The Least Valuable Member of Every NBA Finals Team of the Last 15 Years

Ben ShapiroAnalyst IIIJune 23, 2012

The Least Valuable Member of Every NBA Finals Team of the Last 15 Years

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    MVP debates are fun, but what about LVP debates? 

    You know, the "least valuable player." 

    Every NBA team has one guy—sometimes two, but usually one—who pretty much rides the pine. He's like that senior on a NCAA team who gets one start his whole college career—on Senior Night. 

    Who are these guys? Where do they come from, and what, if any, role do they serve on the very successful teams who pay them and keep them on the bench.

    In order to be eligible for this slideshow, the player had to be on the team's active roster during the playoffs.

    That means that Eddy Curry is actually not eligible. He wasn't "active" for the 2012 playoffs with the Heat.

    Don't worry though, there have been plenty of LVP candidates over the years.  

    Let the "LVP" debate begin. 

2012 Miami Heat: Dexter Pittman

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    Dexter Pittman 2012 Playoffs: 3 games, 8 minutes, 0 points 

    Dexter Pittman's name actually might sound familiar to some people. That's because it was Pittman who delivered one of the 2012 postseason's uglier fouls.

    That act of thuggery earned Pittman a three-game suspension. It was in retaliation for a taunting "choke" sign that Pacers forward Lance Stephenson had directed towards Heat star LeBron James in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. 

    Even if Pittman hadn't been suspended, he didn't seem destined to play a pivotal role in the Heat's triumphant postseason run.

    Pittman, a 6'11" second-year center out of the University of Texas, only averaged 8.4 minutes per game during the regular season.

    His 2012 postseason would have been totally uneventful had it not been for his cheap shot on Lance Stephenson.

    Even with the foul, Stephenson's playoff role was pretty much sitting on the bench.  

2012 Oklahoma City Thunder (Runner-Up) : Lazar Hayward

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    Lazar Hayward 2012 Playoffs: 4 games, 14 minutes, 2 points.

    Lazar Hayward was actually a first-round pick in the 2010 NBA draft. Okay, so it was the 30th pick of the first round, but it was the first round nonetheless. 

    As of now, the 6'6" forward out of Marquette is waiting for just the right time to unleash his hoops skills on the NBA.

    Clearly Scott Brooks is unimpressed. During the regular season, Hayward averaged 5.4 minutes and 1.4 points per game. Once the playoffs started, Brooks was clearly not comfortable flippantly handing Hayward 5.4 minutes, so he cut them to 3.5 minutes a game.

    Stay patient, Lazar.  

2011 Miami Heat (Runner-Up) : Jamaal Magloire

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    Jamaal Magloire 2011 Playoffs: 3 games, 18 minutes, 4 points.

    Somewhere within the very broad range between a player like Eddy Curry and a player like Lazar Hayward exists a guy like Jamaal Magloire.

    A 6'11" athlete who left Kentucky early (that never happens, right?) to enter the 2000 NBA draft, Magloire was a center who started for a number of NBA seasons. He even averaged a double-double in 2003-2004.

    That type of production was in the rear-view mirror by the time the 2011 postseason was upon us.

    Magloire sat and watched as LeBron and the rest of Miami's "big three" set off to win one of the numerous NBA titles they were clearly destined to win.

    That didn't happen. Instead, Magloire had a really good view of a Dallas Mavericks team that would not be denied.  

2011 Dallas Mavericks: Corey Brewer

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    Corey Brewer 2011 Playoffs: 6 games, 23 minutes, 9 points. 

    Corey Brewer is one of the more talented, active members of this list. A superb athlete out of Florida, Brewer was the No. 7 overall pick of the 2007 NBA draft. 

    Playing on an exceptionally deep Mavericks team during the 2011 playoffs Brewer was just buried on Rick Carlisle's bench.

    Over most of his career, Brewer has played a more pivotal role on whatever team he's been on. Not during the 2011 finals, though. 

2010 Boston Celtics (Runner-Up): Brian Scalabrine

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    Brian Scalabrine 2010 Playoffs: 1 game, 1 minute, 0 points 

    Maybe this was just an effort to make Celtics fans feel better about wasting a second-round pick in the 1992 NBA draft on Darren Morningstar

    Whatever the reason was, the Celtics who were not even remotely led by Brian Scalabrine during the 2010 regular season, allowed him to contribute even less during the Celtics run to the 2010 NBA Finals.

    Yes those above numbers are correct: one game, one minute, zero points. That was it for the whole playoffs.

    Tough to be less valuable than that.  

2010 Los Angles Lakers: Didier Ilunga-Mbenga

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    Didier Ilunga-Mbenga 2010 Playoffs: 3 games, 12 minutes, 5 points 

    I've watched a lot of basketball in my life. I basically had no idea who this was, though. As it turns out, Phil Jackson didn't seem to know who he was either. 

