We did it guys. We finally reached the land Where Amazing Happens. The NBA playoffs!
Now that you’ve finished doing the Nae Nae it’s time to talk spark plugs. Not the device that delivers electric current from an ignition system to the combustion chamber of a spark-ignition engine to ignite the compressed fuel/air mixture by an electric spark (thanks Wikipedia).
Well, sort of.
Replace device with player, ignition system with bench, combustion cham—you get the point.
The postseason is all about the stars and even the starters. Forty-one players averaged at least 35 minutes among last year’s 16 playoff teams. Only 34 did it across the entire league this season.
All eyes will focus on how far the Kevin Durants and James Hardens of the world can take their squads. And rightly so, this is a superstars’ league.
Though starters’ minutes go up and rotations shrink significantly from here on out, the playoffs will add about a quarter of a full season to players’ legs if they are fortunate enough to reach the Finals. So while the bench sees less time overall, the production value increases significantly for the three or four reserves who do get time.
A few examples from a year ago:
- Nate Robinson came off the bench to average 17.3 points and help Chicago open a 3-1 lead through the first four games of its first-round matchup with Brooklyn. This included a memorable 34-point effort in triple overtime of Game 4 in which Robinson almost single-handedly erase a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit. He stepped into the starting lineup when Kirk Hinrich went down with a bruised calf and contributed nearly 16 points a game as the Bulls downed the Nets in seven games and lost to Miami in five.
- Jarrett Jack was Golden State’s second-leading playoffs scorer behind Stephen Curry at 17.2 points per game, originally coming off the bench until David Lee’s torn hip flexor moved him into the lineup for Games 2 through 5 of the first round. He scored at least 20 points in six of the Warriors’ 12 playoff games, among them a 24-point effort in a Game 4 victory of their second round matchup with San Antonio.
- J.R. Smith also came off the bench to be the Knicks’ second-leading scorer in their two playoff series. His 15.2 points per game helped dispatch the Celtics in six before the Pacers overwhelmed New York.
- Kevin Martin reached double figures in all but two of Oklahoma City’s 11 playoff games. Excluding a Game 5 stinker in which he went 1-for-10, Martin averaged nearly 16 points in the Thunder’s first-round win over Houston. He also scored 25 points back-to-back in Game 6 at the Rockets and Game 1 versus Memphis in the second round.
This year’s crop of playoff teams is loaded with guys who can come off the bench and score in bunches, allowing coaches to rest their big-minute guys with less worry about where points will come from and how much the game will change before the starters go back in.
We already know all about the Clippers’ Jamal Crawford and his prowess as the league’s resident Sixth Man of the Year, so let’s meet eight others.
Note: All stats courtesy of ESPN.com and NBA.com unless otherwise noted and are accurate to the end of the regular season. Stats for players who played for multiple teams this season will reflect just those numbers posted for the team with which the player finished the regular season.