I’d like to pose a question. In the NBA are we seeing more teams using their bench then in past generations?
The answer is - Yes. Fifteen years ago, most starters logged between 38-40 minutes per game. Last year, starters logged on average between 34-35 minutes a game. The chart below shows the downward trend of the top 40 players who played the most minutes per game.
Star players are playing less as teams become smarter about allocating minutes among the bench. The Spurs have demonstrated how resting your starters and using the bench can help the team’s performance in the long run. Last year, the Spurs second unit ranked first in minutes, assists, offensive efficiency, and defensive efficiency. I predict teams will start using their bench more like the Spurs and teams will be less reliant on their starting lineups.
Our Celtics, last year, also did a fantastic job of using their bench, ranking second and third in offensive and defensive efficiency. Last year, the C’s second unit ranked first in points, scoring an average of around 42 points per game. I must commend Brad Stevens on trusting his bench-guys and not being afraid to go deep even in the playoffs.
Now, what type of player does every team need on their bench? Does anyone remember the Celtics winning the Championship in 2008? For five points, does anyone remember who was the Celtics sixth man was at the time? Anyone? He wore really high socks?
If you answered James Posey then you were correct. James Posey would always seem to enter the game at around half way through the first quarter to relieve Kevin Garnett. Posey was a stretch four (although stretch four wasn't a term back then). Posey could take defensive pressure off of Paul Pierce or Ray Allen, allowing them to conserve their energy for offense. While he only averaged 7 points that year, he was a key first player off the bench.
In my opinion, a player like Posey is the most important type of player to come off of the bench. While the 2008 Celtics had a very traditional starting lineup with a true center and a true power forward, their first guy coming off the bench was able to guard multiple positions.
What are some teams right now that have second units that could start?
Well lets see, the Spurs of course, who added David West as a key big man to compliment Boris Diaw. The Celtics who have a plethora of players they can bring off the bench. The Bulls who have a new offensive system and have been bringing Joakim Noah, along with Taj Gibson, and Aaron Brooks off the bench and the Clippers who stockpiled their bench with veteran players, who were once starters.
It should be an intriguing season to watch talent emerge from the bench.
By Ian Riaf