StatsCube: Best Bench in Basketball?

On Wednesday in New Jersey, the Chicago Bulls trailed by seven when Omer Asik entered the game in the first quarter, and by four when Ronnie Brewer and Taj Gibson checked in a couple of minutes later. When Asik checked out in the second quarter, the Bulls were up four. When Gibson checked out, they were up eight. And when Brewer checked out, they were up seven.

As great as Derrick Rose is, the Bulls’ bench has been absolutely critical to their success.

The Bulls rank 23rd in the league in points per game off the bench, but in Thursday’s StatsCube analysis of Sixth Man Award candidates, I wrote that the Bulls have the best bench in basketball because of how strong their second unit is defensively.

A day later, I’m going to admit that the “best bench” proclamation was made a little hastily — and with a big emphasis on defense. According to StatsCube, the two best defensive lineups in the league (with a minimum of 100 minutes on the floor together) are Bulls’ lineups that include Brewer, Gibson and Asik.

But the No. 1 offensive lineup in the league is also a bench unit. The Spurs‘ lineup of George Hill, Gary Neal, Manu Ginobili, Matt Bonner and Antonio McDyess barely meets the 100 minutes requirement, but has been amazingly efficient.

That Spurs lineup edges out the Bulls’ lineup of Rose, Brewer, Luol Deng, Gibson and Asik as the best bench lineup in the league overall. And yes, Ginobili, Rose and Deng are all starters. I’m defining a “bench lineup” as one with at least three players who don’t normally start for their team.

Bench lineups with positive plus-minus

Team Lineup GP Min. Off. Eff. Rank Def. Eff. Rank Diff. Rank
SAS Hill, Neal, Ginobili, Bonner, McDyess 23 101 129.2 1 93.6 14 35.6 1
CHI Rose, Brewer, Deng, Gibson, Asik 37 126 113.7 25 83.2 2 30.5 3
DAL Barea, Terry, Marion, Nowitzki, Mahinmi 20 102 117.8 10 97.3 28 20.5 9
PHI Williams, Turner, Iguodala, Young, Brand 31 108 108.8 56 92.3 11 16.6 15
LAL Blake, Brown, Bryant, Odom, Gasol 31 108 118.6 8 104.0 67 14.7 18
LAL Blake, Brown, Barnes, Odom, Gasol 36 175 109.4 49 95.5 20 14.0 20
OKC Westbrook, Harden, Durant, Ibaka, Collison 39 130 109.7 47 96.7 26 12.9 26
DAL Barea, Terry, Marion, Nowitzki, Haywood 44 341 113.2 27 102.2 58 11.0 35
CHI Watson, Brewer, Deng, Gibson, Asik 32 111 86.5 132 77.0 1 9.5 40
OKC Maynor, Harden, Green, Ibaka, Collison 25 130 116.3 13 108.6 100 7.7 47
LAL Blake, Brown, Walton, Odom, Gasol 21 127 103.1 91 95.5 21 7.6 49
DAL Maynor, Harden, Durant, Ibaka, Collison 35 106 104.6 83 100.0 44 4.6 65

Off. Eff. = Points scored per 100 possessions
Def. Eff. = Points allowed per 100 possessions
Rank is among all 133 lineups that have played at least 100 minutes together.

There are a lot of stars mixed in with those lineups, but that’s the way it goes in this league. Lineups comprised of five reserves are rare in this league. The Suns had a very effective one last year, but with all their roster changes, they haven’t been able to capture that same magic.

So even though they’re coming off the bench, it’s critical for bench players to complement their team’s stars and fit the coach’s game plan. The Bulls’ reserves obviously do that. Tom Thibodeau‘s squad ranks just 15th in the league offensively, but is at the top of the Eastern Conference because of its No. 1 defense.

No Miami Heat lineup is listed above, and it’s been said often that a lack of depth is one of Miami’s biggest issues. They rank dead last in the league in bench scoring at 22.2 points per game.

The Heat have five lineups that have played at least 100 minutes together, and they all have a positive plus-minus, but they all include Chris Bosh, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

Amazingly though, each of Miami’s 15 most-used lineups have a positive plus-minus. That’s a lot of mixing and matching, and it’s all been relatively successful. And though the Heat don’t have any great lineups with at least three bench players, they do have a lot of guys on their roster who have contributed.

