Bench production no longer a glaring weakness

Tuesday, January 19, 2010
By: Jim Eichenhofer,

Throughout Chris Paul’s 4 1/2 pro seasons, New Orleans’ starting lineup has often been regarded as one of the best units in the NBA. With two-time All-Stars Paul and David West, along with an above-average center (first Tyson Chandler, now Emeka Okafor) and one of the league’s most feared perimeter shooters (Peja Stojakovic), the Hornets have rarely had to worry about effectiveness from their first string.

The bench has been another story, however. A frequently evolving cast of players has tried to fix the lack of production New Orleans has received from its reserves, but entering the 2009-10 season, most NBA analysts still listed the bench as one of this team’s biggest weaknesses.

Based on the way the substitutes have played lately, that may be changing this season. Over the past six games, in fact, New Orleans’ reserves have outperformed the starters four times in plus-minus ratio, a statistic that measures how many points a team scores/allows while specific players are on the court.

Unfortunately for the Hornets, this recent trend has also been evident during many of their poor first quarters – when the starting five generally is on the court together more than in any other quarter.

Collective plus/minus of Hornets starters and Hornets reserves over the past 6 games
Jan. 18 vs. San Antonio: starters (minus 46), bench (plus 11)
Jan. 16 at Indiana: starters (plus 31), bench (minus 6)
Jan. 15 at Detroit: starters (minus 46), bench (plus 16)
Jan. 13 vs. L.A. Clippers: starters (plus 93), bench (minus 23)
Jan. 11 at Philadelphia: starters (minus 31), bench (plus 11)
Jan. 10 at Washington: starters (minus 36), bench (plus 61)

Of course, the plus-minus stat is not a “true” measurement of either unit, because New Orleans players are mixed and matched with the opposite group frequently throughout the course of every game. Still, in general terms, it provides a small indication of the impact that the Hornets’ substitutes have often made this month.