NBA Power Rankings 2010-2011: Ranking All 30 Teams' Benches
The NBA is a star-driven league. There's no doubt about that.
No team wins a championship without at least one (and now it seems, three) elite player. The Lakers have Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom. The Boston Celtics have Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo. The San Antonio Spurs have Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker.
Yet behind all those stars are always quality reserve players. Players like Shannon Brown and Sasha Vujacic for the Lakers and Eddie House and Glen Davis for the Celtics make all the difference when the top guns are in foul trouble or injured.
Logically, it would make sense that the teams with the best starting players would have the worst bench, because all of their money is tied up in their stars.
Well, as the saying goes, "you can have your cake and eat it too."
Take the Orlando Magic for instance. The Magic have among the most fearsome starting fives in the league, with Dwight Howard in the middle, surrounded by the likes of Rashard Lewis, Vince Carter and Jameer Nelson.
Yet a legitimate argument could be made that Orlando's backups are better than some teams' starting roster.
Look beyond the stars, and check out which teams have the greatest roster depth headed into the 2010-2011 season.
30. New Orleans Hornets
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
PG: Mustafa Shakur
SG: Marco Belinelli
SF: Peja Stojakovic
PF: Jason Smith
C: Aaron Gray
Well, this bench is definitely going to make Chris Paul want to leave New Orleans.
Peja Stojakovic is no longer a name to get excited about. And I'll bet for the majority of NBA fans out there, that's the only recognizable name on the New Orleans bench.
Aaron Gray is the only other returning player, and he's a third-string starter at best. He simply can't fit with Chris Paul the way Tyson Chandler did.
Trading away Darren Collison did nothing to improve the bench. If Paul gets injured, the Hornets could easily slide to the bottom of the Western Conference rankings. The same goes for an injury to David West, or even new acquisition Trevor Ariza.
The Hornets are going to have to hope the injury bug passes over them this year. Otherwise, they'll get stung by their lack of depth.
29. Golden State Warriors
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PG: Charlie Bell
SG: Reggie Williams
SF: Vladimir Radmanovic
PF: Brandan Wright
C: Louis Amundson
Don't look at the Golden State Warriors' bench. Look at new face David Lee!
The Warriors gave up a lot (quite possibly too much) to snag the fourth-best power forward in the 2010 free agent class. Ronny Turiaf, Anthony Randolph and Kelenna Azubuike were all traded to New York.
Well, when you swap three-for-one, depth is going to take a hit. And it did big time with Golden State.
Like with New Orleans, no one on this bench gives me confidence when replacing the likes of Stephen Curry, David Lee or Monta Ellis. Sure players can put up decent offensive numbers in Golden State's system (the Warriors had the fastest pace in the NBA last season), but that doesn't mean the quality is there.
C.J. Watson? Gone. Anthony Morrow? In New Jersey. Raja Bell? You'll see him later in the slideshow.
These were three more players who performed well for Don Nelson. Without them, and the three traded to New York, the Warriors won't seem very tough after their first-team squad.
28. Memphis Grizzlies
PG: Acie Law
SG: Tony Allen
SF: Sam Young
PF: Darrell Arthur
C: Hasheem Thabeet
The Grizzlies have not gotten much better since this photograph was taken—back when Paul Gasol, Bobby Jackson and Eddie Jones were still on the team.
At least not the bench.
As far as starting fives go, the Grizzlies have it good. Mike Conley and O.J. Mayo are not a bad backcourt, and Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol make up an intimidating frontourt.
The backups are where things get rough.
Tony Allen is a decent reserve, but not a sixth man. Acie Law is a third-string point guard at best and has a subpar assist-to-turnover ration. Hasheem Thabeet is a wild card who still has upside.
Memphis, like Golden State, is going to have to rely a lot on its starters if it wants to avoid another year in the lottery.