Bench players with a positive plus-minus (see notes below):
7: Miami (Chalmers, Jones, Anthony, House, Dampier, Haslem, Howard)
6: Oklahoma City
5: Chicago, Denver, L.A. Lakers, Orlando, Utah
4: San Antonio
3: Boston, Dallas, Milwaukee, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia
2: Charlotte, Golden State, Houston, Memphis
1: Atlanta, Indiana, New Jersey, Portland, Toronto, Washington
0: Cleveland, Detroit, L.A. Clippers, Minnesota, Phoenix, Washington

1. Only players who have played at least 300 minutes and have started less than 50 percent of the games they’ve played in were counted.
2. Players are counted for their current team. For example, Nate Robinson is counted for the Thunder.

So while Miami doesn’t have any reserves who have consistently put points on the board, Erik Spoelstra has managed to find ways to use them effectively.


John Schuhmann is a staff writer for Send him an e-mail or follow him on twitter.


  1. Great post, very informative. I think Miami Heat could be on the finals… Love them… 🙂

  2. Daniel says:

    You have the last bench listed as DAL but the players are OKC.

  3. ghOsT says:

    its SPURS vs BULLS in the FINALS. Enough of all that LA VS BOSTON hype. i’m sick of all that green, purple & gold drama!

  4. Tyggs says:

    People really like to look like they know what they are talking about. Stats are facts. Be stupid and you believe what you want to believe.

  5. kantankruz says:

    OKC has the best bench, by a loooong way. End of Story.

  6. Zac of SA says:

    WOW! LAKERS BLAH BLAH BLAH! The Lakers are overrated. If you look at the Lakers and the Spurs, the Spurs have a better bench, the Spurs have a better record ( Which is so good that all the teams in the past that started this good, won it all), And yet the newspeople still like the Lakers, Celtics, or Bulls to win it. Something about those big cities. Most of the Spurs have been playing with each other for years adding chemistry, Most have won titles together, Are you smellin’ championship SA? Yet still again people tell us we’re overrated and think the Lakers are more titleworthy. I agree with Matthew “We get no respect BECAUSE we have no 1 star or MVP.” Remember, basketball is a TEAM game.

  7. Jump off the Heat bandwagon please says:

    Pretty sure your stats are skewed. Dampier and Chalmers are NOT bench players. An argument can even be made for Big Z not being a true bench player since him and dampier are often used interchangeably. Last time I checked, whoever is on the floor in the first minutes is considered a starter. So Chalmers and Dampier, as inefficient as they are, will have a bigger plus/minus simply because they’re on the floor at the same time as the other three.

  8. watcher says:

    I think it’s a good call regarding the Bulls having at least the equal of the Spurs bench, as both teams rythym does not change due to the basic coaching philosophies laid out (and adhered to by the players) by the respective coaches – which doesn’t divert from the starters directives. Maybe Chicago is more balanced as the Spurs have had explosive offensive bench performances, peppered by the ‘big three’ bailouts at times. Needless to say the Heat plus minus is padded by starters. Still, stats are just that and I think Oklahoma may have the best functional second five going both ways. Time will tell come the playoffs.

  9. Aaron says:

    Let me start by saying I am a Bulls fan. I think we have a great bench with a lot of young athletic players but stats can’t always show everything.

    Typically stats help, however these stats are being thrown around like they are the deciding factor. Unfortunately stats can’t show role play, momentum, pace of the game, who the opponent was at the time of play, coaching, etc…

    This is why you can’t rely solely on this. The Heat I will admit do not have a great bench, however they do have some experienced veterans and of course the Big 3, who the media will not let us forget. And for people arguing that they have a bad bench and thats why they aren’t performing to their fullest potential, lets remember the front office, the coaching staff and the Big 3 knew this would happen when they signed up. You can’t sign 3 players to a max contract and expect to have the best bench in the league, it was a risk everyone agreed on taking.

