Bench Mobs: Four That Got Better

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — Every general manager’s goal is to assembly an energetic, productive bench.

A strong second unit filled with single-minded role players enhances a team’s chances at winning. Just look at the two-time champion Miami Heat and perennially contending San Antonio Spurs: both clubs received significant bench contributions throughout the 2012-13 season. Still, a deep and talented bench does not ensure success — the Los Angeles Clippers being Exhibit A.

Arguably the NBA’s deepest bench last season, L.A.’s reserves ranked fourth in scoring and second in overall production (points, assists and rebounds combined). The second unit of Eric Bledsoe, Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes, Lamar Odom and Ronny Turiaf ranked as the third-best defensive unit in the league. Yet the Clippers lost in the first round to the Memphis Grizzlies, whose thin bench was considered a major weakness.

The goal is to build a well-rounded and deep roster that doesn’t falter when the starters sit, that can change pace when needed and can light it up just as well as lock it down.

Four teams looking to make a charge in their respective conferences — including the all-in Clippers and the go-getter Golden State Warriors in the West; and in the East the rugged-but-reinforcement-thin Indiana Pacers and the money-is-nothing Brooklyn Nets — completed significant offseason signings and trades that should bolster each club’s depth:

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS

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Loses: G Bledsoe, G Chauncey Billups, F Odom (still available), F Grant Hill (retired), F/C Turiaf

Additions: G J.J. Redick, G/F Jared Dudley, G Darren Collison, F Reggie Bullock (draft pick)

Why they’re better: Only two members of the aforementioned third-ranked defensive unit, Jamal Crawford and Matt Barnes, are returning as of today (Odom remains a possibility) to the Clippers’ second unit, so they could slip defensively. But the firepower is all-world with Redick (a 39 percent career 3-point shooter) and Dudley (40.5 percent) joining Sixth Man runner-up Crawford (35.0 percent). Collison has plenty to prove after twice losing his starting job in Dallas to late-30-somethings Derek Fisher and Mike James. The ultra-quick Collison backed up Chris Paul as a rookie in New Orleans and he now has a defined role that should suit his game. Plenty of experience and savvy leaves town in Hill and Billups, but they played a combined 51 games last season. Hill was not part of the playoff rotation until former coach Vinny Del Negro got desperate late in the first-round series loss. New coach and senior vice president of basketball operations Doc Rivers has given himself plenty of options with a bench unit that might top last season’s group. Free agents Barnes, center Ryan Hollins and guard Willie Green return.

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

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Loses: Jarrett Jack, Carl Landry

Additions: Marreese Speights, Toney Douglas, C Jermaine O’Neal, Nemanja Nedovic (draft pick)

Why they’re better: Simply, Andre Iguodala. Acquiring the veteran forced out Jack and Landry, but also provides instant depth for a young team that basically rode seven players in the playoffs after David Lee injured his hip. The tough call for coach Mark Jackson will be moving either semi-conscious shooter Klay Thompson or confident forward Harrison Barnes to the bench (both started every game they played last season) to make room for the 6-foot-6 Iguodala. Thompson could challenge for Sixth Man of the Year honors and he’d easily replace the scoring punch Jack provided. The second-year Barnes, who truly emerged during the playoffs, can provide everything the blue-collar Landry delivered only with advanced skills in every facet, especially with his burgeoning offensive arsenal. Barnes could discover some very favorable matchups off the bench. Speights, more accurately, will be expected to fill Landry’s role. The Warriors also bring back impressive frontcourt youngsters Draymond Green and Festus Ezeli, who should benefit from the presence of the steady veteran O’Neal.

INDIANA PACERS

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Loses: F Tyler Hansbrough, F Jeff Pendergraph

Additions: F Chris Copeland, G C.J. Watson, G Donald Sloan, F Solomon Hill (draft pick)

Why they’re better: The wild card here is forward Danny Granger, who missed all but five games last season with a left knee injury but will be back. With Paul George emerging as a star, Granger could find himself as the Pacers’ sixth man — imagine that. A better bench might have pushed Indiana past Miami in the East finals. The Pacers were one of six teams whose bench averaged fewer than 80 mpg, and they ranked 29th in scoring. The veteran Watson should stabilize a backcourt that had no consistent answer (D.J. Augustin) coming off the bench last season. Watson is a solid veteran who rarely turns the ball over — less than one a game in 19.0 mpg last season with Brooklyn — and is the type of team-first player president of basketball operations Larry Bird wants for coach Frank Vogel. And then there’s the unexpected feather in Bird’s cap — forward Chris Copeland. The 29-year-old late-bloomer provided the Knicks with energetic play off the bench and surprising accuracy from beyond the arc (59-for-140, 42.1 percent). The 6-foot-8, 235-pounder gives Indy a rugged backup for David West and weakens a rival.

BROOKLYN NETS

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Loses: G C.J. Watson, G Keith Bogans, G MarShon Brooks, F Kris Humphries

Additions: G Jason Terry, G Shaun Livingston, G D.J. White, F Andrei Kirilenko, C/F Mason Plumlee (draft pick)

Why they’re better: While a pudgy Deron Williams hobbled about on bum ankles for the first couple of months last season, the Nets’ bench carried the team, so they were no slouches to begin with. But when you add Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the starting lineup, that turns rebounding machine Reggie Evans and offensive weapon Andray Blatche into reserves and instantly improves that group. Terry remains a dangerous streak shooter even after a down season in Boston. The 6-foot-7 Livingston has quietly resurrected his career and should find a home backing up D-Will, who played like an All-Star in the second half of last season. The coup was snagging Kirilenko, who signed for $3.18 million after opting out of his $10-million deal with Minnesota. Kirilenko is always a nagging injury away from missing handfuls of games at a time, but the 6-foot-9 countryman of Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov is a do-it-all stat-sheet-filler. He is a sneaky offensive presence on the baseline and a rangy defender the Nets can use against Carmelo Anthony and other rival scoring threats.