27. Minnesota Timberwolves
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PG: Sebastian Telfair
SG: Martell Webster
SF: Corey Brewer
PF: Anthony Tolliver
C: Nikola Pekovic
Explaining the situation the Minnesota Timberwolves organization is in would take an eternity. Let's just say the past few drafts have not gone that well, certain players have not panned out, and several questionable trades have been made.
In sum, the Timberwolves will be one of the worst teams in the NBA this year. Their starting lineup has Luke Ridnour, Michael Beasley and Darko Milicic. Remember when I said some benches could defeat some starting fives? This would be one of those starting lineups.
Now to the bench. It's a mess. Sebastian Telfair has never blossomed like so many thought. Corey Brewer is actually pretty good, and I'd expect him to start over Wesley Johnson, though ESPN thinks otherwise.
Anthony Tolliver and Nikola Pekovic have both been having a decent preseason, though once they have to face first-team frontcourts that should change.
Still, despite the lack of basketball skill on Minnesota's bench, I can't shake the feeling that, with the exception of Kevin Love, none of the starters are actually that much better than their backups. I'd expect position battles throughout the season.
26. Cleveland Cavaliers
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PG: Ramon Sessions
SG: Daniel Gibson
SF: Joey Graham
PF: J.J. Hickson
C: Ryan Hollins
Remember the times when it didn't matter who the Cleveland Cavaliers had on the court, as long as LeBron James was one of the five?
Well, suddenly those guys who just got the King water now have to step up themselves. And chances are it's not going to be pretty.
This is a young group that always benefited from having James on their team, drawing attention away from themselves. Without the most unstoppable player in the game to contend with, teams will have little problem getting a hand in Daniel Gibson's face, or playing J.J. Hickson tight on defense.
I'm projecting the Cavaliers to finish as one of the worst five teams in the NBA this season. Both the starting lineup and bench have nothing but role players. LeBron does a better job of making his teammates better than anyone else in the league, even Steve Nash.
It's going to be a long season in Cleveland. And not because of the playoffs.
25. Los Angeles Clippers
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PG: Eric Bledsoe
SG: Randy Foye
SF: Al-Farouq Aminu
PF: Craig Smith
C: DeAndre Jordan
Like so many of the early teams on this list, the Los Angeles Clippers actually have a fairly strong starting lineup. Yet the bench is inexperienced and unproven at the NBA level.
Eric Bledsoe and Al-Farouq Aminu are rookies, and even though Aminu has had a decent preseason, Vinny Del Negro has a tendency to not play rookies enough. Believe me (see: Derrick Rose).
Randy Foye is a solid backup guard who's good enough to start on a few teams. DeAndre Jordan is a young big man who could provide some energy off the bench when replacing Chris Kaman.
If I had to pick one group of reserves with the most upside, it would probably be the Clippers. By season's end, this team could be among the deepest in the NBA.
But right now, potential means very little. It'll be interesting to see what this bunch can do.
24. Philadelphia 76ers
Al Bello/Getty Images
PG: Lou Williams
SG: Evan Turner
SF: Andres Nocioni
PF: Darius Songaila
C: Marreese Speights
Beyond the hope that Evan Turner will become a starter and future star, the 76ers bench has little going for it.
The Andres Nocioni-Darius Songaila combo reminds me of the Chicago Bulls of old. Back then they were all right. Several years later, and they're on the decline, to say the least.
Lou Williams and Marreese Speights have some upside, and showed a bit of it last season. It helps that they play behind Jrue Holiday and Spencer Hawes. Who knows how long that will stay the case.
With Elton Brand's health always an issue, the 76ers will have to hope their bench can come through in case their star power forward succumbs to injury once again.
23. Toronto Raptors
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
PG: Jarrett Jack
SG: Leandro Barbosa
SF: Sonny Weems
PF: Reggie Evans
C: David Anderson
Lesson from the Toronto Raptors' bench: One player can't salvage the other four.
Leandro Barbosa is a fantastic weapon to have coming off the bench, for any team in the league. It's ironic that he'll be the sixth man of arguably the worst team in the NBA (Timberwolves put up a fight). Though he will no longer have Steve Nash to get him the ball, he's proven in international play he can do just fine outside the Suns' system.