    An undrafted 31-year-old, 7'0" center who hails from the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Africa, Ilunga-Mbenga was a seldom—very seldom—used player at the end of the 2010 NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers bench.

    What's impressive is the fact that Ilunga-Mbenga was able to commit seven fouls in the 12 minutes of playing time he got during the 2010 playoffs.  

2009 Orlando Magic (Runner-Up): Jeremy Richardson

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    Jeremy Richardson 2009 Playoffs: 1 game, 2 minutes, 0 points. 

    I've really got to brush up on my NBA knowledge, because this is another player who I really hadn't heard of. 

    Richardson was the ninth pick in the second round of the 2006 NBA D-League Draft.

    Yep, Richardson was a second-round pick—for the D-League.

    To his credit, the 6'6" swingman worked his way onto a number of NBA rosters. That's where he maxed out, though—at the end of the bench in the NBA.  

2009 Los Angeles Lakers: Didier Ilunga-Mbenga

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    Didier Ilunga-Mbenga 2009 Playoffs: 7 games, 16 minutes, 2 points

    Didier Ilunga-Mbenga earned his first of two rings when he was an almost completely inconsequential contributor to the 2008-2009 Los Angeles Lakers. 

    To Ilunga-Mbenga's credit, he played foul-free basketball on this playoff run.  

2008 Los Angeles Lakers (Runner-Up): Ira Newble

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    Ira Newble 2008 Playoffs: 1 game, 1 minute, 0 points 

    Ira Newble was a 6'7" NBA journeyman who just happened to find himself at the end—the very end—of the Los Angeles Lakers bench during the 2008 playoffs. 

    Newble played on five different NBA teams over the course of a an eight-year NBA career. 

    He barely played at all during the 2008 playoffs though, and he has not played since. 

2008 Boston Celtics: Tony Allen

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    Tony Allen 2008 Playoffs: 15 games, 65 minutes, 20 points

    How deep were the 2008 Boston Celtics? 

    Tony Allen, who spent a fair amount of time starting for the Memphis Grizzlies this past season, was the 12th man.

    As it turns out, even the end of the bench got time to contribute on the Celtics' run to their first title since 1986.

    Allen ended up averaging a whopping (for this slideshow, at least) 4.3 minutes and 1.3 points per game for the postseason. 


2007 Cleveland Cavaliers (Runner-Up): Shannon Brown

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    Shannon Brown 2007 Playoffs: 1 game, 0 minutes, 0 points

    Shannon Brown has gotten a lot more playing time since being buried at the end of Mike Brown's bench during the 2007 playoffs. 

    Back then, Brown was a 21-year-old rookie, a first-round pick (No. 25) in the 2006 NBA draft. Brown didn't even register an official minute of playing time during the 2007 playoffs. 

    Brown has certainly improved since then. 

2007 San Antonio Spurs: Beno Udrih

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    Beno Udrih 2007 Playoffs: 8 games, 20 minutes, 2 points

    Beno Udrih was the 28th overall pick in the 2004 NBA draft by the San Antonio Spurs. 

    He never caught on in San Antonio, and following the 2007 finals, his three-year contract was up. Udrih left Texas for Sacramento, where his career took off. He averaged 12.8 points per game for the Kings in the 2007-2008 season. 

    In the 2006-2007 season, he was an end-of-the-bench guy for Gregg Popovich's Spurs. 

    Udrih is now in Milwaukee; he's got a ring (two of them actually) from his Spurs days. 

2006 Dallas Mavericks (Runner-Up): Josh Powell

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    Josh Powell 2006 Playoffs: 6 games, 25 minutes, 0 points

    Josh Powell actually went to the NBA finals three times in his career. He was a role player, not an LVP type, but a marginal role player on the two Los Angeles Lakers' title-winning teams in 2009 and 2010. 

    In 2006, he was a nearly nonexistent presence for the Dallas Mavericks. Powell's 6'9" frame was barely utilized by the Mavericks in their run to an eventual loss in the finals at the hands of Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat. 

2006 Miami Heat: Jason Kapono

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    Jason Kapono 2006 Playoffs: 1 game, 2 minutes, 0 points 

    Jason Kapono actually started two games during the regular season for the Miami Heat in 2005-2006. 

    Once the playoffs started, the former second-round pick of the Cleveland Cavaliers found himself buried at the very end of a veteran-laden Miami Heat team. 

    Kapono only got into one game, and he only played two minutes. 

2005 Detroit Pistons (Runner-Up): Darko Milicic

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    Darko Milicic 2005 Playoffs: 9 games, 21 minutes, 5 points 

    To say that these aren't the types of numbers the Pistons envisioned when they selected Darko Milicic No. 2 overall in the 2003 NBA draft would be an understatement. 

