5 NBA Players Who Are Outplaying the Starters Ahead of Them

Scott BurnsCorrespondent IIIJanuary 30, 2013

5 NBA Players Who Are Outplaying the Starters Ahead of Them

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    Earning a starting position in the NBA takes a lot of skill and effort, but it also takes the ability to outplay the competition on your own team.  In order to break through as a starter, the challenger or backup has to really outperform his competition to get noticed.

    This season in the NBA, the trend has continued as some of the younger players are knocking on the old guard’s door and some older players are having a major resurgence. 

    There is also the sixth man component where some players play a lot better off the bench and are more comfortable with that role.

    In any case, here are the top five players that are outplaying the starters ahead of them.

Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs

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    Manu Ginobili is one of the NBA’s premier sixth men, winner of the 2007-08 Sixth Man of the Year Award and is a notoriously gritty and savvy player.  He is an 11-year veteran and understands where he needs to be on the court at all times.

    He is one of the core Spurs (along with Tim Duncan and Tony Parker) that runs Coach Gregg Popovich’s offense.  He is instant offense and is known for his behind the back dribbling, step back jumpers and brilliant Euro-step.

    In addition to his repertoire of moves, Ginobili is also known for his clutch three-point shooting.  He is currently shooting 37.5 percent behind the arc this season, which is right along his career average of 37.3 percent.

    Ginobili’s current averages for 2012-13 are 12.6 points, 4.4 assists and 3.6 repounds.  He also averages 1.5 steals per game and has a PER rating of 21.04.

    He currently comes in to replace starting guard Danny Green.  Green is a third-year player out of the University of North Carolina, who is being groomed to eventually replace Ginobili.  Green is improving his shooting (especially his three-point shooting) and his defense. 

    Green is a good character guy that Popovich likes in his system, but I just believe Ginobili brings more to the table on a nightly basis.

Jamal Crawford, Los Angeles Clippers

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    Jamal Crawford is a big reason that the Los Angeles Clippers are right at the top of the Western Conference.  Just like Ginobili, he is a former NBA Sixth Man Award winner as a member of the Atlanta Hawks.

    Crawford has kept that ace reserve role since that season and has dazzled off the bench as someone who can light up the scoreboard.  He also has some nasty handles, as Portland Trailblazers’ Wes Matthews can attest.

    Willie Green currently starts for the Clips at shooting guard, but he doesn’t put up the numbers or put on a show like Crawford.  Green currently averages 6.5 points, 0.9 assists and 1.4 rebounds per game.

    Crawford on the other hand, has had 17 games where he has scored 20 or more points. If he continues to meet his current season averages of 16.6 points, 2.5 assists and 1.7 rebounds per game, Crawford will continue to receive the most playing time.

Ryan Anderson, New Orleans Hornets

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    Ryan Anderson is the big man who is a deadly outside shooter yet physical enough to pull down a rebound. 

    He was a key pickup for the New Orleans Hornets during the offseason, but he is stuck behind a rock and a hard place, trying to find playing time behind this year's first overall pick, Anthony Davis, and center Robin Lopez.

    Anderson can be a matchup nightmare because of his versatility. Despite the presence of Davis and Lopez, Anderson has still managed to average 31.7 minutes per game.  Anderson plays the power forward position, but Davis has the ability to play both power forward and center. So, there is room for Anderson.

    Anderson currently averages 17.0 points, 6.7 rebounds and 0.3 blocks, shooting 39.5 percent from behind the arc.  Davis has averaged 12.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks. 

    Anderson is signed through the 2015-16 NBA season, so head coach Monty Williams will have to figure out a rotation to ensure Anderson gets his playing time.

J.R. Smith, New York Knicks

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    J.R. Smith is a well-traveled guard who has played for three NBA teams (Hornets, Nuggets and Knicks) and played in China during the NBA lockout.  He is another player who has excelled at the sixth man position.

    He is now in his second season with the New York Knicks, and he has exploded on the scene because of a changed perspective.  He has electrified the Madison Square Garden crowd with this alley-oop from Pablo Prigioni and hit this game-winning, walk-off three pointer in Phoenix.

    In terms of production, Smith doesn’t have a lot of competition.  James White had been starting until Iman Shumpert took over that position recently. 

    Smith could obviously be the starting shooting guard, but with what he produces from the bench, the Knicks are happy to have him where he is currently playing.  He is successful with the ball, but he is also dominating off the ball as his threat as a shooter and scorer frees up other teammates.

    Woodson is happy having a talent like Smith to call on and doesn’t mind getting a line of 16.2 points, 2.9 assists and five rebounds per bame.

Kevin Martin, Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Kevin Martin was the secondary figure in the huge offseason trade between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Houston Rockets.  Martin has picked up right where he left off in Houston—but now with a bench role on one of the NBA's true powerhouses.

    K-Mart is the Thunder’s sixth man, replacing the man for whom he was traded, James Harden.  Thabo Sefolosha starts at the shooting guard position, but Martin provides the offense.  He has contributed as a team player, fitting in well with the high-powered duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

    Martin has always been excellent at moving without the ball to get into positions where he can use his shooting skills. No different with the Thunder; K-Mart can put up a trey in a hurry, but he can also shoot from anywhere on the floor.

    He can also run and drive with the basketball.  As seen by this clip, K-Mart drives to the hole, scores and draws the foul.

    Martin is playing out the last year of his contract.  He is making $12.44 million this season and is looking for another deal in the prime of his career.  He would like to stay in OKC, but if he can’t, he is showing off his talent to the rest of the Association.

    Sefolosha is used primarily for his defensive ability, but K-Mart produces the necessary numbers to outscore opponents (15.1 PPG, 1.3 APG and 2.5 RPG).