Beyond Barbosa, the Raptors have a mediocre group of backups. Jarrett Jack is a lifetime backup point guard, and he will probably still be in a timeshare with Jose Calderon. Sonny Weems is an average backup wingman who can slash to the basket but can't shoot from distance to save his life.
Reggie Evans and David Anderson as the last line of defense in the paint? No thanks.
22. Charlotte Bobcats
Brian A. Westerholt/Getty Images
PG: Shaun Livingston
SG: Gerald Henderson
SF: Eduardo Najera
PF: Tyrus Thomas
C: DeSagana Diop/Kwame Brown
The Kwame Brown-Michael Jordan reunion should prove about as anticlimactic as the movie Knowing. Because, of course, everyone knows it won't amount to much.
Tyrus Thomas got paid well this offseason to stay in Charlotte instead of bolting for New Jersey. Gerald Henderson and Shaun Livingston are both athletic guards, but don't have the smarts to excel as starters.
The Bobcats are going to be one of a few teams on the playoff bubble. Right now I'd say they are the ninth-best team in the Eastern Conference. If they want to make that leap and get some playoff experience, they are going to have to hope that the athletic trio of Thomas, Livingston and Henderson can develop into consistent contributors off the bench. If so, Charlotte could make some noise in the postseason once again.
21. New York Knicks
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PG: Toney Douglas
SG: Roger Mason
SF: Wilson Chandler
PF: Anthony Randolph
C: Eddy Curry
Sorry, I can't take any bench with Eddy Curry on it that seriously.
To be sure, the New York Knicks have made improvements in the offseason. The baseball analogy that keeps getting tossed around about teams that struck out in the LeBron James pursuit is that the Knicks hit a solid double.
So their bench, naturally, is not that bad, especially after their shrewd trade with the Warriors. None of these bench guys are phenomenal, but at the same time Wilson Chandler is a great backup, and Roger Mason and Toney Douglas are serviceable as backcourt reserves.
And Anthony Randolph has had impressive showings in limited playing time, averaging 11.6 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.55 blocks per game in just 22.7 minutes of play.
These guys are not going to dominate the game by any means, but the Knicks should not see a considerable drop in production whenever the bench is called upon.
20. Milwaukee Bucks
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PG: Keyon Dooling
SG: Chris Douglas-Roberts/Michael Redd
SF: Carlos Delfino
PF: Luc Richard Mbah a Moute
C: Brian Skinner
The Milwaukee Bucks are widely considered one of the top contenders for the Central Division now that LeBron has left Cleveland. Indeed, their lineup is good from top to bottom, and head coach Scott Skiles is sure to maximize each player's abilities.
Talent-wise though, the Milwaukee bench is average.
Everyone is all right, but looking at the reserves, no one stands out or exudes confidence. Michael Redd could be done for his career. Keyon Dooling is a solid veteran but can't be successful against Central point guards like Derrick Rose, Mo Williams an Darren Collison.
Carlos Delfino is a nice weapon off the bench as he can knock down the trey. Brian Skinner won't be of much use, as Andrew Bogut should see a lot of playing time. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is still young but doesn't seem big enough to play at the power forward spot.
19. Sacramento Kings
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PG: Luther Head
SG: Antoine Wright
SF: Omri Casspi
PF: Jason Thompson
C: Samuel Dalembert
The Sacramento Kings are a team on the rise, to be sure. Considering they were among the worst in the NBA not too long ago, this squad had improved considerably through good draft picks and smart trading.
Experts have been raving about Omri Casspi as a hard-nosed, smart basketball player, which is essential to have coming off the bench. Samuel Dalembert is a true center that could start on a lot of teams, and probably would on the Kings if they weren't able to land DeMarcus Cousins.
Luther Head is another player who will do well in a reserve role. He's at the prime of his career, so he will provide a spark while also playing smart. He can shoot better than 35% from 3-point range, which is always helpful.