  10. Mike says:

    Personally, I don’t trust these plus-minus stat. Yeah it shows how “efficient” the players are while they are on the floor but consider this. If you have Bosh, LBJ and Wade on the floor and you have 2 random players on the floor. If those 3 would just play right, those 2 players can just stand and watch these 3 players and still get a plus. What about that? Efficiency, for me, is something that is immeasurable, there is no stat out there that can accurately determine efficiency. and BTW, Best Bench: 1st – Spurs 2nd – Bulls 3rd – Celtics 4th – Lakers.

    • Gary says:

      Thank you. These ratings are very deceiving. Example Jones for Miami had a -4 game the other night. He shot 3-5, had 3reb and 1 ast. Chalmers had a 13 with 0-4(I believe), 3reb and 4ast. Chalmers who obviously was in with the starters picks up a plus rating even though he didn’t have the better game. The stat is best left for coaches to use and doesn’t need to be tacked on to a players performance.

  11. 4trackdemo says:

    Often with evenly matched teams it’s the bench that wins the game, the starting line ups cancel each other out and the bench is the difference Kingsfan is wrong because you can’t come in with a goal to maintain or regain momentum- you either make shots and stops or you don’t, plus that’s a demoralising goal for any bench line up, plus benches often contain a player that can turn a game eg Terry for the Mav’s, JR Smith for Denver. There’s no point talking about the Heats bench because every play thats not part of the Big three is a bench player! Ha Ha. Phoenix’s idea last year of having a stand alone bench was a good idea because it’s better for chemistry for both the starters and the bench, and it creates some productive interteam rivalry ( if the bench goes well it spurs the Starting unit to prove their place), but as Schumann said it’s hard to pull off beacuse not many teams have five players on the bench who can stand alone.

  12. Nowitzki says:

    i am a mavs fan and mavs will win the finals yea write this somewhere mavs will win the finals and Asik will be the next griffin in the future.

  13. Daniel Lee says:

    I hate how all these people say that the Lakers won’t be able to beat the spurs in the playoffs. I mean the Lakers do horrible in the regular season but they still come through in the playoffs. Like last year, they lost the season series to the cavaliers and magic, tied the series with the celtics, they lost the season series to the bobcats too. I mean right now, the Lakers are winning with Kobe shooting the ball terribly. And Kobe always steps his game up in the playoffs. And the Lakers should be winning the season series right now against the spurs if it werent for that tip in so I would say the 2 teams are evenly matched and that the Lakers would come through in the playoffs.

  14. Nas Mohamud says:

    Hey you wrote DAL when you were talking about the OKC bench. Next time before u publish something double check your work. Have a nice day.

  15. The Godfather of the Heat Hall of Fame Hubie Brown Coming Soon @

  16. Big Bad Billy says:

    You guys are dumb, Chicago clearly has the best bench everyone they have contributes asik (beast at rebounding, and good D) Brewer (Great D always gets some steals) Korver (Great 3 ball) Kurt Thomas ( Good D, High basketball I.Q.) , Watson (Good 3 ball) Gibson (Shot blocker, Off. intensity) And the MVP in D-Rose (Too big, too fast, too strong). and remember defense wins champinships which they have the best D hands down. Bulls all the way!

  17. i cant believe you just look at the stats. not regarding stats, the blazers have the top bench in the league!!

  18. kevin garnett21 says:

    You guys are leaving out te Celtics only because they are not healthy. Our second unit would be like
    PG: Delonte West
    SG: Von Wafer (or Ray Allen)
    SF: Jeff Green
    PF: Glen Davis
    C: Nenad Kristic (or JO, but he’s never healthy)
    good second unit

  19. Houston says:

    Without a doubt, the Heat have the best bench in the NBA. When you can bring in all-time greats like Bibby, Ilgauskus & Juwan Howard, you’re destined to go straight to the top.