    Unfortunately, that's what Detroit got out of one of the biggest busts in NBA history. 

    Darko is still in the league. He's a better player now than he was back then, but he's not going to come close to living up to the expectations lavished upon him as the No. 2 overall pick.

2005 San Antonio Spurs: Tony Massenburg

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    Tony Massenburg 2005 Playoffs: 9 games, 28 minutes, 3 points

    Tony Massenburg knows a lot about sitting on the bench. Over a 13-year NBA career, Massenburg only started 233 games. That's about 18 a season. 

    By the time he was a member of the 2005 Spurs, Massenburg was 37 years old. Head Coach Greg Popovich used him sparingly—very sparingly. Massenburg still got a ring for his efforts, which were minimal. 

2004 Los Angeles Lakers (Runner-Up): Bryon Russell

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    Bryon Russell 2004 Playoffs: 6 games, 16 minutes, 0 points 

    Yes, that Bryon Russell.

    Russell, who had played a prominent role on the Utah Jazz when they lost the 1998 finals to the Chicago Bulls, followed Karl Malone to the Los Angeles Lakers in hopes of grabbing the elusive "ring."

    Russell didn't find the ring. The Lakers imploded around him as Kobe and Shaq's disdain for each other overwhelmed the Lakers chemistry. Russell, who had an exceptional view of Michael Jordan's finals-clinching shot in 1998, got a decent internal view of the imploding Lakers in 2004 as well.  

2004 Detroit Pistons: Darko Milicic

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    Darko Milicic 2004 Playoffs: 8 games, 14 minutes, 1 point

    A two-time LVP winner, Darko was a prominent benchwarmer for nearly his entire stay in Detroit.

    The 2004 finals earned Darko a ring. Given how little he actually played in the postseason, people can debate how much Darko earned that ring.   

2003 New Jersey Nets (Runner-Up) : Tamar Slay

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    Tamar Slay 2003 Playoffs: 6 games, 11 minutes, 3 points

    Brian Scalabrine was in the running here. Scalabrine did some serious benchwarming for the 49-win 2003 New Jersey Nets. 

    Slay really did provide less in the Nets playoff run, though. 

    Tamar Slay was a rookie out of Marshall, and unfortunately for him, his NBA career would only last two more years. 

2003 San Antonio Spurs: Steve Smith

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    Steve Smith 2003 Playoffs: 9 games, 66 minutes, 16 points

    Unlike several other benchwarmers in this slideshow, Steve Smith was not a career 12th man, nor a draft bust. 

    Smith was a top-five pick out of Michigan State in the 1991 draft. 

    By the time 2003 rolled around, he was nearing the conclusion of a solid NBA career.

    Smith didn't have a ring, and by linking up with the Spurs, he knew he'd have a good shot at one, even if it meant a serious cut in playing time.

    The trade-off paid off; Smith didn't play much during the Spurs' run to the NBA title, but he got a ring for his efforts.  

2002 New Jersey Nets ( Runner-Up) : Donny Marshall

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    Donny Marshall 2002 Playoffs: 7 games, 14 minutes, 3 points

    No, not Donyell Marshall. Donny Marshall was a less talented player who, like Donyell, also emerged from the University of Connecticut. 

    Marshall was in and out of the NBA from the time he was drafted in the second round of the 1995 draft by Cleveland. He played in five different seasons and never once started a game.

    The 2002 playoffs were business as usual for Marshall, who routinely sat for whole games and only saw limited action. 

2002 Los Angeles Lakers: Mitch Richmond

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    Mitch Richmond 2002 Playoffs: 2 games, 4 minutes, 3 points

    Similar to Steve Smith, Mitch Richmond was a former starter, and a former All-Star as well. 

    Richmond was part of the "RUN-TMC" Golden State Warriors of the late 1980s. He was the fifth overall pick in the 1988 NBA draft. 

    For most of his career, Richmond averaged over 20 points per game, playing on mediocre teams such as Golden State, Sacramento and Washington. 

    At the age of 36, he signed with the Lakers to finally experience winning, and that's what he got to do as the Lakers cruised to their third consecutive ring. Richmond didn't play much, but he wasn't there for minutes. 

2001 Philadelphia 76ers (Runner-Up) : Rodney Buford

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    Rodney Buford 2001 Playoffs: 15 games, 72 minutes, 21 points

    Rodney Buford received more playing time than many other LVPs in this slideshow. Ironically enough, if your name wasn't "Allen Iverson" or "Dikembe Mutombo," then your value to the 2001 76ers was pretty limited. 

    Buford was the end-of-the-bench guy, though. 

    That was a frequent role for Buford, who played for five different teams over the course of his five-year NBA career. 