The Kings could easily make a playoff push this season if all their pieces fall into place. If so, the reserves will be a big reason for the postseason berth.
18. Atlanta Hawks
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PG: Jeff Teague
SG: Jamal Crawford
SF: Maurice Evans
PF: Josh Powell
C: Zaza Pachulia
I've never been particularly fond of Jamal Crawford, even since he played for the Chicago Bulls. He always seemed to shoot too much for his own good, and his shots were not the prettiest.
Still, as a sixth man, Atlanta could do much, much worse.
Additionally, Zaza Pachulia is a great backup to have just in case something happens to Josh Smith or Al Horford. Pachulia is one of the best pure backup centers in the NBA, and makes an impact when he's on the floor.
Jeff Teague has only one season under his belt but should improve. Maurice Evans is a sold shooter from beyond the arc and Josh Powell will battle for rebounds.
Still, for a team that's supposed to certainly be among the top five in the East, the Hawks' bench has a few holes. Fortunately, Crawford and Pachulia will be the first two off the bench. And neither will cause a loss of production on the court,
17. Washington Wizards
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PG: Kirk Hinrich
SG: Nick Young
SF: Al Thornton
PF: Yi Jianlian
C: Hilton Armstrong
The Wizards hit the jackpot in the NBA Draft this offseason, netting the clear-cut top pick, John Wall.
And they improved even more thanks to some smart trading. Teams willing to shed salary for next-to-nothing came knocking on the Wizards' door, and they answered.
As a result, Washington now has one of the best backup point guards in the game in Kirk Hinrich. He can play both guard positions while also mentoring Wall in the same way he taught Derrick Rose.
Yi Jianlian is a great option off the bench. He's still young and learning the NBA game, but he has the skills to stay on the floor for long stretches.
Hilton Armstrong has a long, big body that's perfect for eating up time in the paint. Nick Young and Al Thornton are both athletic enough to run with Wall and Gilbert Arenas in what could turn into one of the more explosive offenses in the NBA.
16. Portland Trailblazers
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PG: Armon Johnson
SG: Rudy Fernandez
SF: Wesley Matthews
PF: Jeff Pendergraph
C: Greg Oden/Joel Przybilla
Yes, this team looks good on paper. But injuries have taken their toll on this Trailblazers squad, and a reserve group that, when healthy, could easily be among the best in the league is instead in the middle of the pack.
Jeff Pendergraph, Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla are all good players. But Pendergraph is now out for the season, and who knows the condition of the two centers.
I didn't change the depth chart because that is what Portland's lineup could look like. And it's stellar. If this team heals and regroups, it could make a run in the Western Conference.
Of course, injuries are just part of the story. Rudy Fernandez is obviously disgruntled and wants out. Armon Johnson is a rookie. Wesley Matthews has only proven he can be effective for one season in the Jazz system.
Portland should be much better than they are. But with the uncertainty around several of their players, it's hard to rank them any higher.
15. San Antonio Spurs
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PG: George Hill
SG: James Anderson
SF: Alonzo Gee
PF: DeJuan Blair
C: Tiago Splitter
A few years ago, San Antonio would have been among the top of this list. Remember when Manu Ginobili was a sixth man?
Now, the Spurs are not filled with talent, but instead have a hard-working group of guys who should contend for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. No player exemplifies that more than DeJuan Blair, who is a force in the paint when he gets the chance to play.
George Hill did well last year while Tony Parker was out with injuries, and should still play a considerable amount of time to take some wear and tear off the French guard. Tiago Splitter is the wild card who could make all the difference for the Spurs this season, should his game translate well to the NBA.
If rookies Splitter and James Anderson can play well immediately for the Spurs, it could catapult them into conversation for the Western Conference crown one more time.
14. Utah Jazz
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PG: Ronnie Price
SG: Raja Bell
SF: Gordon Hayward
PF: Paul Millsap
C: Francisco Elson
Poor Paul Millsap. After Carlos Boozer signed with Chicago, it seemed like the underappreciated power forward would finally get his chance to crack Utah's starting five.
