The benches will have almost as much to do with the outcome of the games as the starters in this year's playoffs.
It's no secret why there are a few teams that no one wants to play. They are deep, and when their starters go out, there isn't that much of a drop-off. Their subs keep putting pressure on you.
That will be important because the playoffs are a grind. If the starters have to play too many minutes every game, eventually they will be worn out and less effective in the fourth quarter.
They are the only team left in the playoffs that can say most of their bench players were starters on a winning team. In the same season, no less.
Ray Felton, J.R. Smith, Wilson Chandler, Chris Anderson and Al Harrington form the most explosive second unit in the NBA. Felton keeps the pace where Denver wants it and can score and dish.
Smith is an exceptional athlete and can score from anywhere and on anyone. He can hit the three along with Felton, and he is lethal in transition.
Earlier this year the talk was that Wilson Chandler was a future All-Star, as he was a key cog in the Knicks attack. He is a very good defender and has a good mid range game and can also hit the three.
Let me put it this way. If New York still had Chandler (along with Melo), they would be favored over the Celtics instead of the other way around.
Anderson is a terror on the boards, runs the floor well and is a glue guy that every team needs. He is as tough as they come and not afraid to mix it up with the big men on the other team. Al Harrington doesn't get the minutes he used to, but is still capable on offense.
Not much on defense, though. No other team can boast the plethora of bench talent that Denver has.
The Bulls don't ask their bench to be an offensive juggernaut. They expect them to lock you down defensively, get transition points and hold it down until the starters get back in.
Chicago is a disciplined team, and the bench runs their offense almost flawlessly when they are in the game. They don't have the all the skills offensively, but they wear you down so that by the time the fourth quarter rolls around, they have the advantage.
Ronnie Brewer is a good defender and can play the point and shooting guard while Kyle Korver makes you pay for double teaming by knocking down critical three-pointers.
Taj Gibson and veteran Kurt Thomas make sure they get everything they can coming off the glass. Gibson is an excellent defender, and Thomas' post defense is legendary.
The Bulls bench is workman like and fits with the rugged style that their coach has them playing. Not a fun unit to play against.
3. Portland Trailblazers
Any time you have Brandon Roy coming off your bench, you are a step ahead of the competition. Even though he has knee problems, he is still capable of exploding on offense.
Rudy Fernandez and Nicolas Batum give Portland two other versatile wing players that are tough matchups.
All three are capable of starting and playing well. There is no drop-off when they are in the game. As a matter of fact, Batum was starting before Gerald Wallace came via trade.
Trust me. They will be a big part of their opening series with Dallas.
With Kendrick Perkins in the fold, the Thunder are deep in the front as well as backcourt now. Nazr Mohammed started a lot of games for them, but now is a perfect backup to Perkins.
Nick Collison is rugged and a good defender and rebounder. You won't get a lot of offense out of Mohammed and Collison, but their play will be critical against the Lakers.
If you can't match up in the front court against L.A., then you are sure to go home early.
Their key player off the bench is James Harden. He gets big minutes and is often in the game in crunch time. He is a slasher, but has a good mid-range game as well.
Harden gives them the ability to go small, with him, Westbrook and Durant, or he can play the two in a bigger lineup.
Without Harden, the Thunder would be seriously hamstrung, because they don't have anyone else that can do what he does coming off the bench.
Boston is one of those teams that just need their bench to be solid on defense and get some points in transition and in the post. Delonte West has playoff experience and will not flinch in tight spots.
Glen Davis has already proven that he can get it done on both ends of the floor on the big stage. He has proved everyone who thought he could not play at this level wrong.
Jeff Green and Krstic give them a lot of flexibility up front, and even though they are not Kendrick Perkins, they are important to Boston because Shaq is hurt, and you don't know what you will get from Jermaine Oneal.
As a group they are solid, not spectacular. That is what they need to be. They will out work you on the boards and get to most of the loose balls.
Foul trouble is a given. It will happen. If you can't overcome that with your bench, especially in the playoffs, then you are in trouble. If your bench doesn't perform, you will get an early exit from this year's playoffs.
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