  20. Matthew says:

    San Antonio has a .500 or higher record against EVERY team in the league. The only team we have not beaten is Boston simply because we played them once in Boston and they escaped a Manu game winning 3. Every other team we have beat including the highly reguarded Bulls! Tonite we took care of a Mavs team that the writers have been ranting about. We beat L.A 2-1 in the reg season with a win on their home court. And we beat OKC twice. Starters alone can’t beat those teams. And all 5 starters aren’t on the floor at one time unless ur up by 20 with 5:00 to go in the 4th. There’s always a mix of starters and bench players on the floor to maintain a strong balance. Spurs has by far the best bench. Bonner is the league leader in 3pt, Neal isn’t far behind. George Hill is a perfect replacement for Parker and McDeyss is………….well, McDeyss! With Anderson over his injury, Udoka ready for some tuff defense when Jefferson isn’t playing well and the signing of Danny Green for the rest of the season (a UNC great player) the Spurs are set perfect to go all the way and win the ahampionship. And besides, its an odd year AND WE LOVE ODD YEARS! 1999, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2011!!

  21. DENVER says:

    No one besides me thinks that Denver should be one of the best benches in the league?
    As a Denver fan this seems kinda wrong…

    • John says:

      Denvers bench has been “averaging” 41.3 pts/game since melo left. (That includes dropping 53 pts on the Heat in a 5 pt loss). They’ve scored an average of 109.0 points while allowing their opponents an average of 94.7 pts. a game in the last 14 games. Let the “experts” argue about who can beat whom in the playoffs. Just shake your head and smile…knowingly.

  22. justsayin' says:

    hey john schuhmann… erratum: DAL Maynor, Harden, Durant, Ibaka, Collison (these are OKC players right?) lol!

  23. Fan85 says:

    Wow Spurs didnt need the bench tonight in Dallas. Mavs shoot better FG pct at home with more bench production and still lose at home. Big 3 stepped up for SA. To all the media folk who been dissin San Antonio and ridding the LA Wave need to wake up, put some water on the face and wipe those eyes. Aint nothing in LA but bad traffic, smog, snobby celebs, and fake fancy bull! Spurs are the real deal!

    • Matthew says:

      I agree 100%. We get NO respect. All the headlines are about The Heat, L.A, Boston, Chicago and now even Oklahoma. Spurs are boring, we don’t have high flying dunkers, and players hardly every score more than 25! But we play as a team, we are expertly coached and we have experienced players that have virtually NO EGOS. When they’re playing crap Pop sits em. They got the message clear when they came here. Spurs is the team to beat. We are starting every series this post season (including the finals) at home. We will not be beaten.

  24. oaxaca12 says:

    can u just give us the answer? casual basketball fans like me dont understand +/- language

    • From says:

      The +/- stat is tied to team performance during the time that that particular player is on the court. The games official scorer records the differential in terms of gain (plus) or loss (minus).

      Example, if David Lee enters the game with the score tied at 80 to 80, and leaves with his team ahead by 3, he gets a plus 3. Conversely, if he enters with his team ahead by 13, and leaves with a 3 point lead, he gets a minus-10.

      These numbers are added up throughout the game until at the end you have your final +/- for each player that you see in the box score.

      Kind of sucks if you ask me.

  25. boB says:

    Ginobili is a starter, stupid guy with wierd last name!!!!!

  26. Rainman says:

    Manu Ginobili is a starter.

  27. uclastudent37 says:

    @Fan85, I wouldn’t say that Blake and Barnes are inconsistent, Barnes was gone for a while and he’s been playing as good enough expectations for the Lakers. Blake’s role is reduced under the triangle, but I admit he isn’t shooting the ball very well. And yes, brown has been inconsistent…

  28. Gary says:

    I agree with KingsFan; The stats can be deceiving depending on how you are filtering them. Also why are we looking at the teams ranked over 10 and not just the top 10?

    Personally I think the Spurs have the best bench.

    • Kingsfan says:

      @ Gary – at least someone here is more than “show me the stats” kind of guy. I agree the Spurs have a solid bench. My only nit pick on their bench is that Ginboli isn’t coming from it anymore. I would think their second unit would be much more solid if they had Ginobli off teh pine to lead that second squad.

      Again just my opinion.

  29. T.O says:

    Bench lineups with positive plus-minus

    DAL: Maynor, Harden, Durant, Ibaka, Collison


  30. Jao says:

    Spoelstra is really goot at forming lineups and rotation. but he’s still really bad with in-game decisions and calling timely timeouts. his huddles leave a lot to be desired. he’s a bit better with putting the right match up to adjust in-game, but still, he doesn’t have the magic of inspiration of a Doc Rivers or the calculating mind of a Phil Jackson. would I want him replaced? well, before him, the bench should be replaced. considering Spoelstra has been given the worst bench in the NBA, you have to admire how he’s still making it work.