Of course, that was before the Jazz got Al Jefferson. Now Millsap still remains probably the best power forward in the NBA not to be starting.
In addition to Millsap, the Jazz got Raja Bell, who should prove to be a valuable veteran sharpshooter and defender off the bench. Gordon Hayward is a smart player from Butler who knows how to handle himself on the court.
Ronnie Price and Francisco Elson are below-average reserves, but as the ninth and tenth players off the bench, it doesn't matter too much. Deron Williams and Mehmet Okur will play the majority of the time anyway.
13. LA Lakers
Harry How/Getty Images
PG: Steve Blake
SG: Shannon Brown
SF: Matt Barnes
PF: Derrick Caracter
C: Theo Ratliff
Ah, the defending champions. The Los Angeles Lakers are still the team to beat, but not because of their depth.
No Andrew Bynum is a major blow, mostly because that means Lamar Odom has to start instead of coming off the bench. That leaves the Lakers with little to be excited about in their reserve corps.
Steve Blake is a nice backup point guard, and he's not much different production-wise from the departed Jordan Farmar. He should fit in easily to the triangle offense.
Shannon Brown's role will be the same as last year, and that's as a spark plug off the bench. He's arguably the most athletic player on the Lakers. Matt Barnes is quite the opposite, as he's a tough defender who can also shoot the ball reasonably well.
Beyond that, the frontcourt depth kills the Lakers. Pau Gasol and Odom are going to have to shoulder much of the burden as Derrick Caracter is too young, and Theo Ratliff is too old.
LA might have the best starting five in the NBA, but beyond that, the talent is questionable. It'll be interesting to see how the Lakers handle the inevitable injury to a player or two.
12. Dallas Mavericks
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PG: Rodrigue Beaubois
SG: Jason Terry
SF: DeShawn Stevenson
PF: Brian Cardinal
C: Tyson Chandler
The Dallas Mavericks are still searching for that other star player to put alongside Dirk Nowitzki.
If it's any consolation, the Mavs have a pretty strong bench to support their German superstar.
Jason Terry is a known commodity. He's going to be one of the top sixth men in the NBA and will be the first guard called off the bench.
Tyson Chandler is as good as backup centers come. He will probably split time evenly with Brendan Haywood, but it's not hard to envision him regaining his All-Star form with Jason Kidd as he did with Chris Paul in New Orleans.
DeShawn Stevenson and Brian Cardinal are not much to get excited about, but Rodrigue Beaubois showed a bit of promise last season, and could provide a nice spark off the bench in relief of Kidd.
11. Indiana Pacers
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PG: T.J. Ford
SG: Brandon Rush
SF: James Posey
PF: Tyler Hansbrough
C: Jeff Foster
Indiana is another team that did well for itself through careful trading in the offseason. Adding Darren Collison as the starting point guard allowed the Pacers to get a whole lot deeper. T.J. Ford is a nice backup and a subpar starter, so he fits in nicely now.
James Posey is known for his toughness and cunning off the bench. That should not change in Indiana. He can probably help mentor Tyler Hansbrough, who played the same way as a starter at North Carolina. Hansbrough averaged 8.5 points and five boards per game last season in just about 18 minutes of action.
Jeff Foster is a decent backup center who won't wow anyone, but will play smart, take a charge and do his job.
I expect the Pacers to surprise a lot of people this season. They could easily earn the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference.
10. Denver Nuggets
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PG: Ty Lawson
SG: J.R. Smith
SF: Renaldo Balkman
PF: Kenyon Martin/Sheldon Williams
C: Chris Anderson
Sometimes, I wonder how this Denver Nuggets team possibly functions.
Really, this group of reserves consists of a bunch of talented players who have an inflated sense of their own talent level. J.R. Smith is a great scorer off the bench, similar to Ben Gordon for the Bulls a few years ago, but his defense is lacking and he has trouble covering bigger guards (something he and Gordon also have in common).
