By: Zachariah Blott
NBA fans and writers occasionally acknowledge team’s benches, but usually only when handing out the Sixth Man of the Year Award or when talking about former starters who just got picked up by a loaded contender. It’s time the true bench players who never became accustomed to regularly starting get their shot, their time to shine.
Therefore, I propose an entire club made up of reserves who only hear their names called to hometown applause when a teammate is hurt. These guys are hungry. They could be starting, often should be starting, and hopefully some day soon will be starting. This team is so desirous for a chance to prove themselves, they would make the playoffs in either conference, and then make some noise with their embarrassing $49 million payroll (which includes Paul Millsap’s $10.3).
Players who do not qualify include those who:
a) have started or are starting at least half of a team’s games in any recent season (Boston’s Rasheed Wallace), unless it was a 1-year thing due to injuries (Cleveland’s Anderson Varejao)
b) appear to be starting the majority of remaining games this season (Sacramento’s Omri Casspi)
c) aren’t playing enough minutes to be adequately considered (Toronto’s Rasho Nesterovic)
d) are good enough to start, but for whatever reason, don’t (Detroit’s Ben Gordon)
The Hungriest Starting Lineup in the League
Point Guard: Ty Lawson, Denver Nuggets
This tiny rookie is averaging 23 minutes off the bench, and doing two things quite well that you want out of your point guard: shooting from deep and getting assists. Lawson has hit 23 of 52 triples (44%), and 52% from the field overall, on the way to an efficient 9.5 points per. When he’s running the offense, he’s averaging a phenomenal 3.9 assists against 1.5 turnovers per game, a rate better than that of Derrick Rose or Tony Parker. He’s not so bad on the defensive end, either, getting his hands on 0.9 steals per.
Shooting Guard: J.J. Redick, Orlando Magic
Yes, he’s actually becoming decent, and no, not just compared to Adam Morrison. Redick is finally that long-range weapon he was supposed to be, drilling 41% from downtown for a very good 54% eFG%, and he’s getting to the line enough to nearly pass teammate Dwight Howard with a 60% True Shooting %. His smarts and passion allow him to now be a passable defender, and his 1.8-0.7 A/TO rate shows he’s taking care of the ball in his 23 minutes each game.
Small Forward: Anthony Morrow, Golden State Warriors
Like everyone else on the Warriors, Morrow is a sporadic starter/reserve. What isn’t sporadic, though, is his killer instinct on offense. He’s putting up 11.5 points per in 30 minutes a night, but that’s only because he’s stuck playing with a backcourt that can’t shoot enough. Morrow is dropping 43% of his triples and has an absurd 58% eFG%. His defense isn’t bad, and nothing else he does is noteworthy, but the way he can blow up out of nowhere just makes him scary.
Power Forward: Chris Andersen, Denver Nuggets
I need a rebounder. I need a defender. I need someone with the cojones to not back down from any regular starter. Chris Andersen is just too obvious. The Bird Man grabs 6.3 rebounds per in 23 minutes, and he’s blocking 1.8 shots. In fact, he’s rejecting 5.9% of opponents’ two-point attempts when he’s on the floor, a rate higher than Dwight Howard’s… and this is one of Andersen’s career lows. What if he gets the ball? He’s knocking down 57% of his shots for 6.1 points per. And check out this craziness.
Power Forward: Anderson Varejao, Cleveland Cavaliers
The dude plays 30 minutes a night next to LeBron and Shaq and still gets 8.1 rebounds per. His frantic energy is anything but sloppy, allowing Varejao to hit 52% of shots (for 8.4 ppg) and to be a phenomenal defender, even better than his 1.1 steals and 1 blocks per indicate. He’s all over the key, pestering the hell out of opponents and making decent passes for a big man, setting up shooters and other post men alike.
The hungriest dream bench in the NBA after the break…
The Hungriest Bench/Roster in the League
– PG Kyle Lowry, Houston Rockets: He plays with reckless abandon, gets to the line (2.8 FT/6.3 FGA), makes great decisions (4.7-1.8 A/TO), and is a knock-out defender.
– G Nate Robinson, New York Knicks: 13.4 points per, 56% eFG%, and this game after sitting for a month.
– G Jerryd Bayless, Portland Trail Blazers: Can score in bunches and put opponents in foul trouble (3.1 FT/6.5 FGA).
– SG Shannon Brown, Los Angeles Lakers: 7.2 points and 53% eFG% per in 18 minutes.
– SF Jared Dudley, Phoenix Suns: Someone likes running with Nash (49% threes, 8.6 points per).
– PF Paul Milsap, Utah Jazz: Barkley Lite bangs the crap outta folks for 10 points (55% FG%) and 5.8 rebounds per.
– PF Amir Johnson, Toronto Raptors: 4.8 points, 4.6 boards, and 0.8 blocks per in 17 minutes.
– PF Carl Landry, Houston Rockets: Outstanding defender who’s hitting 57% of his field goals and grabbing 5.6 rebounds per. Strong candidate for Sixth Man of the Year this season.
– C Marcin Gortat, Orlando Magic: Great rates: 55% FG%, 3.8 rebounds, and 0.9 blocks per in 13 minutes.
Zachariah Blott cannot recommend Rick Telander’s “Heaven Is A Playground” enough.