NBA Power Rankings: The 10 Deepest Benches in the NBA
Transactions abounded this offseason, with drastic shifts taking place in the NBA landscape.
However, that exciting time is nearing an end, as the NBA preseason is just around the corner, tipping off on October 3rd.
As a result, the time has come to start critically evaluating all of the nearly finalized NBA rosters, thereby allowing us to determine which teams have a serious shot at contending for the 2010-11 NBA Championship.
Furthermore, as NBA fans know, a team's depth is crucial to their success.
So, keeping in mind that depth shall be gauged with regard to both the number of legitimate rotation players on a team's bench and the bench's overall talent, here are the 10 deepest benches in the NBA.
No. 10: Detroit Pistons
Sure, the Detroit Pistons finished last season with a 27-55 record, but their biggest weakness was certainly not a lack of depth.
Additionally, after last year's multiple roster tweaks and acquisitions have been given a year to jell, they should likely see some improvement.
The starting five, which will not blow anyone out of the water, likely projects to be Rodney Stuckey, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Charlie Villanueva, and Ben Wallace.
Nevertheless, this leaves Detroit with a diversity of talent coming off of the bench—2005 Sixth Man of the Year Ben Gordon, former NBA scoring leader Tracy McGrady, Will Bynum, Jason Maxiell, and this year's and last year's first rounders, Austin Daye and Greg Monroe, among others.
And with such an abundance of talent, first-year head coach John Kuester will have a tough job figuring out which and how many players will earn spots in his rotation.
No. 9: Washington Wizards
The Washington Wizards promise to have a much better season in 2010-11 than they did in the previous year.
And although this is primarily due to their drafting of No. 1 overall pick John Wall and the highly anticipated return of Gilbert Arenas, the Wizard bench is stronger than it has been in years.
Wall, Arenas, Al Thornton, Andray Blatche, and JaVale McGee will probably start, leaving the always-solid Kirk Hinrich, Nick Young, former All-Star Josh Howard, FIBA World Championship standout Yi Jianlian, the 17th overall pick Kevin Seraphin, and Hilton Armstrong to come off the bench.
Therefore, the Wizards will have solid backup play for all positions, making them, at the very least, a serious playoff threat.
No. 8: Miami Heat
This summer, many people have questioned whether the trio of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh will be able to carry the Miami Heat to an NBA title.
Furthermore, a lack of depth has often been cited as a critical weakness of this squad.
However, the Heat have quietly assembled a solid supporting cast for the NBA's newest Big Three.
With James, Wade, and Bosh likely being joined in the starting lineup by Mario Chalmers and either Zydrunas Ilgauskas or Mike Miller, Miami will have a bench of Big Z or Miller, Udonis Haslem, three-point specialist Eddie House, veteran Juwan Howard, and a number of young talents, like rookies Da'Sean Butler, Dexter Pitman, or Jarvis Varnado, who could possibly contribute immediately.
Therefore, they have relatively solid backups across the board. Moreover, the bench will be able to provide the outside shooting, rebounding, and low post defense which this team desperately needs to help their three stars.
And lately, it has begun to appear as though free agent center Erick Dampier will also sign with the team, which would probably bump a starter (Ilgauskas or Miller) to the bench.
Should this occur, the Heat would be one of the deepest teams in the league, and they would probably even still have the talent to contend if one of their Big Three were to go down with a substantial injury.
No. 7: Orlando Magic
The Orlando Magic experienced a relatively successful season in 2009-10, making it to the Eastern Conference Finals last season, only to be upset by the Boston Celtics.
In 2010-11, they bring back most their starting lineup, save for Matt Barnes. Therefore, they will probably use Jameer Nelson, Vince Carter, Mickael Pietrus, Rashard Lewis, and Dwight Howard in starting roles.
