Utah Jazz Top 10 Bench Players
Utah Jazz Top 10 Bench Players
By Matt Sanchez - UtahJazz.com
No, the "Spanish John Stockton" did not make this list. My apologies to Raul Lopez fans.
The Jazz bench is an area of the team that has rarely gotten many accolades over the years. In fact, they've never had a player win the Sixth Man of the Year award, although we did hire a couple in their waning years – see John Starks and Danny Manning (neither made this list). The team has had some amazing bench players over the years and it was difficult for this committee (of one) to narrow it down.
First off, you must know that I only take into consideration stats and role on the team when the players were actually bench guys. A number of the Top 10 spent years in the starting lineup and those numbers didn't factor into the decision process.
Also, if a player started more in their career then they came off the bench with the Jazz then they were not eligible for consideration. This eliminates players such as Blue Edwards, Bryon Russell, Donyell Marshall and Bobby Hansen, among others. Finally, I only considered retired players, so don't expect to see any current players on the list.
To kill the suspense, Ben Handlogten, Dee Brown and Jarron Collins will only appear in this sentence.
Bench Stats: 6.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 77% free throw shooter
Benoit cracks the Top 10 for having the best swirl shaved into his hair of any other Jazzman. Actually Benoit was a very productive player for the Jazz in the early '90s and is one all fans will remember. He was a not much of a shooter and may have sometimes hit air more than nylon, but his energy and pure athleticism were fun to watch. He did a lot of the little things and turned himself into a starter after his first three seasons. The first alley-oop I can remember seeing, at the ripe age of eight, came from Benoit and he jumped so high, his head hit the backboard. I've said it before and I will say it again…hustle counts. Benoit had hustle.
#9 Mike Brown
Bench Stats: 5.8 points, 4.6 rebounds, 0.7 assists
A stat/figure that I do not take lightly is durability and "The Brown Bear" played in all 82 games, four of his five seasons with the Jazz. He averaged less than 20 minutes a game but still rebounded at a very high rate. In fact, more than half of his rebounds came on the offensive glass. Brown is sort of the forgotten man in Jazz history but is the exact type of player current Jazz fans crave. During the late '80s and early '90s Brown was a classic workhorse coming off the Jazz bench.
#8 Tom Chambers
Bench Stats: 8.7 points, 3.4 rebounds, 80% free throw shooter
Chambers came to the Jazz during the twilight of his career and was nowhere near his former All-Star self, but he was still a very good bench player. T.C. played two seasons for the Jazz in the mid-'90s and was part of the team taking the next level in advancing in the playoffs. His "above the rim" style was gone by the time he came to Utah, but his craftiness and basketball IQ kept him very productive.
#7 Adam Keefe
Bench Stats: 4.6 points, 4.0 rebounds, 51% field goal shooting, 0.5 steals
Keefe makes the list because he is exactly what you want from a player on the bench. "Big Red" was the definition of hustle. Tip-ins, deflections, diving for loose balls, taking charges – all the things most players don't want to do. Take his volleyball background combined with his instincts and he was a pogo-stick around the rim. Nearly 40 percent of the rebounds he had while coming off the bench for the Jazz were offensive. Oddly enough, Keefe was the starting small forward during the '97-'98 season. He was a huge reason for the Jazz's success during the glory years. His game wasn't pretty but his impact was.
#6 Howard Eisley
Bench Stats: 6.4 points, 3.4 assists, 0.6 steals, 83% free throw shooting
Eisley was never flashy or outspoken. He didn't fly high or drain daggers at the end of games. In fact, he wasn't particularly memorable with anything he ever did, but that wasn't his job. He was on the team to allow a certain Hall of Famer his routine breather at the four-minute mark in the first and third quarters each and every game. He didn't demand playing time and never claimed he should have the job, like younger players often do. Eisley was dependable and played in 82 games four of his six seasons with the Jazz. Coach Sloan could count on Eisley to run the show just long enough and then put his great point guard back in the game. He played a huge role on a championship contender, what more could you want from a player on your bench? Not bad for a second-round pick the Jazz claimed off waivers.
Bench Stats: 9.5 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.1 steals, 86% free throw shooter
I guess we should have seen the writing on the wall during the short time Corbin was here. The man was born to coach. He only played three of his 16 professional seasons in Utah, but in that time he made a big impact. Corbin was a veteran by the time he moved to Salt Lake and he began mentoring the likes of Blue Edwards, David Benoit and most of all Bryon Russell. He didn't make any championship runs with the Jazz so fans often forget about the impact he had on the team. In addition to showing the young guys how it's done, he put together some great stats on the Jazz.
