Blogtable: Which team has best bench in NBA this season?
Each week, we ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day.
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Who has the best bench in the NBA today?
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David Aldridge: San Antonio, to me. Does anyone else have two future Hall of Famers in Manu Ginobili and Pau Gasol, diminished from their primes though they may be, anchoring the second unit? Not to mention Patty Mills, who shone in the Spurs’ last Finals series win, an offensive force in David Lee and an athletic freak in Jonathan Simmons. They’re a problem and a great compliment to the starting five, who are pretty damn good themselves.
Steve Aschburner: Cleveland. All things being equal — which is to say, assuming all members are healthy — it’s hard to quibble with the Cavaliers’ Nos. 6-12 on any given night. They’ve got long-range firepower in Kyle Korver and Channing Frye, that backup playmaker LeBron James so boldly demanded in Deron Williams, a rim defender and rebounder (if Larry Sanders can regain much of his abandoned form), a bouncy big wing in refurbished Derrick Williams, pesky on-ball defense from Iman Shumpert and wily vets with life left in them old bones in Richard Jefferson and James Jones. Bottom line: no more whining, LeBron. Go git ’em.
Fran Blinebury: James Harden sucks up virtually all the oxygen in the room in Houston and I’m not sure that many would label it the overall best. But the Rockets’ bench is often the overlooked perfect complement to Harden, bringing in shooters Eric Gordon and Lou Williams to keep the floor spaced, Nene as the veteran physical presence in the middle and the live bodies of Montrezl Harrell and Sam Dekker at forward. In Memphis, I’m respecting any bench that has Zach Randolph.
Scott Howard-Cooper: Houston. The Rockets were already good thanks to the presence of Eric Gordon as a leading contender for Sixth Man of the Year, and adding Lou Williams made them even better. To go into the playoffs knowing the second unit can win games even if either has an off night is a great comfort. If Nene delivers 20 minutes of inside muscle a game, the Rockets will have a bench advantage over most every opponent.
Shaun Powell: There can be only one answer: the Rockets. They boast the two guys slugging it out for the Sixth Man Award in Lou Williams and Eric Gordon. And if that wasn’t enough, there’s Montrezl Harrell and Sam Dekker, a pair of youngsters who are growing into significant roles, and the reborn Nene. Lots of, ahem, fireworks off the bench for the Rockets.
John Schuhmann: For the second straight season and by a pretty wide margin, the Spurs have the league’s best aggregate bench NetRtg (plus-10.1). That metric takes the per-possession plus-minus of every player that comes off the bench and weighs it by minutes played. The Spurs beat you with their depth and have outscored their opponents by 8.1 points per 100 possessions with their MVP candidate off the floor. For the season, the Spurs are a plus-551, and their two main starting lineups (with either Pau Gasol or Dewayne Dedmon at center) are a combined plus-114. That means they’ve been winning by a lot with other guys on the floor. Patty Mills is the best back-up point guard in the league, Manu Ginobili is still effective at 39, David Lee has been a great fit, and Pau Gasol has played better as a reserve than he did as a starter. To add LaMarcus Aldridge and Gasol the last couple of years, the Spurs have had to part ways with a bunch of key reserves, but R.C. Buford and Gregg Popovich have done an incredible job of keeping the bench stocked and turning other teams’ leftovers into contributors on a title contender.
Sekou Smith: The best scoring bench resides in Houston, where the winning formula whisked together this season has been nothing short of phenomenal. They have all the pieces you need and adding Lou Williams via trade mid-season was a masterstroke. But the best all-around bench, if and when they all get healthy and integrated into the system, could and should be the supporting cast in Cleveland. They’ve certainly spent enough cash on the roster.
Ian Thomsen: The Spurs’ bench is No. 1 in plus-minus, and in Manu Ginobili and Patty Mills they have two range shooters who can make the game-winning shot. All of their guys run the system, which is something that most teams can’t take for granted. That’s why San Antonio is the team that Western underdogs want to avoid in the opening round — because there is no letup.
Lang Whitaker: I know that by some metrics, teams like the Lakers and Nets seem to have “good” benches, but I believe that’s mostly because their benches have played a lot when they were losing. In my mind, I believe the “best” bench might belong to the San Antonio Spurs, who are constantly juggling their lineups for purposes of rest and refreshment, but have a roster stocked with productive players who play very specific roles, giving Gregg Popovich plenty of options he can pursue on any given night.
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