When most fans of the NBA think about reserve players, they think about the best sixth men. The role of the sixth man continues to grow as fans see guys like James Harden (pre-Houston), Jason Terry and Manu Ginobili “ball out” for their respective teams.
However, having super-subs doesn’t necessarily mean a team has a strong bench. Many times those elite sixth men primarily play with the starters, and don’t develop the same on-court chemistry with the other subs on the roster.
The best teams have that synergy all the way through, and the closest units might even come up with nicknames like the Bulls’ “Bench Mob” or the Knicks’ “Mobb Deep.” But it’s more than just a fancy nickname or paying homage to a broken-up hip-hop group. They have to produce.
Last season the top five scoring benches included the Spurs (41.9 points per game), the Denver Nuggets (41.6), the Dallas Mavericks (41.0), the Philadelphia 76ers (40.8), and the Phoenix Suns at (35.6). Obviously points don’t tell the whole story. The Bulls (29.2) finished 23rd respectively in bench scoring, but produced effective minutes in a number of other ways.
As we move forward to this season’s official tip-off, here is a look at the potential top ten benches going into season.
*** *** ***
10. BROOKLYN NETS
Key players: C.J. Watson (PG), Keith Bogans (SG), MarShon Brooks (G/F), Andray Blatche (PF/C), Reggie Evans (PF/C)
The Nets’ reserve rotation should be a fluid one with Brooks and Blatche receiving the bulk of the minutes. Brooks started all but nine of the 56 games he played in last year, but is firmly planted in a reserve role heading into this season. He averaged 11.9 points as a reserve and should be in the same neighborhood again. A motivated Blatche could be the free agent bargain of the offseason. Just two seasons ago, he put up 16.8 points with 8.2 rebounds before losing his way and falling into the dog house for both Flip Saunders and Randy Wittman last season. He is still very talented and if most of his minutes are playing against other reserves, he should capitalize.
Evans is a hard-nosed defender (when he isn’t flopping) and rebounder. He averaged 1.8 offensive rebounds last season in limited minutes and should net Brooklyn a few extra offensive possessions this coming season. Watson and Bogans will help spread the floor, shooting 38 and 36 percent respectively. Mirza Teletovic and Josh Childress round out the bench and may also see spot minutes on a very good Brooklyn team.
9. SACRAMENTO KINGS
Key Players: Aaron Brooks (PG), Marcus Thornton (G), Travis Outlaw (SF), Thomas Robinson (PF/SF), Chuck Hayes (PF/C)
Who? What? I know this isn’t the early 2000s when Bobby Jackson, a young Hedo Turkoglu, and Scot Pollard formed one of the original bench mobs. But the 2012 Kings have serious firepower off their bench, starting in the backcourt. Brooks is back from China where he averaged 22 points per game. His scoring ability has never been a question. Thornton started 51 games last year and averaged 18.7 points, but now heads to the bench behind Tyreke Evans. The dude has no fear when it comes to taking big shots and is capable of keeping the Kings in games with his offense. He finished 27th in clutch rankings, which measured production in the 4th quarter or overtime, per 82games.com.
Robinson could end up in the starting lineup, swapping places with Jason Thompson. But right now the No. 5 pick in the draft will rebound and attempt to get easy baskets around the rim for the Kings’ second unit. Chuck Hayes will anchor the defense with his lower body tree trunks attempting to deny opposing post players position down low. Shooter Jimmer Fredette and Jack of All Trades, Master of None John Salmons complete a rotation that will be difficult to stop offensively.