Chris Anderson, the "Birdman," is like an electric shock off the bench. He's a terrific rebounder and shot blocker, actually sixth in the league in the blocks per game. Yet who knows how he will react if he or his team struggles.
Kenyon Martin is past his prime and wants money he's not worthy of. Sheldon Williams was foolishly drafted high by the Atlanta Hawks. Same goes for Renaldo Balkman.
On the bright side, all these players, and especially Ty Lawson, have talent that exceeds the typical reserve player. The Nuggets will challenge for a playoff seed this season should the whole Carmelo Anthony drama not affect their play on the court.
9. Detroit Pistons
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PG: Will Bynum
SG: Ben Gordon
SF: Austin Daye/Tracy McGrady
PF: Charlie Villanueva/Greg Monroe/Chris Wilcox
C: Jason Maxiell
Believe me, the Pistons are not this high because of Tracy McGrady.
Though I believe the Pistons will finish near the bottom of the Eastern Conference and not make the playoffs, it's hard to look at this group of bench players and say they don't have talent.
Ben Gordon is and always will be a sixth man. He can still score in bunches and disrupt an opponent's defense. Will Bynum is also a sparkplug off the bench (he averaged 10 points per game last season) and together the two make up one of the most potent (and short) backcourts in the NBA.
Then, the logjam at power forward is staggering. While none of them are clear starters, none are clear backups either. Greg Monroe, the rookie, will take some time to develop but has a lot of potential. Charlie Villanueva and Chris Wilcox can split time depending on the situation, as Villanueva is a better shooter while Wilcox is a better rebounder.
8. Miami Heat
PG: Mario Chalmers/Carlos Arroyo
SG: Eddie House
SF: James Jones
PF: Udonis Haslem
C: Zydrunas Ilgauskas/Jamaal Magloire
Yes, the presumed weakness of the evil Miami Heat is actually not much of a weakness at all.
This bench is going off the assumption that the starting five for the Heat will look like this:
PG: LeBron James
SG: Dwyane Wade
SF: Mike Miller
PF: Chris Bosh
C: Joel Anthony
Will this actually be the case? Who knows. Udonis Haslem is obviously the best player to be coming off the bench in this scenario. He is more talented than Anthony, but because Bosh is too soft to play center without a favorable matchup, Haslem is in a reserve role.
Mario Chalmers and Carlos Arroyo make up a great duo of true point guards, in the scenario that James does not assume point guard duties. Eddie House fulfills the shooter role that Miami needs to clear the lanes for Wade and James.
Yes, the centers are old, but with James, Wade and Bosh, does that really matter? Jamaal Magloire is a former All-Star, so 10 minutes or so of quality basketball should not be too much to ask.
I'd like to say Miami has no substance behind the Miami Thrice. I really would. But as long as two of the three are healthy at a time, this squad is going to be tough to beat.
7. New Jersey Nets
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PG: Jordan Farmar
SG: Anthony Morrow
SF: Stephen Graham
PF: Derrick Favors
C: Joe Smith
The New Jersey Nets may have struck out on any big free agents, but they did acquire a handful of good players.
Let's start with Jordan Farmar. He's a champion who has NBA Finals experience and brings a winning mentality. To have him come off the bench for Devin Harris is a luxury.
Anthony Morrow is a great young shooter, and the Nets are lucky to have him. Several teams were interested in getting him, and the inside-outside combination of Harris and Brook Lopez should free up three-point opportunities.
Then there's Derrick Favors, a player who some experts say will be the best player to come out of the 2010 draft class. Yes, better than John Wall. He's coming off the bench now, but if he does well in the time he's given, I doubt Avery Johnson can play Troy Murphy more than him.
Stephen Graham is an average backup small forward, and Joe Smith is too small to be a center, but still a good resource to teach Favors and Lopez. Depending on how all these new pieces fit together, the Nets could easily be playoff contenders.
