The NBA's 5 Deepest Teams Heading into Next Season
The NBA released its 2012-13 schedule on Thursday, and with that, the anticipation is already palpable for next season.
The Miami Heat open their title defense on October 30 against the new-look Boston Celtics. The matchup will pit new Heat guard Ray Allen against his former squad, while serving as a rematch to the teams' classic seven-game series in the Eastern Conference finals.
Allen's move effectively ended the five-year Big Three run in Boston but left the Celtics with a ton of leftover salary cap space. In Allen's place come six new players to the roster, giving the formerly bench-depraved Celtics one of the deepest rosters in the league.
It seems that instead of out-Big Threeing the Heat, Celtics general manager Danny Ainge will look to beat Miami with depth next season.
Who are the other teams that hope depth helps them topple the Miami reign? Here's a look at the five deepest teams in the NBA for 2012-13.
New York Knicks
Key Offseason Additions: Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby, Ronnie Brewer, Kurt Thomas
2011-12 Bench PPG: 29.5 (21st in the NBA)
A year-and-a-half after eviscerating their bench depth to acquire star Carmelo Anthony from the Denver Nuggets, it finally seems like the Knicks will have something resembling a bench next season.
It will be an old, creaky bench where the players could go down at any moment, but it's a talented bench nonetheless.
The 39-year-old Kurt Thomas and especially 38-year-old Marcus Camby should provide solid defensive spell minutes for Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler. Likewise, Ronnie Brewer is an expert perimeter defender. If coach Mike Woodson doesn't ask any of those three to contribute offensively, they will all prove to be cheap gems.
On the flip side, Jason Kidd, 39, is a defensive cadaver. Regardless, he's one of the smartest point guards in the league and still makes a beautiful open-court pass.
If Woodson correctly deploys his bench, the Knicks could have one of the most well-rounded benches in the NBA.
Key Offseason Additions: Alexey Shved, Dante Cunningham, Brandon Roy, Andrei Kirilenko
2011-12 Bench PPG: 34.7 (sixth in the NBA)
Kirilenko and Roy will likely start for the Timberwolves next season, but their addition provides Minnesota's already strong bench with even more depth.
Unless the "bust" rap continues to follow Derrick Williams, the team's No. 2 overall pick in 2011, he should be able to easily transition to a sixth-man role in his second NBA season.
Shved, a 23-year-old Russian import, is a sweet-shooting combo guard who will (at the very least) provide a gunner from beyond the arc and some backup point guard minutes.
Coach Rick Adelman should also be able to set more of a regular rotation in 2012-13 as well. This past season, the Timberwolves had an abundance of mediocrity at spots, and that seemed to cause the rotation to constantly fluctuate.
If everyone performs up to their talent level, Minnesota should have no trouble finding the top 10 in bench scoring again next season.
Key Additions: Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, Jared Sullinger, Jeff Green (return from injury), Fab Melo, Jason Collins
2011-12 Bench PPG: 21.4 (29th in the NBA)
The last time the Celtics had a bench that even ranked in the top 20 of the NBA was 2007-08, also known as Boston's first and only championship of the Big Three era.
That all should change next season.
Despite Ray Allen's departure, the Celtics will throw out two shooting guards off the bench who could be better. Jason Terry is the type of microwave bench scorer Boston has lacked since James Posey, and Courtney Lee is a three-point-gunning lockdown defender who is just 26 years old.
In addition, Jeff Green returns from the heart condition that kept him out all this past season, and drafting Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo should do nothing but help a 36-year-old Kevin Garnett.
In what was supposed to be the beginning of a rebuild, Celtics general manager Danny Ainge simply hit the reload button and re-opened Boston's title hopes.
San Antonio Spurs
Key Additions: Boris Diaw (re-signed), Nando de Colo
2011-12 Bench PPG: 41.4 (second in the NBA)
If it ain't broke, don't fix it. And the last thing the Spurs bench was this past season was broken.
The team seemingly pulled D-Leaguers like Gary Neal, picked up unwanted veterans like Boris Diaw and Stephen Jackson and put their eggs in the Manu Ginobili basket and came out with one of the best benches in recent memory.
All of the major players return next season, and the team also staged a major coup in finally bringing over French combo guard Nando de Colo.
Tony Parker's Olympic teammate will likely serve as the point guard's backup and will undoubtedly improve on the performance of Patty Mills and T.J. Ford from this past season.
With the entire Spurs core now in their thirties, the bench's role for Gregg Popovich's squad will only continue to grow.
Key Additions: Evan Fournier, Anthony Randolph
2011-12 Bench PPG: 41.5 (first in the NBA)
With the additions of Evan Fournier and Anthony Randolph, the Nuggets' already-robust bench got even better this offseason.
Randolph and Fournier will likely take the minutes of departed cogs Rudy Fernandez and Chris Andersen. In both cases, the newbies are a massive upgrade over their predecessors.
That means Denver should once again look like the deepest team in the Association next season. By my count, the Nuggets have 11 guys who are unequivocally good enough to be a part of an NBA rotation. Six or seven of their players could start for more than half of the league's teams.
For the regular season, that means coach George Karl has an abundance of different looks he can throw at the opposition. But as we've seen the past two years, that hasn't translated to postseason success.
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