A deep roster in the NBA is everything these days.
Sure, having a solid starting lineup certainly helps. However, what happens when those players need a breather? Or even worse, who steps in when one of them is injured?
It all makes depth the difference between playing for a championship and playing for the rights to Andrew Wiggins.
As for the definition of depth, it all depends on whom you ask. Some will bring up the importance of scoring, while others will talk about having multiple guys who can step in and maintain the defensive intensity.
Regardless, here are three of the deepest teams in the NBA heading into 2013-14.
Going Off Scoring: Los Angeles Clippers
Last season, the Clippers had one of the most productive benches in the league. The team ranked No. 3 in points (40.1/game), No. 2 in rebounds (17.7/game), No. 4 in assists (8.4/game) and No. 1 in both steals (4.0/game) and blocks (3.0/game).
This year, that bunch should collectively be better.
Although the team lost Eric Bledsoe, bringing in sharpshooter J.J. Redick was significant. Not only does it give Los Angeles a good scorer at the shooting guard position, but it also moves last season’s starter Willie Green to the bench, where his three-point shooting (42.8 percent in 2012-13) immediately becomes an asset.
And let’s not forget, Sixth Man of the Year contender Jamal Crawford gives the team one of the best bench players in the league—16.5 points and 2.5 assists per game.
Then there’s the addition of Byron Mullens.
In 53 games with the Charlotte Bobcats last year, the 24-year-old proved he could put in valuable minutes on the court. He averaged 10.6 points and 6.4 rebounds over 26.9 minutes per game. Mullens should be a reliable backup to either Blake Griffin or DeAndre Jordan.
At point guard, the team is set with Chris Paul. However, bringing on Darren Collison was big. After averaging 12 points and 5.2 assists with the Dallas Mavericks last season, expect the 26-year-old to come up big in relief for the Clippers.
The team’s only concern is small forward and neither big man having much of a jump shot in Griffin and Mullens.
However, when it comes to the deepest roster in terms of scoring, there’s nobody in the league better than Los Angeles.
If Defense Didn’t Count: New York Knicks
On paper, the Knicks have one hell of a lineup.
It’s so stacked that long-time starters such as Metta World Peace and Amar’e Stoudemire might actually come off the bench this year. Not to mention, New York has reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year J.R. Smith on the roster too.
Last year, the team ranked No. 4 in bench scoring, averaging 38.5 points per game. There’s a good chance the Knicks could finish No. 1 this time around.
The additions of World Peace and Andrea Bargnani certainly help the cause.
After being reluctantly amnestied by the Los Angeles Lakers during the offseason, World Peace is ready to go with his sixth NBA team. It’s a signing that helps bolster New York’s depth at small forward behind Carmelo Anthony.
Although he’s turning 34 in November, World Peace can still contribute. In fact, he had his most productive season since 2008-09 last year—12.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.6 steals over 33.7 minutes per game.
At point guard, the Knicks added nine-year veteran Beno Udrih to support an already talented group that features Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni. He should provide the team with an experienced point guard who knows how to find the open teammate and can even score himself.
But nothing compares to the lineup New York has at power forward.
On any given day, Bargnani, Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin could hold down the power forward position on their own. Bargnani gives the Knicks a player who can stretch the floor, Stoudemire presents a dominant interior scorer and Martin is an intimidating defender. New York wins with any of these guys on the court.
On the flip side, for a roster so talented, the team was pretty bad defensively.
Sure, the team ranked No. 7 in points against, allowing 95.7 per game. However, New York also ranked No. 17 with a defensive efficiency of 103.5. Although they are talented, poor defensive rotation and sloppy man-to-man defense make this a roster with a lot of liabilities.
Best of the Best: Brooklyn Nets
The Nets will have no problem finding depth on this roster.
Entering the 2013-14 season, the team has arguably five NBA All-Stars in their starting lineup with Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Brook Lopez. Not only that, Brooklyn has solid backups at almost every position.
That’s a significant improvement for a team that ranked No. 21 in bench scoring last year (30.0 PPG).
Andrei Kirilenko should be the biggest contributor off the bench. The Nets shocked the league by signing the 11-year veteran to the veteran’s minimum over the offseason.
Kirilenko put together his best season since 2005-06, averaging 12.4 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.5 steals over 31.8 minutes per game for the Minnesota Timberwolves. He’ll be a solid backup for Pierce at small forward.
Then there’s the improvement of Andray Blatche.
In his first year with Brooklyn, the 27-year-old averaged 19.5 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per 36 minutes while shooting 50 percent from the field. Expect Blatche to continue that growth this year and provide productive minutes behind both Garnett and Lopez.
Even the players at the tail end of the roster aren’t to be taken lightly in Alan Anderson, Mirza Teletovic and Mason Plumlee.
With the team as it was last season, the Nets put together their first winning record since 2005-06. The team got within a game of reaching the second round, falling to the Chicago Bulls in seven games.
By adding three players with championship-winning experience to the roster—Garnett, Pierce and Terry—Brooklyn may have taken the first step toward winning a title of its own.
Summing It All Up
Every year there’s always that one team vying to make a run for the playoffs before depth derails the push. It could be anything caused by injuries, fatigue or just plain burning out.
That would be easy to prevent with a deep roster.
As of now, the Nets seem to be in the best shape out of all 30 teams in the NBA. However, the Clippers and Knicks should be right up there with them.
All three teams are expected to make a push for the playoffs in 2013-14. In fact, all three are also contenders of some sort for the NBA title.
It would be foolish to underestimate the power of a deep roster.
Unless otherwise noted, all stats used in this article are courtesy of Hoopsstats.com