to stay fresh. This crew is much improved from last year, and could have been even better if not for the unfortunate news about Jeff Green. Nonetheless, it’s an interesting crew of veterans. Bass and Wilcox provide some front court toughness as well as some scoring, primarily from Bass. The team hopes that Pietrus and Daniels can provide the perimeter defense needed to get out of the Eastern conference, and Dooling is a nice combo guard who can score a bit and keep the pace up with Rondo on the bench.
9. Miami Heat
Key Members: Shane Battier, Norris Cole, James Jones, Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem
The major concern with last year’s Heat was primarily their depth behind LeBron, Wade, and Bosh. Haslem and Miller were injury prone last season, but are both very good role players who saw a lot of time in last year’s series against the Mavericks. They have a sharp shooter in Jones who helps space the floor for Wade and James to operate. Cole is young, and may not be ready to play a huge role in a championship run, but he certainly provides some guard depth and is another player who can hit shots and run. Battier was a huge addition; all contenders wanted him to come off their bench because of his ability to not only play lockdown defense and hit threes, but also to lead in the locker room.
8. Chicago Bulls
Key Members: Taj Gibson, Omer Asik, C.J. Watson, Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver
Another Eastern Conference contender who can go 10 deep. The Bulls are obviously focused around Derrick Rose, but they also have some nice pieces on their bench. Gibson and Asik provide a front court combo off the bench that can hold their own against most. The Bulls have the luxury of not losing too much while Boozer and Noah are on the bench. Watson is a quality backup to Rose, although the Bulls like to have Rose on the floor as much as possible. Brewer provides a spark on both ends of the floor, and is one of the better defensive players on one of the best defensive teams in the league. Korver is a shooter, and that’s about it. But he can really shoot, and Korver getting hot at the right time at the end of the year for the Bulls could lead to great things.
7. Denver Nuggets
Key Members: Rudy Fernandez, Andre Miller, Al Harrington, Chris Anderson
This team seemed to have lost a lot of depth this past season when J.R. Smith, Kenyon Martin, and Wilson Chandler all left to play overseas during the lockout. That being said, they still have one of the better benches around. In Rudy Fernandez they have a very capable scorer who is more than capable of having an offense run through him for short periods of time. Miller is one of the better backup point guards around, and will be a strong veteran presence on and off the court. Al Harrington provides quality front court depth as a strong scorer. Chris “Birdman” Anderson will do all the dirty work, whether it be diving for a ball, getting a block, or fighting for a rebound. Not much skill to his game, but the kind of guy that teams love to have.
6. Sacramento Kings
Key Members: J.J. Hickson, Donte Greene, Travis Outlaw, Jimmer Fredette, Isaiah Thomas
Probably a bit of a surprise to some of you to see the Kings so high on this list. But hear me out. This bench doesn’t have one player that is particularly flashy, but is a very versatile and fascinating unit. Hickson, Greene, and Outlaw are all very versatile forwards who can do a lot of good things off the bench. Hickson’s best days are in front of him, as are Greene’s. And Outlaw is a quality wing, which may have been a bit overshadowed by how overpaid he was by the Nets last offseason. Fredette and Thomas is a very different combination. Thomas is undersized for sure, but sure can score and has a lot of potential. Jimmer will come off the bench and hit his fair share of shots as well. Pair that with an extremely athletic and talented front court headlined by Hickson, and watch out. The Kings will surprise some people this season.
5. Utah Jazz
Key Members: Enes Kanter, Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, Earl Watson, C.J. Miles
The Jazz could have one of the best front court combinations off the bench in youngsters Kanter and Favors. Both have great potential and could end up being a dominant force in a few years. This is a very young team, and Kanter and Favors will end up being the faces of the franchise. Gordon Hayward is nothing special in the NBA, but is certainly a quality forward off the bench who can provide a spark in the scoring department. Watson and Miles are both quality guards who can provide depth behind Devin Harris and Raja Bell.
4. Houston Rockets
Key Members: Patrick Patterson, Samuel Dalembert, Courtney Lee, Terrence Williams, Goran Dragic
After the retirement of Yao Ming and the departures of Shane Battier and Chuck Hayes, you might have thought the Rockets would be a bit thin. Well, this team always has a way of restocking and staying competitive. Patterson and Dalembert are a very nice front court duo who provide an inside presence as well as some rebounding and scoring. Lee and Williams are a very athletic combination, and one that has the potential to play lockdown perimeter defense against other team’s bench unit. Dragic is one of the better guards when it comes to penetrating and creating opportunities for his teammates. He probably learned a thing or two from a guy named Steve Nash in Phoenix.
3. Philadelphia 76ers
Key Members: Marreese Speights, Thaddeus Young, Lou Williams, Evan Turner
The 76ers certainly had one of the better benches last season, and this season looks to be very similar. In Williams and Young, the 76ers have two of the top bench players in the league, and two players who were in the running for sixth man of the year last season. All four of these players are very young, which should help the team as this compressed season goes on. Williams is the kind of player who can carry a scoring load by himself for short periods of time, which is a great luxury for a young team. Young and Turner both provide a great deal of versatility as quality wings who can defend, handle, rebound, and score. In Speights, the 76ers have a solid big man who can hold his own on both ends of the floor. But it’s Young and Williams who make this bench one of the best around.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder
Key Members: James Harden, Nick Collison, Eric Maynor, Nazr Mohammed
The Thunder are starting to look like the Spurs when the Spurs had Manu Ginobili come off the bench for all those years. James Harden is technically a bench player, although he will probably end up being the third best player on this team, obviously behind Durant and Westbrook. Harden can be a great scorer capable of both spreading the floor with his three point range as well as getting to the rim. He provides an excellent option behind the two superstars. Collison is the ultimate bench player in the sense that he plays within himself, rebounds, defends, and does all the little things to help his team win. It always seems like the Thunder play well when Collison is on the floor. Maynor can be one of the better backup point guards in the league if he can get some more minutes, which might be the case with the compressed schedule. Mohammed isn’t getting any younger, but is still a very quality big man who can hold his own and be a presence on both ends of the floor.
1. Dallas Mavericks
Key Members: Lamar Odom, Jason Terry, Delonte West, Rodrigue Beaubois
This bench was already a good one with one of the best bench players around, Jason Terry. When they got Lamar Odom, last season’s sixth man of the year, they became that much better. In Terry and Odom, they have two players who are definitely starter quality, and can carry a team. Terry is an excellent shooter who spreads the floor as well as anyone out there. In Odom, they have one of the most versatile players around who can play any position on the floor. Odom can shoot, handle the ball, rebound, and guard a wide variety of players. Delonte West is a solid combo guard who provides additional depth, and is the type of player who can have a large impact in limited minutes. Beaubois is still raw, but has great potential given his physical tools and athleticism. Look for Beaubois to play a major role with Jason Kidd getting older and the departure of J.J. Barea.
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