    • Gary says:

      I wouldn’t say that bench is the worst. It’s the coaching that needs improvement. Miami could get ALOT out of Anthony, Jones, House and Magloire if they would work with them and stop using them to just fill bodies on the court. I mean you got Jones who just won the three point contest and he probably has only taken two three point shot attempts in their last five losses! What sense does that make! Anyway it’s about coaching to me because the Miami team doesn’t need any new players or to trade for better ones.

      • Kingsfan says:

        @Gary – Hmm, well i agree and disagree. Worst bench ppg yes, overall-well they are well above .500 so there is definetly worse. Agreed that the coaching is an issue. I don’t think Spoelstra was ready to handle this 3 headed monster so early in his career. Now on the flip side, I don’t think he has as good of pieces as you mention. I agree 100% about Jones. Why is he not getting the ball to shoot? Magloire is a work horse who will give you toughness and in my opinion is their best option as a starter. Now for Anthony and House (I’m very glad you didn’t mention Bibby or Miller) I think they are very soft. Anthony is very undersized and brings nothing really solid to the team. Maybe some hustle but soft on the D and no offensive game other than some put backs. House is one of the players that I look at and go wow what happened. He was a scoring machine in college and ever since he came into the NBA he just has been blah. Now, if the heat dump Z, Howard, house and trade Chalmers to get some pieces next year that fit the team, now we’re talking.

      • Gary says:

        Haha, your right the bench is pretty bad. I just hate to admit that.

  31. Fan85 says:

    Kingsfan how are you gonna say the Lakers have the 2nd best bench in the NBA? All they really have thats a solid contributor is Lamar Odom. Brown is inconsistent as is Blake and Barnes, who else do they have that makes an impact? PFFT, Spurs and Bulls do have the best benches in the NBA.

    • fearless prediction. the lakers are gonna win the title due to their lenght. no team can match up with them and the playoffs is all about matcups and the halfcourt game. of course injuries can derail their 3. title run, but nothing else.

      ps : i hope SA wins, but i watched the loss at home by 30 to the Lakers and it seemed to me they matchup very poorly against them. maybe they just had a bad game, but thats not my view.

      pps : can´t wait for the playoffs, even though the purple and gold is gonna take it all again.

      • Gary says:

        It was just a bad game but LA came to win and exploited the mistakes of the Spurs. I think there’s one more matchup before the end of the season and I’d bet you Spurs come out on top.

      • celtic says:

        no one can match with them? ha ok. on this talk of bench units, the celts have MORE length than LA does when you include their bench. Jermaine, Shaq, KG, Krstic, Big Baby–Bynum, Pau, Odom. hmmm its understandable that bynum pau and odom have more team chemistry right now, especially seeing as jermaine and shaq have been out and krstic hasnt FULLY developed the celtic game yet. but still, if we look at each of their match ups this season boston truly has been superior in the matchups. the biggest factor in LA’s winning is not just their length. they get kobe’s talent and ability to push them over the edge about 75% of the time. and last year when kobe wasnt producing in game 7, the length produced because they had LESS length to worry about from the celtics with perk out and rasheed really not being a rebounder.

        if it all came down to length, why isnt miami better with dampier? they’re really not.
        if it all came down to length, why are the Spurs the top team in the league? sure, duncan’s got length, but inferior length to both the mavs (Haywood and chandler alone have more length than all san antonio) and the lakers (bynum, pau, odom–the best combination of length in the league).
        If it all came down to length, Dwight Howard would be leading his team to the finals before the play offs even started.

        its not about length, its about team. the lakers have length, sure. i happen to think lamar odom is probably the best option for anyone to have coming off their bench. having odom alone makes LA’s bench one of the best in the league. but their bench can’t top a bench like San Antonio’s, Dallas’, Boston’s–Boston’s is ridiculously good, and when they’re all healthy they will have the deepest bench in the league–and even Chicago has a better bench than LA. Thats why Boston, San Antonio and Chicago are above LA right now and thats why Dallas is even with LA–their team, not their length. Length isnt everything in this league and if it were, LA still wouldnt be the dominant team.

