The Portland Trail Blazers' bench can be summed up in one word so far this season: ineffective.
According to HoopsStats.com, the Blazers have the worst productive bench in the NBA, averaging a league-low 12.8 points per game—8.1 points per game fewer than the Los Angeles Lakers (20.9), who are 29th out of 30 teams.
Portland's five starters are all averaging double figures, but the next highest scorer is rookie center Meyers Leonard (4.0 ppg), who was considered several years away from being a legitimate threat offensively.
So how do the Blazers solve this?
Just last year, Portland had Jamal Crawford, who is in strong consideration for Sixth Man of the Year and is averaging nearly eight points more (20.3 ppg) than Portland's bench combined.
The simple solution is inserting Leonard into the starting lineup, and taking J.J. Hickson's 10.2 points per game to provide a spark off the bench (via Chris Haynes of Comcast Sports Northwest).
But there is no easy fix. Signing a free agent doesn't seem like a possibility, so the solution has to come from within.
If the Blazers are fully committed to their youth movement, then playing Sasha Pavlovic more than 16 minutes per game—the highest among the team's reserves—is not the answer. That is especially true when Portland is getting just 2.4 points per game from Pavlovic, who is a 10th-12th man at best.
The Blazers have some scoring potential off the bench.
Luke Babbitt, who was the team's first-round draft pick two years ago, was selected for his outside shooting. In the only game when he has played more than four minutes, Babbitt scored eight points in eight minutes against Oklahoma City on Nov. 2 (via Yahoo!).
Although he has been a Blazer for three seasons, Portland still doesn't really know what it has with Babbitt, who fans have compared to a potential Steve Novak-type player.
Rookie Will Barton, who was considered an explosive scorer after averaging 18 points per game at University of Memphis last season, has played sparingly but was drafted for his scoring ability.
“The bench was effective in the first half," Stotts told The Oregonian. "We were positive in the first half with the bench guys on the floor. Again, I’m more concerned about what happens on the court when they’re in the game than actual numbers, points, rebounds.”
Portland (2-3) has to get more from its reserves, or else its starters will be worn out by midseason.
Moving Hickson to the bench and Leonard to the starting lineup can be an answer. But the Blazers have to know what they have with Babbitt, Barton, along with rookies Joel Freeland and Victor Claver—all who have potential to average more than two points per game—and play them a little more.
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