However, the Magic were able to effectively make up for the loss of Barnes, shoring up their bench by acquiring backup point guard Chris Duhon, solid defender and shooter Quentin Richardson, and by re-signing the ever-improving J.J. Redick.
Off the bench, these three will be joined by Ryan Anderson, Brandon Bass, and the Polish Hammer, Marcin Gortat, who has always impressed when backing up Howard.
Moreover, Orlando drafted two gifted, yet raw prospects in Daniel Orton and Stanley Robinson, both of whom could potentially break-out as draft-day steals.
As a result of their substantial depth, the Magic will be as strong as ever in 2010-11, looking to match, or even improve upon their 2008-09 NBA Finals appearance.
No. 6: Phoenix Suns
During the 2009-10 playoffs, the Phoenix Suns bench made national headlines, playing an essential role in leading their team to two victories against the heavily favored Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.
However, the team lost Leandro Barbosa and Luis Amundson this offseason, two of the key members of this second squad, as well as perennial All-Star starter Amar'e Stoudemire.
They did manage to bring in Hedo Turkoglu, a solid all-around player who should fit well in the Suns' offense. Other notable additions included Josh Childress, who is fresh off a two-year stint in Greece, Hakim Warrick, and rookie Gani Lawal.
Therefore Phoenix's starting lineup will look something like this: Steve Nash, Jason Richardson, Grant Hill, Turkoglu, and Robin Lopez.
Off the bench they will use Goran Dragic, who showed flashes of brilliance filling in for Nash last season, Childress, sharp-shooters Jared Dudley and Channing Frye, Warrick, Lawal, and last season's first rounder Earl Clark.
Consequently, this squad's bench should pick up where last year's left off, using their impressive depth to push this team deep into the playoffs.
No. 5: Dallas Mavericks
In 2009-10, the Dallas Mavericks earned the second seed in the Western Conference, only to be disappointed with a first round playoff exit.
However, the team made a number of changes over the past full year, acquiring the likes of Caron Butler (during last season) and Tyson Chandler (during the offseason), and as a result, they have become one of the league's deepest and most talented teams.
They project to start Jason Kidd, 2009 Sixth Man of the Year Jason Terry, or last year's breakout rookie Rodrigue Beaubois, Butler, Dirk Nowitzki, and Chandler.
As a result of Butler shifting to the three, four-time All-Star Shawn Marion will be moved to the bench, where he will play alongside Terry or Beaubois, Juan Jose Barea, first-round selection Dominique Jones, DeShawn Stevenson, and Brandon Haywood, a starting-caliber center.
Therefore, the Mavs will have both a star-studded starting lineup and bench, deep and talented enough to make a run at winning the franchise's first ever NBA Championship.
No. 4: Denver Nuggets
Heading into the 2009-10 NBA Playoffs, the Denver Nuggets head coach was diagnosed with throat and neck cancer, forcing him to leave the team. Denver was then dealt an early exit at the hands of the Utah Jazz, and many blamed the team failing to adjust to losing Karl.
However, with Karl recovering and stating, "I would be betting that I'm coaching next season," the Nuggets only have one question for upcoming season remaining—will All-Star Carmelo Anthony be traded or will be remain a Nugget?
If Melo stays, Denver could be a serious contender, with a starting lineup of Chauncey Billups, Arron Afflalo, Anthony, new acquisition Al Harrington, and Nene.
However, they would also have some serious depth, with last season's breakout rookie Ty Lawson, J.R. Smith, Kenyon Martin, and the Birdman Chris Anderson, four players who could easily start on many of the NBA's teams (although Martin and Anderson may miss some time early in the season due to injuries).
Nevertheless, if Karl and Anthony return and Martin and Anderson are able to recover, the Nuggets will look to ride their deep, talented roster through the playoffs, avenging last season's poor showing.
No. 3: Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics were the 2009-10 Eastern Conference Champions, and they are expected to continue to start Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Kendrick Perkins (when he returns from his knee injury).