  32. Ruben says:

    why you (Schuhmann) talk about the BEST bench in the league and finish talking about the Miami Heat who has the WORST bench???

    i really think this guy is in love with Spoelstra.

    • Kingsfan says:

      @ Anaheim Kings – Do I watch basketball? lol I have been playing/watching hoops since I was 7 years old.

      @ Fan85 – I don’t think you got hte point I was trying to make. I wasn’t referring to stats. I was referring to keeping the momentum or pace of the game the way the starters left it. When the Lakers bench comes out, they play with in the triangle and keep pace until the starters are ready to come back in. And that is why I said they were the 2nd best bench. Not based on stats, but more based in buying into the system that Phil has in place. If you are talking of stats, then yes Dallas and Spurs would definetly be better than Chicago and LA. What I was referring to was keeping the cohesiveness of the team and the game plan afloat when the starters leave the floor.

      • Fan85 says:

        @ Kingsfan
        I hear you man about what your saying regarding stats and coming out onto the floor and maintaining the intensity and keeping the game within reach while the starters are out. Just recently has this production been coming out for the Los Angeles Lakers. The Spurs and Bulls have had this consistent production and cohesiveness all season long. All the Spurs players have bought into Coach pops system, which is to play as a team not individually. They have demonstrated this type of team play all season long with many games being won with over 5 players scoring in double figures. They get everyone involved, starters and bench players. How many times have you seen this of the Lakers? They win with Kobe shooting 30 FG and 2 others in double figures. Again, only recently have they shown a sign of life. Can they maintain this, we’ll have to wait and see. I just dont think they can get past a team, a TEAM, that is not only consistent but deep and well coached, which happens to be the San Antonio Spurs.

    • Fact Not Fiction says:

      Anytime someone mentions Miami someone pops up angry lol. He pointed out how bad Miami’s bench(scoring) is but to cover his back listed that 7 of their players have a positive plus minus rating? Which is stupid because if they have the bench with the most players that have a good rating wouldn’t that in turn mean they have one of the best benches? Yes it would to me. Miami just doesn’t have the best combination of bench players. Deceiving stats.

      • Kingsfan says:

        @ Fact not Fiction – Agreed 100%. That is why I mentioned stats can be misleading. And all of those stats are counting that all of the big 3 are in the lineup. I would love to see what their +/- is with only 2.

  33. Kingsfan says:

    See this is where Stats become a problem in basketball games. +/- is a solid stat but when your factoring in the Heat bench having a +/- when they are with the big 3 isn’t really accurate in my opinion. Reason is, that any 2 other players on the Heat can be with the big 3 and have a good chance of getting a good +/- number. What is that bench like with only 2 or even 1 of the big 3 in?

    As for stats and offense for bench play, I have always been a firm believer that a bench is suppose to keep the games momentum on your teams side. If they don’t have the momentum when they come in, do their best to at least keep the game where it was before the starters come back in. The Bulls by far have the best bench in the league. A very close second would be the Lakers. Now I’m not talking statitics here, I’m talking ability to come in and make difference for the team and help the team keep its composure.

    With the Bulls, Asik comes in for Noah, you don’t lose much. Brewer comes in and you lose a little on the O side but gain great Defense. Deng goes out, you bring one of the top 5 best 3 point shooters in the game. Boozer goes out you bring in Taj, a young defenseive player with a lot of upside. Sure CJ isn’t Rose but he keeps the pace of the game at the Bulls pace. That is what a bench is suppose to do, fill the gaps and keep the intensity up.

    • Anaheim Kings says:

      I completely disagree with you. Do you know basketball?

      • Gary says:

        What he’s saying makes total sense. The stats presented don’t give us and idea of the whole picture, just what has been filtered here for us to take in. I posted it below but again, why are we not seeing the top 10 teams in this list? I’m sure Miami is in there that’s why; John Schumann doesn’t like Miami.

      • i surely understand and come playoff time it will be even more evident. i do think the lakeshow has the best bench when they are heathy and Odom isn´t starting. Stats are indicators, not factual. don´t be fooled. the gamepace can distort the stats as can the amount of minutes played.