The 2013 NBA Finals will be greatly affected by each team’s bench players. Although the most exciting stars in the game are usually starters, the San Antonio Spurs' and Miami Heat’s bench will prove to be difference-makers.
Reaching the NBA Finals is a difficult task that requires more than just a few good players. It takes an entire team effort to play 48 minutes of quality basketball.
The Spurs and Heat are the two best teams this year due in large part to their fantastic bench play.
In order to win the Finals, each team will need multiple bench players to step up and create a major impact.
San Antonio Spurs
Manu Ginobili was a certified superstar just a few seasons ago. Even though the 35-year-old is getting up there in age, he’s still a vital part of San Antonio’s success.
Ginobili now comes off the bench, but he still plays starter minutes. This postseason he’s averaging more than 25 minutes per game.
The Argentine is the biggest X-factor for Gregg Popovich and the Spurs. He’s talented enough to still score close to 20 points and rain in multiple three-pointers at any given time.
In the playoffs thus far, Ginobili has averaged more than 11 points, five assists and four rebounds. If he can continue to put up well-rounded numbers, he’ll be a difference-maker all series.
The other Spurs bench player that will create an impact is center Boris Diaw.
Diaw won’t put up any staggering numbers like Ginobili, but he gives the team a solid presence in the paint.
The Heat will be looking to get both Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter in foul trouble to open up the middle. Diaw will be the next in line to clog that hole to prevent people like LeBron James from getting uncontested layups.
Diaw is averaging close to 20 minutes per game in these playoffs. If he can play solid defense and prevent Miami players from getting offensive rebounds, he’ll make a difference.
Similar to Ginobili, Ray Allen is just a few seasons off from being one of the best players in the NBA. The 37-year-old is showing signs of aging and knows this might be his last opportunity to acquire another championship ring.
In the 2013 playoffs, Allen’s averaging 10 points off the bench on only 39 percent shooting. In the regular season, that number was up around 45 percent.
What makes him so dangerous is his ability to catch fire from the outside. With James being able to penetrate the paint, Allen should have plenty of open looks to knock down threes.
In Game 7 against the Indiana Pacers, Allen was 3-of-5 from behind the arc. If he can shoot with efficiency, he’ll create a lot of problems for the Spurs.
Chris “Birdman” Andersen
Chris “Birdman” Andersen has been the most surprising player in the postseason. Despite being suspended for Game 6 because of shoving Tyler Hansbrough, Andersen has been the most consistent Heat player next to LeBron.
Through 15 playoff games, the Birdman is averaging more than seven points, four rebounds and a block. The astonishing thing about his play is how consistently he’s shooting. Even though most of his buckets come from close looks or put-backs, Andersen is shooting a ridiculous 83 percent.
Beyond his consistency, the Birdman brings a certain attitude off the bench that affects both the players and Heat fans. His high-energy play ignites everyone and has clearly raised the team’s performance when he’s in the game.
Andersen has been the perfect spark for this Heat team and may just be the piece that gets them another Larry O’Brien Trophy.