The NBA isn’t always a strict meritocracy. That tough-to-swallow reality might seem unfair, but it’s blatantly obvious in the lineup constructions of virtually every team.
Across the league, good players languish on the bench while generally inferior options see the court ahead of them. It’s particularly en vogue in today’s NBA to insert a defensively oriented wing into the starting lineup ahead of a more dangerous scorer or playmaker.
In recent times, we have Gregg Popovich’s use of Manu Ginobili to thank for this strategy. However, the scoring sixth man has been around for a while.
It’s hard to fault what Popovich does with Ginobili, or what copycat coaches are doing with Jamal Crawford, J.R. Smith, Jason Terry, Lou Williams and even Carl Landry. But the use of a bench gunner—or bruiser in Landry's case—to anchor the second unit is a limited exception to the rule that the five best players at each position should be starting.
In the cases this article examines, we are excluding the guys mentioned above. Let's call it the "Ginobili Justification Theory."
What we're left with is a number of reserves who are outplaying their competition in the starting lineup, but still aren't taking the court for tip-off. The guys on this list fit better in their teams' starting lineups and have outplayed their starting counterparts so far.
Here are 10 NBA super-subs who are ready for—and deserving of—a starting role.
Note: Stats from Nov. 13