Ranking the NBA's Best Super Subs
Each of the NBA's best super subs will have an opportunity to win Sixth Man of the Year honors in 2013-14.
Three of the super subs highlighted on this list finished among the top three in Sixth Man of the Year voting a season ago. Others are transitioning from a starting role in which they made a significant impact in 2012-13 into a new role now off the bench.
The skill sets and overall impacts of these super subs are unique to each player. Some provide points in bunches, while others help lead their team's second unit by creating for others.
Each player highlighted is ranked in terms of his projected overall impact this season.
No. 7: Lance Stephenson, Indiana Pacers
Lance Stephenson provided a unique combination of size, strength and athleticism for the Indiana Pacers as a starter at shooting guard last season.
With the return of Danny Granger in 2013-14, Stephenson could become even more of a mismatch for second units across the league as the Pacers' top reserve.
The time and resources Indiana invested in developing Stephenson into a difference-making NBA player began to pay major dividends last year. After averaging 8.8 points and 3.9 rebounds while making 72 regular-season starts, Stephenson improved his production to 9.4 points and 7.6 boards during the playoffs.
He made a significant impact on Indiana's march to the Eastern Conference Finals and could assume an even more critical role as his team's sixth man moving forward.
No. 6: Andrei Kirilenko, Brooklyn Nets
Andrei Kirilenko's financial free-agent loss became the Brooklyn Nets' gain this summer.
After declining a $10 million option to stay with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Kirilenko eventually inked a free-agent deal with the Nets that is scheduled to pay him $3.1 million during the 2013-14 campaign.
Assuming a role now as the Nets' super sub, behind the likely starter Paul Pierce at the small forward spot, Kirilenko will be in a position to make a major contribution for his new team.
As a starter for the Timberwolves last season, Kirilenko averaged 12.4 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists on 50.7 percent shooting from the field.
While there will likely be an adjustment period for Kirilenko to acclimate with his new system and teammates, he is certainly capable of posting similar numbers off the bench in Brooklyn.
No. 5: Tyreke Evans, New Orleans Pelicans
Tyreke Evans may be better suited for a role off an NBA bench as the New Orleans Pelicans' top reserve than any other role he previously assumed with the Sacramento Kings.
This is one lesson we may very well learn during Evans' first professional season outside of Sacramento.
After earning Rookie of the Year honors with the Kings in 2009-10 while averaging 20.1 points and 5.8 assists, Evans' production has declined on an annual basis over the last three years.
Without the weight of a franchise on his shoulders, however—or being required to run the team as its starting point guard—expect Evans to allow his natural athleticism to take over and dominate opposing second units.
The return of a healthy Eric Gordon, coupled with the addition of All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday, is likely to move Evans into a reserve role for New Orleans. At 6'6", his versatility and size will help him fill in at any of the three perimeter positions effectively while providing a rare combination of offensive firepower for the Pelicans.
No. 4: J.R. Smith, New York Knicks
On the strength of 18.1 points and 5.3 rebounds per game for the New York Knicks, J.R. Smith secured the 2012-13 Sixth Man of the Year Award.
His production dropped off dramatically during the postseason, however, and isn't expected to improve in the short term.
Smith had surgery on his left patella tendon along with an arthroscopy for a tear in the lateral meniscus of his left knee in July. After an initial recovery period of 12-16 weeks was reported, an official timetable for Smith's return has yet to be identified, according to Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com.
Despite being likely to struggle early on while working his way back to optimal health, he will eventually regain his spot among the league's super subs by season's end. Assuming he's healthy enough to average 30 minutes per night for the majority of the year, Smith is simply far too explosive offensively not to.
No. 3: Jamal Crawford, Los Angeles Clippers
Jamal Crawford was the primary reason why the Los Angeles Clippers led the NBA in bench scoring at 40.1 points per game in 2012-13 according to Hoopsstats.com.
While accounting for 16.5 of those points on a nightly basis himself to go along with 2.5 assists, Crawford finished as his team's third-leading scorer overall.
After finishing second behind only J.R. Smith in the Sixth Man of the Year race a season ago, expect the 33-year-old Crawford to be in contention for that award again in 2013-14.
No. 2: Jarrett Jack, Cleveland Cavaliers
Jarrett Jack finished third behind only J.R. Smith and Jamal Crawford in the 2012-13 Sixth Man of the Year Award voting as a member of the Golden State Warriors.
Assuming the top reserve role this time for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Jack has an opportunity to capture even more of the vote in 2014.
Playing in support of Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters, Jack's skill set will allow him to impact games alongside either of the Cavaliers' young guards.
As a natural point guard who has also excelled at the shooting guard spot throughout his career, Jack will provide Irving an opportunity not only to rest at times, but also to play off the ball next to him. He will create similar opportunities for Waiters as well, while bringing veteran leadership and NBA experience to the Cavs' backcourt.
After averaging 12.9 points and 5.6 assists during 29.7 minutes per night for the Warriors, expect Jack to build on those numbers with his new team in Cleveland.
No. 1: Harrison Barnes, Golden State Warriors
Harrison Barnes averaged 9.2 points and 4.1 rebounds during the regular season for the Golden State Warriors before improving that production to 16.1 and 6.4, respectively, in the playoffs.
Heading into year two, expect the 6'8" small forward to build on the momentum he created to close his rookie campaign as his team's primary weapon off the bench.
Despite Barnes' potential, the Warriors signed free agent Andre Iguodala this summer. The addition of Iguodala will likely move Barnes out of the starting lineup and into a sixth man role.
His size, strength and athleticism, however, will put Barnes at a decisive advantage over opposing second units throughout the year. The net result of these mismatches could very well help Barnes win Sixth Man of the Year honors by season's end.
Expect Barnes to average somewhere around 15 points and six rebounds in roughly 30 minutes per night while also impacting games defensively for the playoff-bound Warriors.