Every NBA team has at least one specialist—one player who excels at a particular element of the game. The skill could be three-point shooting, defense, rebounding or even scoring points in bunches.
These men do not get starter's minutes, often no more than 20 per game. They primarily come off the bench and live in the shadows of their team's superstars. However, their ability to dominate in one category makes them fan favorites.
Steve Novak of the Knicks (pictured) has won over the hard-to-please New York fans with his electrifying three-point shooting, and Reggie Evans has become a rebounding machine across the river in Brooklyn.
Both men are among the best at their skill and represent just a small sample of the premier specialists that exist around the Association.
Note: All stats are accurate as of Nov. 28.
A player who can come off the bench during an offensive lull and immediately provide a burst of scoring is best defined as a spark plug.
Jamal Crawford has filled this role ever since the 2009-10 season. Playing for the Atlanta Hawks, he averaged 18.0 points per game off the bench and was named Sixth Man of the Year.
The former Michigan Wolverine has put up similar numbers for the Los Angeles Clippers this season. Crawford is averaging 17.5 points over 28.7 minutes per contest, proving that he can still drain shots from anywhere on the hardwood.
His explosive presence is just what the Clippers need to get deep into playoffs this season.
Runners-Up: Manu Ginobili, J.R. Smith
Steve Novak is one of the league's best three-point shooters because, well, it's all he really does. He is only averaging 7.8 points in 22.8 minutes per game, but has shot 42 percent from long range—a number that should be trending upwards.
Last season, he led the NBA in three-point percentage, making an unbelievable 47 percent of his shots from deep.
Novak can also be quite the spark if given enough playing time. In the Knicks' victory against the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night, he played a season-high 40 minutes and scored 19 points. He was 7-of-10 from the field and 5-of-7 from long range.
Still, his primary purpose is to be a shooter off the bench, and he has filled that role perfectly for the Knicks. Opposing teams are starting to take notice, too, locking down their defense on the man known as "Novakaine."
Runners-Up: Kyle Korver, Mike Dunleavy
Reggie Evans may be undersized at 6'8''—and a questionable 6'8'' at that—but he has always been an excellent rebounder. He has averaged 6.8 per game for his career and is averaging 8.6 over 19.5 minutes per contest for the Brooklyn Nets this season.
Evans' minutes on the court may seem inadequate, but the fact that he is able to pull down that many boards in that short amount of time is astounding. That's 15.8 rebounds per 36 minutes, which is incredible considering how Evans is smaller than all of the league's top rebounders, including Anderson Varejao, Dwight Howard and the like.
The man simply knows his role and how to make the most of his time on the court. He only played 18 minutes in his team's recent overtime victory against the New York Knicks, but pulled down 14 rebounds, six of which came on the offensive end.
When it comes to rebounding, it's hard to find anyone as focused as Evans.
Runners-Up: Kris Humphries, Thaddeus Young
The job of a pest is simple: Play lockdown defense to keep the other team's best player out of the game offensively.
Tony Allen has done this very thing for the Memphis Grizzlies since joining the team in the 2010-11 season. He has made life difficult for many a top scorer and averaged 1.8 steals per contest along the way.
Allen is also able to chip in on offense every so often. He is currently averaging 8.0 points per game, and while he may not be the most accurate shooter, that is not his place. His best trait is his defense, where he ranks among the most frustrating players to go up against.
Runners-Up: Thabo Sefolosha, Al-Farouq Aminu
Serge Ibaka led the league with 3.7 blocks per game last season, but lost Defensive Player of the Year honors to New York Knicks center Tyson Chandler. He has continued his shot-blocking ways this year, currently leading the league with 3.1 per game and making himself a favorite for this year's top defensive honor.
Air Congo has great height and length at 6'10" and is the best defensive player on the Oklahoma City Thunder. He helps center Kendrick Perkins plenty on the glass, but swatting balls away is his most valuable skill.
Ibaka is only 23 years old and already has nearly 600 blocks for his career. Hakeem Olajuwan should be worried about his spot atop the all-time list.
Runners-Up: Derrick Favors, DeAndre Jordan