6. Phoenix Suns
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PG: Goran Dragic
SG: Josh Childress
SF: Jared Dudley
PF: Hakim Warrick
C: Channing Frye
EDIT: Sorry about forgetting you big fella!
Initially, I forgot about Channing Frye (thank you ESPN depth charts), which set off a chain reaction of Hedo Turkoglu backing up Grant Hill and Earl Clark as the second-string center. That would make them the 17th best bench.
Now? The Suns are sixth best. See what a player or two more can do for you?
Josh Childress could pan out well for Phoenix, or he could prove a major letdown. He has proven moderately successful in the NBA, but he has also acclimated himself to the international game. It should be an interesting experiment on just how difficult it is to transition from one style to another.
Jared Dudley is a fantastic three-point shooter who fits in well with the Suns' system. He also has a tough-guy mentality and helps out particularly on the defensive end. Oh, and he has a Twitter!
Hakim Warrick is a decent power forward. He's not the strongest or the most savvy, but it is athletic and should fir in nicely in Phoenix. And the aforementioned Frye is a fantastic shooter for a big man, and could and should score in double figures again this season.
5. Boston Celtics
PG: Delonte West
SG: Nate Robinson
SF: Marquis Daniels
PF: Glen Davis
C: Shaquille O'Neal
With Kendrick Perkins injured, the defending Eastern Conference champs opted to sign not one, but two O'Neals.
Jermaine O'Neal is the projected starter, according to ESPN.com. Still, it says something about the depth of a team if Shaquille O'Neal, even at his age, is the backup center.
Shaq still has something left in the tank, and you can bet with all the success Kobe Bryant and the Lakers have had over the past few seasons, he's itching to get back to the top. That's of course why he signed with the Celtics. He should have a good year playing half the game.
Coming with O'Neal from Cleveland is Delonte West, who is a decent backup. Nate Robinson is ahead of him on the depth chart, however. I don't care for Robinson personally because of his lack of defensive presence (read: he's too short), but I have to admit he's a great scorer off the bench for short intervals.
Glen Davis filled in for Kevin Garnett last year and is now back in his backup role. Should either Garnett or Jermaine O'Neal suffer an injury, Doc Rivers should feel comfortable inserting him into the starting five.
Boston nearly topped Los Angeles during last year's NBA Finals in part because of its depth. While 82 games is a long season, when the playoffs come around in 2011, the Celtics should feel good about their bench once again.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
PG: Eric Maynor
SG: James Harden
SF: Morris Peterson
PF: Nick Collison
C: Serge Ibaka
The Oklahoma City Thunder are considered a prime contender for the Western Conference throne, thanks to superstar Kevin Durant, along with Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green.
Yet the Thunder have quality depth to back up their top guns.
Eric Maynor is not going to jump out at anyone, but he's a solid backup to Westbrook. Westbrook, of course, has not missed an NBA game in his career, so Maynor should be great in short spurts.
James Harden is the offense to Thabo Sefolosha's defense. He can score in a variety of ways, so when the Thunder need points in a hurry, he and Durant can find a way to light up the scoreboard.
Morris Peterson is a nice backup for Durant who can shoot well from beyond the arc. He's a veteran who can fill in for Durant at times when the star needs a breather.
Nick Collison and Serge Ibaka are a nice frontcourt tandem, as Collison is more polished while less athletic, and Ibaka is a project whose current role is defensive specialist.
All in all, the Thunder are undoubtedly going to make some noise this season.
3. Chicago Bulls
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PG: C.J. Watson
SG: Keith Bogans
SF: Kyle Korver
PF: Taj Gibson
C: Kurt Thomas/Omer Asik
First of all, I know Taj Gibson is starting in the short-term while Carlos Boozer is injured. I'm assuming this for when the team is fully healthy, which will not be very far into the season, presumably (as opposed to, say, Portland, a team that has players already out for the season).
C.J. Watson is about as good as backup point guards come, and he can also shift over and play as a shooting guard alongside Derrick Rose. Watson, like so many players, will provide a boost off the bench with his energy. He shoots a reasonable 31 percent from beyond the arc and can defend against most point guards.