2001 Los Angeles Lakers: Greg Foster

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    Greg Foster 2001 Playoffs: 1 game, 3 minutes, 0 points

    By 2001, Greg Foster was an NBA journeyman nearing the end of his NBA journey. 

    That meant that a player who had never received a ton of playing time over his 11-year career would see even less time on the floor. 

    Foster actually started eight games during the regular season, but once the playoffs started, Phil Jackson went with his stronger players (everyone else).

    Foster barely left the bench for the 2001 postseason. That meant he had great seats, as the Lakers went on one of the more impressive postseason runs in modern NBA history. 

2000 Indiana Pacers (Runner-Up) : Jonathan Bender

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    Jonathan Bender 2000 Playoffs: 9 games, 21 minutes, 12 points

    This was a "Darko-esque" scenario. 

    Bender wasn't the No. 2 pick, but he was selected fifth overall in the 1999 draft fresh out of high school. 

    Expectations were high, and they were also dashed. 

    Bender wasn't expected to contribute that much as a 19-year-old rookie, but he never came close to living up to the expectations of a No. 5 pick. 

    Head Coach Larry Bird probably wasn't going to play a rookie against the Lakers in the NBA Finals, but Bender certainly didn't do much to make Bird question that decision. 

    That trend would continue for Bender, as his career never panned out. 

2000 Los Angeles Lakers: Devean George

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    Devean George 2000 Playoffs: 9 games, 45 minutes, 22 points

    Experienced coaches with great teams don't play inconsistent rookies when the games matter most. 

    That's basically the reason that athletic rookie Devean George saw less minutes than any other member of the Lakers in the 2000 postseason. 

    Sure, he had a higher upside than fellow benchwarmers such as John "Spider" Salley or Travis Knight, but George was not experienced enough for Phil Jackson to hand over minutes. 

1999 New York Knicks (Runner-Up): Herb Williams

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    Herb Williams 1999 Playoffs: 8 games, 16 minutes, 2 points

    Even with injuries to key players, Knicks head coach Jeff Van Gundy still wasn't able to rationalize more than 16 minutes for Herb Williams on the run to the NBA Finals.

    Williams, who has been a fixture on the Knicks bench both as a player and as a coach, was used very sparingly throughout the NBA playoffs in 1999. Williams was 40 years old and in the final year of an 18-year career.

    Williams wasn't always an end-of-the-bench type of player. He was a starter for the Pacers for much of the 1980s and averaged close to 20 points per game in 1984-1985 and 1985-1986. Williams made two trips to the finals, both with the Knicks in 1994 and 1999. He never won a ring. 

1999 San Antonio Spurs: Gerard King

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    Gerard King 1999 Playoffs: 8 games, 14 minutes, 4 points

    Gerard King was a 6'9" power forward out of Nichols State University who was never drafted. 

    He eventually worked his way into the NBA, where he spent a total of three seasons. The first season was as a seldom-used bench player for the San Antonio Spurs.

    He was even more seldom used in the playoffs. Head coach Gregg Popovich was not too inclined to take minutes away from guys like Tim Duncan, David Robinson, Malik Rose, Jerome Kersey or Will Purdue.

    King got a ring, then went to play two years for the Washington Wizards. His NBA career ended after three seasons.  

1998 Utah Jazz (Runner-Up) : Jacque Vaughn

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    Jacque Vaughn 1998 Playoffs: 7 games, 24 minutes, 7 points

    Jacque Vaughn received a crash course in the vast differences between playing at the NCAA level and the NBA level. 

    Vaughn was a rookie in the 1997-1998 season. A late first-round pick, (No. 27) of the Utah Jazz out of the University of Kansas, Vaughn was an All-American, a starting point guard and a team leader for Roy Williams' Jayhawks squads. 

    He was just a little-used rookie for Jerry Sloan's Utah Jazz, though. When you're playing on a team with the NBA's all-time assist leader in John Stockton, you spend a lot more time watching than playing. 

    When you get to the NBA Finals and your opponent is the two-time defending NBA champion Chicago Bulls...well, you'll do even more watching. 

1998 Chicago Bulls: Jud Buechler

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    Jud Buechler 1998 Playoffs: 16 games, 64 minutes, 11 points

    Jud Buechler was a popular member of the Chicago Bulls. When he entered games, it generally meant the games were out of reach, and since these were the Bulls under Michael Jordan, those "out of reach" games were generally wins. 

    Even in the playoffs, Buechler received more minutes than most of the other LVPs in this slideshow. 

    Bulls head coach Phil Jackson seemed to appreciate the quality minutes he gave the team, even if the minutes were somewhat limited. 

    Buechler was a role player on all three of the Chicago Bulls' title-winning teams of the mid-'90s. In seven NBA seasons, Buechler was able to win three rings—not bad at all.