The LA Clippers and the Top 5 Benches in the NBA
The NBA may be built by its superstars, but without a superb bench teams never win championships.
With the holiday season upon us, we need to thank the best benches in the league that make life easy for their starters.
Last year Lou Williams led the league in scoring off the bench, boosting the Philadelphia 76ers to the third-highest bench production in the NBA.
This season, Jamal Crawford leads all bench scorers with 16 points per game. Does that mean his Los Angeles Clippers boast the best bench in the NBA?
To answer that question, here are the five most versatile and efficient benches in the NBA.
No. 5: Charlotte Bobcats
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It may seem contradictory to place a team that has lost 15 straight in the top five, but the Charlotte Bobcats bench has played quite well this season.
Averaging close to 40 points per game, the Bobcats bench works hard to replace the starters' deficit in talent on a nightly basis. Michael Jordan's acquisitions have bolstered the complete lineup.
The biggest name off the bench is ex-Detroit Pistons star Ben Gordon. The 29-year-old is averaging 12.8 points per game in just under 22 minutes of action. Gordon is effectively shooting 42 percent from behind the arc while also leading the team in scoring on numerous nights.
Another guard who has sparked the Bobcats attack off the bench is Ramon Sessions, formerly of the Los Angeles Lakers. Sessions is averaging 14 points per game but is shooting a career-low 39 percent from the field.
Regardless of their percentages, these two players are scoring points for a team ranked last in that department last season.
To round out the bench, Hakim Warrick and Brendan Haywood provide valuable minutes down low for the Bobcats.
No. 4: Denver Nuggets
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After leading the league in bench scoring last season, the Denver Nuggets remain efficient but not as efficient as last season in terms of bench effectiveness.
George Karl is loaded with talent on his bench starting with Corey Brewer on the perimeter. Brewer has seen an increased role with this team after the departure of guard Arron Afflalo, posting over 11 points per contest.
To complement Brewer's speed on the point is 13-year veteran Andre Miller. Miller has an impressive 15 PER this season alongside his five assists and just under nine points per game.
Down low, new-look JaVale McGee adds athleticism and toughness to the Nuggets bench.
The Nuggets bench shoots 48 percent from the field in an average of 17 minutes of action per night, placing them head-and-heels above teams that did not make the list.
No. 3: Milwaukee Bucks
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The Milwaukee Bucks are two games over .500 due largely to their improved bench. After starting the season behind the eight ball, the Bucks are using balanced play to stay in the playoff hunt.
The bench averages 37 points per game and is led by utility man Mike Dunleavy Jr. He is averaging 10 points and just under five rebounds per contest while shooting an impressive 42 percent from three-point land.
Ersan Ilyasova signed a five-year, $40 million contract this offseason. So far this year, Ilyasova has continued to play scrappy basketball on both ends of the court with eight points, five rebounds and half a steal per night.
The Bucks also have great role players in Ekpe Udoh, Drew Gooden and Doron Lamb. The bench is not only keeping games close but also growing leads on the scoreboard, scoring 11 more points per game than the opposition's second unit.
No. 2: San Antonio Spurs
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When Tony Parker and Tim Duncan take time off the court, the Spurs bench plays effective basketball without missing a beat.
The San Antonio Spurs recently played an entire game on November 29 without four of their best players and still battled the Miami Heat to the wire, losing 105-100.
The best bench player on the Spurs, Manu Ginóbili, would start on almost every team in the league.
What makes San Antonio great is that outside of Ginóbili, the bench is loaded with a great complement of players.
Gary Neal, Matt Bonner and Boris Diaw all shoot the deep ball effectively.
Kawhi Leonard is a budding superstar, averaging 10 points and five rebounds in his limited time off the bench. And Patrick Mills can score when given the chance.
The Spurs bench is also selfless, leading the league with 11 assists per game. This unit is balanced, loaded and efficient, shooting 48 percent per contest.
Coach Gregg Popovich has never been afraid to use his bench, and once again, it is built to last for the long haul.
No. 1: Los Angeles Clippers
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"A Tribe Called Bench" is leading the league in almost every category even without Chauncey Billups and Grant Hill, who are set to return from injury in the coming weeks.
Jamal Crawford, Eric Bledsoe, Matt Barnes, Lamar Odom and Ronny Turiaf receive the most minutes off the bench for the Los Angeles Clippers.
This unit was a weakness for the Clippers last season but now is the team's greatest strength.
Bledsoe aka "Mini-LeBron" is an explosive point guard who uses his freakish athleticism to make sensational plays on defense and at the basket.
Barnes is an elite defender who is playing the most inspired basketball of his career in his second stint in Los Angeles.
Odom has finally lost weight from the summer and is starting to score and rebound at a prolific rate.
Scoring 41 points per game, this unit has been solid all season and has alleviated pressure from the starters by playing extensive fourth-quarter minutes.