Keith Bogans started in San Antonio last season, and is a great defender and three-point shooter (like Bruce Bowen was). He also fulfills the veteran void left when Kirk Hinrich was sent to the Wizards.
Kyle Korver is the best three-point shooter in the NBA. That's about all you need to know about him. He's not the greatest defender, but he's tall enough to alter shots if he gets a hand up.
Taj Gibson started for Chicago last year and was one of the biggest rookie surprises. He will assume starting duties for about a month while Boozer recovers, but then he will go back to being one of the best reserve power forwards in the game.
Kurt Thomas played great for Milwaukee in the playoffs last season and fills the void left by Brad Miller heading to Houston. Omer Asik is a raw seven-footer from Turkey who gained experience in the FIBA World Championships and has done well in preseason play.
With or without Boozer, the Bulls are a deep squad. If Rose and Joakim Noah play at All-Star levels and Luol Deng returns to form, the Bulls can definitely challenge for the Eastern Conference.
2. Houston Rockets
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PG: Kyle Lowry
SG: Courtney Lee
SF: Chase Budinger
PF: Chuck Hayes
C: Brad Miller
I'm shocked at the general lack of love the Houston Rockets are getting. Experts have them ranked below teams like the Spurs, Jazz and Suns in the Western Conference pecking order.
With this bench, and with the weapons they have in the starting lineup, I'm hard-pressed to find a team with more upside.
Brad Miller is a great backup to have, and the Chicago Bulls will sorely miss his veteran presence. He can hit a jumper, bang in the paint and disrupt an opponent's gameplan better than any other player in the league with a similar athletic ability.
Then there's Chuck Hayes, who is undersized but provides scrappy play in the paint and will fight for every loose ball. He's the exact type of player coaches love to call on off the bench.
Chase Budinger is another kind of specialist every coach wants in reserve. Budinger can shoot three-pointers at a 37 percent rate, and at only 22 years old, he figures to get better with time. He can play the two or three and have a similar role to the Bulls' Kyle Korver.
Courtney Lee was a nice addition from New Jersey as part of the Trevor Ariza deal. Lee is a tall, a 6-foot-five guard who can shoot well and play tough defense. He started for the Nets last season, so having him coming off the bench is a luxury for the Rockets.
Lastly, Kyle Lowry has near-starting potential at the point guard position, but Aaron Brooks won out thanks to his blinding speed.
As you can see, this team is indeed 10 deep, and clearly has the best bench in the Western Conference. Only one team from the East has a stronger 10-man rotation.
1. Orlando Magic
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PG: Chris Duhon
SG: J.J. Redick
SF: Quentin Richardson
PF:Ryan Anderson/Brandon Bass
C: Marcin Gortat
The Orlando Magic have the strongest bench and the deepest team in the NBA for 2010-2011.
The Bulls tried their very hardest to pry J.J. Redick from the Magic, but Otis Smith did not budge. Redick is a fantastic shooter that is arguably better than Vince Carter right now, but will still be coming off the bench for the time being.
Chris Duhon has started at point guard for the Bulls and the Knicks, so to have him coming off the bench is tremendous for the Magic. Duhon has always been a smart player who can pass and score well, and he's even more savvy now that's he has been in the league for several years.
Orlando stole Quentin Richardson from Miami, which was a sneaky move that helped the Magic and weakened the Heat at the same time. Last season he shot 40 percent from three-point range, which makes him right at home with the rest of Orlando's lineup.
Ryan Anderson is the same way. He plays behind Rashard Lewis in a similar manner, shooting 37 percent from beyond the arc and standing at 6'10". Marcin Gortat has proven in the past he can step in and eat up minutes when Dwight Howard is in foul trouble, and he will continue to play that important role this season.
People seem to be forgetting the Magic when it comes to potential Eastern Conference champions. Miami is certainly the favorite, but I'd choose Orlando over Boston any day.
There you have it. The best and worst benches in the NBA.