However, the Celtic bench has been crucial to their successes, but during the offseason, they were forced to make a few changes to the bench, having to deal with the retirement of Rasheed Wallace.
Nevertheless, now it seems that they have been able to do more than just fill Wallace's shoes, bringing in both former All-Stars Shaquille and Jermaine O'Neal.
Therefore, their bench will consist of the two O'Neals, rookie summer league standout Luke Harangody, newly signed Delonte West, and three of last season's key contributors, Marquis Daniels, Nate Robinson, and Glen Davis.
Finally, there have even been whispers around the league that Wallace could return late in the season for another playoff run, potentially making this Boston team look much better than it even did last year.
No. 2: Portland Trail Blazers
The Portland Trail Blazers have had one of the deepest squads in the NBA for years.
However, they have never been able to fully capitalize upon this and make a serious title run.
Led by a solid core of young players and veterans, their starting lineup will be made up of Andre Miller, Brandon Roy, future star Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge, and either Greg Oden (if healthy), Joel Przybilla, or Marcus Camby.
Therefore, the Portland bench will consist of a a duo of either Oden, Przybilla, or Camby, point guard of the future Jerryd Bayless, and Rudy Fernandez (for now).
Furthermore, the signing of Wesley Matthews and the drafting of rookies Luke Babbitt, Elliot Williams, and Armon Johnson looks to help the Portland bench fill the void left by former Blazers Travis Outlaw, Martell Webster, and Juwan Howard.
As a result, the Blazers will legitimately have the talent to play a 12-deep rotation (although that occurring is highly unlikely).
So, should the new acquisitions exceed expectations, Portland may finally be able to get over the hump, making the NBA Finals for the first time since 1992, or even winning it all for the second time in franchise history.
No. 1: Los Angeles Lakers
In 2009-10, the Los Angeles Lakers finished the regular season with the best record in the Western Conference at 57-25. They then capped off this campaign by defeating the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
And what did the Lakers do this offseason?
They got deeper.
First, they were able to retain their starting five of Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, and Andrew Bynum (when healthy).
Then, the Lakers replaced the departed Jordan Farmar with Steve Blake and proceeded to sign stud role player Matt Barnes and battle-tested post defender Theo Ratliff.
Los Angeles also drafted a couple of proven college stars in Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter.
Now, these five are added to an already-solid bench, consisting of athletic phenom Shannon Brown, 2010 FIBA World Champion Lamar Odom, and The Machine, Sasha Vujacic.
So, with the 2010-11 Lakers looking to be deeper and more talented than the previous year's championship squad, will anyone be able to stop them from three-peating?
The Rockets project to start Aaron Brooks, Kevin Martin, Shane Battier, Luis Scola, and Yao Ming (if healthy). Off the bench they will use a combination of Kyle Lowry, Chase Buddinger, Courtney Lee, Jared Jeffries, Patrick Patterson, Chuch Hayes, and Brad Miller. They didn't make the cut because there are too many question marks on their bench (ex. players who are inconsistent, getting old, or too unproven).
The Bulls project to start Derrick Rose, Ronnie Brewer, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, and Joakim Noah. Off the bench they will use a combination of C.J. Watson, Kyle Korver, Taj Gibson, Keith Bogans, Kurt Thomas, and James Johnson. They didn't make the cut because after Watson, Kover, and Gibson, there is a significant drop in talent.
The Bucks project to start Brandon Jennings, John Salmons, Corey Maggette, Drew Gooden, and Andrew Bogut. Off the bench they will use a combination of Keyon Dooling, Carlos Delfino, Michael Redd, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Ersan Ilyasova, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, and Larry Sanders. Again, this squad's bench has too many question marks (mostly dealing with inconsistency and being unproven), and it lacks an adequate backup center.
*Note that these teams are better than the Wizards** or the Pistons, but this list is solely about quality bench depth.
**Actually, the Wizards might surprise some people this year.