#4 Shandon Anderson
Bench Stats: 7.6 points, 2.7 rebounds, 1.0 assist, .8 steals
Coming out of college, Shandon was nothing extraordinarily special. He barely got drafted (54th overall) and wasn't expected to make the team. He made the most of his opportunity, impressed the right people and it paid off for the Jazz in a big way. He played the "I won't back down to you and I don't care who you are" role on the team. His first two seasons the Jazz went to the NBA Finals and Anderson was given the lovely duty of chasing the other team's best perimeter player up and down the court. Though he could knock down the open shot and could get to the rim, what I remember most about him was his defense and hustle (Anyone else noticing a trend between hard-working bench players and their playing time with the Jazz?). There was a sequence in the '97 Finals that sums him up perfectly. He was chasing around Michael Jordan off a series of screens and just before he ran into Dennis Rodman, he cut in front of a pass that was intended for MJ. He stole the ball, got it to Stockton and then raced down court for an easy dunk. No showboating. No posing for the camera. Every Jazz team could use a Shandon Anderson.
#3 Antoine Carr
Bench Stats: 7.5 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 80% free throw shooter
I have nothing but positive memories about "Big Dawg" Antoine Carr. You have to love a person that doesn't take themselves too seriously and Big Dawg definitely did not. He danced and sang on TV, barked like a dog and was by far, a fan favorite. He was jovial and connected with fans. His fun and games stopped when he stepped on the court though. He may have been the biggest sense of calm and influence on the team during the time he was here. In four years he only started 12 games but he finished most of them. He was steady, reliable and made the right decisions. He ran the high-post beautifully and forced opposing big men to step out and guard his top-of-the-key jumper. His game meshed beautifully with Karl Malone's and made defenses pick their poison. They could either double off on Karl and leave Big Dawg wide open or they could play them both straight up and then The Mailman would dominate on the block. In Game 5 of the '98 Finals, Carr made the Bulls pay when they left him wide open late in the game, and he nailed clutch jumpers to seal the victory. To this day fans still adore Big Dawg for what he did for the Jazz and the way he played.
Bench Stats: 9.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.0 assist
Harpring is barely eligible for this list. For the first three seasons in a Jazz uniform, he was a starter and fantastic one at that. He was a great complement to Stockton and Malone and produced at a high level. As his career wore on, he gradually made his way to the bench and became the perfect sixth man for the Jazz. He was voted annually as the toughest player in the NBA and is often compared to being the Jerry Sloan of his generation and I have to agree. It didn't matter if he needed to guard Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony or Tim Duncan, he drove them all crazy! He was relentless with his hustle and never gave a player an inch on defense. A story most Jazz fans are familiar with was a couple years back when we were playing a big game against the Nuggets toward the end of the year. Sloan 2.0 got under Anthony's and Kenyon Martin's skin so bad that both got techs and were ready to fight him. I loved it! He played so hard. In the locker room after each game, he was covered in ice. Ice here and ice there. I think they had to install a separate ice machine just for him. He left it on the floor every night and that's exactly what fans loved about Matt Harpring. Never the most talented player but he worked and made you work.
#1 Thurl Bailey
Bench Stats: 16.0 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.2 blocks
And the best bench player in Jazz history is none other than "Big T" Thurl Bailey. He played for the Jazz in a time a lot of younger fans (myself included) weren't around for. He was drafted with the seventh overall pick back in 1983 and started the majority of the games his first two seasons. Coach Frank Layden saw something in Big T that most players didn't have and that was the relentless desire to do anything to win. He had crazy energy and for the next six years was the Jazz's sixth man and the guy was good. Some would say that he played starters minutes and they wouldn't get an argument from me. He did play a good amount of minutes, but still he came off the bench and averaged nearly 20 points per game from 1987-89. One of his stats that just amazes me: From 1983-1991, he played in 80+ games per year. What is the deal with Jazz players from this era never missing games? Was the cool mountain spring water here in Utah laced with some super power drug? It's unreal. Thurl is similar to every other player on this list. He was very talented but didn't have an ego. He knew his team needed him to come off the bench and spark the second unit and he didn't question it. He represented everything the Jazz is always preaching: hustle, defense, floor burns, teamwork.
A fact that I found very interesting: three of the best bench players in Jazz history were more or less traded for each other. Check it out…
In 1992 Thurl Bailey was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Tyrone Corbin. In 1994 Corbin was traded to the Atlanta Hawks for Adam Keefe.