15 Comments

  1. ewells says:

    Sorry to say this to the Tyler Hansborough lovers on this thread but, he is just a high energy player with less than average athleticism, not much range, ability to defend, or otherwise. Chris Copeland will provide an upgrade to Hansborough. Size don’t matter much when you can’t use it to defend anyone. And he didn’t make much, if any, difference in the playoffs against the Heat.

    Over the 7 games against the Heat in the playoffs, Tyler played just 10 mins a game, averaging 4 pts, 3 rebs, 0.1 asts, 0.1 steals. He shot 50% from the FT range, very poor. I don’t see a loss here at all.

  2. slob says:

    Psycho-T always gave me the impression he was just some crazy white thrash dude with more brawn than brains and limited basketball skills.

    This article comes as a huge surprise. Didn’t realise he had quite a collegiate career.

    http://blog.raptors.com/press-releases/raptors-sign-tyler-hansbrough/

  3. Sedare says:

    How is Portland NOT on this list?

  4. TTKIN says:

    I like how at the end of the article the writer said AK47 could guard Carmelo and other scoring threats…they chose to name Melo instead of Lebron. I know Melo won the scoring title, but you would think they’d mention Lebron first.

    Then again, no one likes Lebron, maybe that’s why haha.

  5. Henrik Jensen says:

    G-Wall for Paul Pierce, i would in all ways prefer Pierce
    Humphries for Garnett, no way Humphries will ever be as good as Garnett.

    So they have become a better team, and a strong championship contender

  6. HeatSince95' says:

    Leave Barnes on the bench that way you have Curry and Klay bombing 3s which opens up driving lanes for Iggy. BTW Iggy can also shoot the 3 probably better than Barnes and more consistent.

  7. stephenjh1 says:

    the only problem i have with this article is that BLATCHE DIDN’T START last year!! wallace did whose been traded so therefore straight away it lacks simple facts

  8. Taylor says:

    I’m not sure that I agree that the Warriors got better. One of the reasons that Jack made that team so good was he enabled Steph Curry to play off the ball as a two-guard. That is a major role to fill, and I’m not sure that Toney Douglas makes up for the loss that Jack brought. Just my two cents…

    • WillDS says:

      Thing is, it is no longer necessary for Curry to do it. Although I agree it worked for them I believe it was actually out of necessity because of their lack of depth. Which they have corrected this off season.

      One of Barnes/Thompson, Speights, O’Neal, Ezeli, and Green is a fantastic bench. Only spot they could use an upgrade is back up point. Not sure if I really like Douglas out there 12-18 minutes a night. Otherwise that is one solid team that made to the second round last year.

      Didn’t they also have Bogut injured at the start of last year?

      Golden State should not be underestimated or dismissed this year.

  9. SYDALE says:

    Iggy should be the back up for the Warriors… He has the ability to play PG, SG, and SF… If you figure that Steph, Klay, and Harrison will each play 36 min per game, then that leaves 12 min for a backup at each position… If Iggy backs each position then, he’ll get 36 min a night too…

    • CowanLevitt says:

      Sydale, I agree with you, I think that they should definitely give Harrisson Barnes as much playing time as possible. However, remeber that Scott Machado showed some signs of NBA PG potential last season and that they just drafted Nemanja Nedovic. On top of that, I don’t think Iggy can actually play PG. I think they should play Barnes and Klay around 30-33 MPG and leave the rest to AI, especially now that B. Rush is gone

  10. steppx says:

    I tend to agree with all this, but………..and its a big but….indiana loses the toughness of Hansbrough. Ok, he was limited, but still I think underrated. He at times was very effective disrupting things on defense….even if at times he would just blown by,., and Copeland DOES NOT give them anything rugged. Thats the problem He avoids contact. He can shoot…and thats why he is there. He can shoot for threes………….and he’s big…but he’s not a banger and is simply awful on defense. So…….im not sure just how much of an upgrade this really is. As for Watson ……its easy to think he’s a big upgrade over the terrible DJ augustin. And he is, but not much of an upgrade. So………….indiana better hope Miles Plumlee is ready.

    I think the warriors are better for reasons beyond Iguadola. Comeon…..jermaine O neal, a promising rook from serbia…(who i saw in europe two years ago, and who will be good!!!) and especially Speights. Im sorry, but speights is better than Landry. I like landry, but he is VERY limited. Speights can score, he has improved on defense. Its an upgrade IMHO.

    clips just losing Odom makes things better.

    • Bespoken says:

      I agreed, it will be hard to replace the energy that psycho T gave them. Warriors got hell of an upgrade. West is stacked.

    • justsayin says:

      Yeah the Pacers need a Hansborough/Splitter type to back up West and Hibbert or they won’t have the consistent size that gave people fits in the playoffs last time. Watson could wind up competing for the start at point if Hill doesnt pick up his game though.

      The Clips are in a similar spot and better re-sign Odom and/or another big like Kenyon that can board and play D because Hollins looks like a 12th man to me. The bench won’t be the same without Bledsoe – all jumpshooters with little penetration or quality size.

      Warriors and Nets look beastly though.