The Off-the-Bench NBA All-Stars: The Top 10 Non-Starters In the League
2013-14 NBA Season: Off-the-Bench All-Stars
The NBA has never been a league that has shied away from giving notoriety to its stars. The all-time greats like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and so on all got their due when they were in the league. The same can be said for LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant during this era of the NBA.
It’s understandable why the league would get behind and push their stars. There’s not too many fans that go to or watch an NBA game with the hopes of seeing the guy who has played four minutes the entire season get on the floor. Fans want to see basketball being played at its highest level and that’s what the stars in this league are able to provide.
While recognizing the value of star-power in this league and that this is a star-driven league, there is also enlightenment in realizing the value of the less-heralded guys around the league. The role players are essential to a team’s success and the stars that drive the league wouldn’t fully be able to realize their potential without role players also playing their part in the system.
That being said, I’ve always admired the ability of a player to come off of the bench and succeed, even when his talent sometimes exceeds that of a bench-player. Not only is there something to be said about getting cold on the bench and then coming in and still succeeding, but it also takes a special kind of mentality to be comfortable and play in that type of role.
Largely because of my admiration for that mentality and niche in the NBA, it’s time that I voice that appreciation by giving these guys their own bit of recognition. With two months left in the season, here are the “Off-the-Bench” All-Stars, better known as the 10 best players coming off of the bench this season.
10. James Johnson - Memphis Grizzlies
James Johnson has been one of the biggest individual surprises this season since joining the Memphis Grizzlies. In 32 games, Johnson has averaged 8.4 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.1 steals in 21.3 minutes per game while shooting 45.6 percent from the floor. Coming off the bench, Johnson has given the Grizzlies energy and has been proficient on both ends of the floor. Though unexpected and despite his production not being overwhelming, Johnson’s overall contributions have been huge in Memphis.
9. Markieff Morris - Phoenix Suns
After showing flashes in his sophomore year and at Summer League this year, Markieff Morris has emerged as a key contributor for the upstart Phoenix Suns. Playing 25.6 minutes per game off of the bench this season, Morris has put up 12.9 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game while shooting 47.3 percent from the floor. While his defense is still not his strength, it has improved this season as he’s also picked up his offensive production and efficiency. Without his presence as a reserve, it’s hard to believe Phoenix would be in the position they’re in right now.
8. Nick Young - Los Angeles Lakers
Injuries have derailed Nick Young’s season as of late and the Los Angeles Lakers have been anything but successful this season. When on the floor, though, Young has been arguably the biggest offensive threat for L.A. Coming off of the bench in 40 of his 49 appearances, Young has put up 16.8 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game while shooting 42.1 percent overall and 35.2 percent from three. While he’s always going to have his moments of questionable thinking, you could argue that Young has been one of the few bright spots for the Lakers this season.
7. Mike Scott - Atlanta Hawks
While Mike Scott showed potential as a rookie with the Atlanta Hawks last season, it’s hard to imagine that they expected him to be as solid of a rotation player this season as he’s been. In 53 appearances, Scott has put up 9.7 points and 3.7 rebounds per game while shooting 49.2 percent from the floor and 37.2 percent from three. Particularly as of late as Atlanta has been struggling, Scott has been one of the few guys giving them consistent production this year. He’s not a household name yet, but he’s trying to change that with how he’s performing.
6. Patty Mills - San Antonio Spurs
The reserve point guard position for the San Antonio Spurs has been run by committee for a while now, but Patty Mills has taken firm control of that role with his play this season. In 56 games this year, Mills has put up 9.9 points, 1.7 assists and 1.8 boards in 18.2 minutes per game while shooting 46.8 percent from the floor and 41 percent from three. Mills has emerged as an explosive offensive threat for the Spurs and, though possibly a product of the system, has become an unlikely cog in their rotation.
5. Alec Burks - Utah Jazz
Alec Burks is burdened by playing with a struggling and work-in-progress Utah Jazz team this season, but that hasn’t stopped him from producing and paving his way into the league in his third season. Playing 27.4 minutes per game, the guard has averaged 13.7 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 0.8 steals per game while shooting 44.4 percent from the field and 34.7 percent from three. Burks has the ability to go off at any moment and has been a treat to watch, even amidst an often hard-to-watch Jazz season.
4. Dion Waiters - Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cleveland Cavaliers made the decision to bring Dion Waiters off of the bench to try and shake things up a few weeks into the season and while the Cavs are still looking for sustained success, the move has been beneficial to Waiters. After struggling to start the year, Waiters has averaged 14.5 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 28.1 minutes per game off of the bench this year while shooting 42.6 percent from the floor and 35.2 percent from three. Waiters has proven to have value as a sparkplug playing as a reserve and may have found his niche in the league.
3. Taj Gibson - Chicago Bulls
Taj Gibson has been a force for the never-say-die Chicago Bulls this season off of the bench. In 55 games, Gibson has put up 13 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.5 blocks in 29.3 minutes per game while converting on 48.3 percent of his shot attempts. Earning a role where he finishes out games at power forward for the Bulls, Gibson gives this team an added burst of athleticism and toughness when he checks into games and has done so consistently. He’s been seeing a starter’s workload, but him coming off of the bench lands him on this list.
2. Reggie Jackson - Oklahoma City Thunder
Reggie Jackson presents a bit of a conundrum in regards to this list as he’s played over half of his games as the starting point guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder, but only due to the absence of Russell Westbrook. In 27 games off of the bench, though, Jackson has been phenomenal. The guard has averaged 12.4 points, 3.4 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 0.7 steals in 25.3 minutes per game while shooting 45.5 percent from the floor and 31.5 percent from three. His energy has kept the Thunder’s offense rolling when Westbrook has needed a break. Though he’s not come off of the bench exclusively, his play can’t be ignored in regards to this list.
1. Jamal Crawford - Los Angeles Clippers
Jamal Crawford makes the Off-the-Bench All-Stars like clockwork and that hasn’t changed this season with the shifty guard once again giving a huge lift to the Los Angeles Clippers. Crawford is likely headed towards the Sixth Man of the Year Award, averaging 19.1 points, 3.3 assists and 2.3 rebounds in 31 minutes per game. Sure, he’s started his share of games due to injuries, but Crawford has always been at his best as a sixth man, which lands him on this list.