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NBA Power Rankings: Ranking the Best Bench Players in the League

Joseph FafinskiCorrespondent IJuly 6, 2011

NBA Power Rankings: Ranking the Best Bench Players in the League

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    The boys of the starting five aren't necessarily the only integral parts to a basketball team.

    In order to maintain or create more leads, the team needs to have an instant spark off the bench.

    The 10 players in the following slides know they would start on most rosters in the association, but they have elected to take a back-seat role while still being a catalyst of the team. With that in mind, here are the 10 best bench players in the NBA.

     

    (Author's note: In order to be eligible for this list, players included must have started in under half, or 41, of the amount of games they participated in.)

    Follow Joseph on Twitter @JosephFafinski.

10. Taj Gibson, Chicago Bulls

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    Taj Gibson of the Chicago Bulls has quietly become a force in the paint.

    His tenacious D, coupled with his intensity, helped out da Bulls tremendously this last season.

    I am a believer that statistics sometimes don't do justice to players, and Gibson is a prime example of that. Although he averaged "only" 7.1 points and 5.7 rebounds last season, he could've put up far more had it not been for the measly 21.8 minutes per game he played in.

    Carlos Boozer's signing sent the USC product to the bench, but he has still proven he can play fine in that role.

9. Carl Landry, New Orleans Hornets

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    Even though he started every game in the Hornets' postseason series against the Lakers, Carl Landry makes this list because he only heard his name announced in the dark 26 times this season.

    The 6'9" big can score, as justified by his 11.9 point-per-game clip during 2010-11, but he needs to work on his rebounding, where he only grabbed 4.6 per.

    Nonetheless, he is a solid defender and would start on about half the teams around the association.

8. Aaron Brooks, Phoenix Suns

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    Aaron Brooks was not a happy camper during the 2010-11 season.

    He relinquished his starting point guard role in Houston to Kyle Lowry, and was swapped to the Suns in February. Ever since landing in Arizona, though, the 25-year-old Brooks has struggled to find a proper niche.

    His averages of 10 points and four assists were severe dropoffs from last season, but that has to do with how little playing time he received and not his actual game. He is a solid player when he wants to be.

    A lot of teams will be looking at Brooks during the free agency period, and someone is going to appreciate him once more and give him a second chance. After all, he's one of the best bench players in the league.

7. Glen Davis, Boston Celtics

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    Glen "Big Baby" Davis is both one of the league's sorest losers and hardest workers.

    Huh? How the heck does that work, Joseph (yes, I just referred to myself in the third person. Sue me.)?

    Well, for starters, he is one of the few players on this list who play great defense, and he has a knack for getting boards despite his rather large frame.

    He also can put the ball in the hoop if he's not crying, too. His 11.7 points per game clip last season was the highest it's ever been in his career.

    In addition, he garnered one steal per game and shot better than 73 percent at the charity stripe, a good number for somebody who is 6'9 and 289 pounds big.

    Had teammate and buddy Jeff Green not started 45 games early in the season for Oklahoma City, he would undoubtedly been in the following slide.

6. J.R. Smith, Denver Nuggets

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    Even though J.R. Smith's talents are about to be shipped elsewhere, that still doesn't mean he's not one of the league's premier bench players.

    He's always good for about 12 points and three rebounds per night, and we all know how much he loves dunking. In fact, you won't find many other players who are more electric forces.

    At 25 years old (doesn't seem like he should be 30 by now?), he definitely can become a mainstay in a different city for years to come.

    He would start on half the teams in the association easily, but Arron Afflalo, the Nuggets' incumbent shooting guard, is the reason J.R.'s name graces this list.

5. O.J. Mayo, Memphis Grizzlies

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    Remember when everyone thought the Grizzlies got the best of the O.J. Mayo/Kevin Love trade?

    Nonetheless, Mayo is still a solid player, a guy who can be a spark off the bench and score 15 in any game on any opponent. He's quick, he can pass, and he is in possession of a long-range shot.

    Being a guy who was not known for stingy defense, it was odd to see extreme hustle and heart coming from Mayo during the Grizz's 2011 postseason run. His standing on this list is well-deserved.

4. Jamal Crawford, Atlanta Hawks

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    Jamal Crawford is one of this offseason's most sought after free agents.

    It is because of his work ethic and premier offensive game that there are currently so many potential suitors.

    The Hawks proved they weren't messing around this postseason when they obliterated Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic in the first round.

    During that series, the 31-year-old from Seattle proved that he can come up big in the clutch, hitting three buzzer-beaters and making countless plays on the court while hustling relentlessly.

    If he improves his defense, you might as well omit him now from next year's list, as he would become a starter.

3. James Harden, Oklahoma City Thunder

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    General manager Sam Presti of the Oklahoma City Thunder has come under heat for selecting James Harden third overall in the 2009 draft.

    Harden, on the other hand, is out to prove it wasn't a mistake to put their faith in him.

    In addition to sporting an absolutely legendary beard, the goofy-natured Harden also hustles to no end on both sides of the court.

    His lockdown defense has improved over the course of his career, and we know he can shoot from downtown and distribute better than most shooting guards.

    During the 2011 postseason, he proved his worth in putting up 13 points and grabbing 5.4 rebounds every contest.

2. Jason Terry, Dallas Mavericks

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    Jason "The Jet" Terry has long been one of the league's best bench players, and he has gladly accepted that role with open arms. This past season, he was one of the main reasons the Dallas Mavericks took home the NBA Finals trophy.

    It's not like he puts up incredible numbers, though. He makes key plays with his hands on defense, and can toss nifty passes on the other side of the hardwood.

    I guess the numbers are a main factor though, and in case you were wondering, he averaged 17.5 points per game during the 2011 NBA Playoffs, second on the Mavs only to the great Dirk Nowitzki.

    I'm not sure anyone is going to take Terry's spot soon. It is evident that he is one of the best bench players in the league.

1. Lamar Odom, Los Angeles Lakers

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    Lamar Odom is, bar none, the best bench player in the league.

    In winning the Sixth Man of the Year award during the 2010-11 season, he proved this statement to be a reality.

    On a team that had a healthy Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum last season, the 31-year-old Odom still managed to grab 8.7 rebounds per, the highest number on this list in that department. He also averaged 14.4 points and shot a prolific 53 percent from the floor.

    The spark he brings off the bench is unreal. The Lakers can always have fresh legs and unmatched intensity in the 6'10" Odom.

    Fans used to call him inconsistent but, like Jason Terry, what Odom does on the court isn't really shown in the box score. He really does mean that much to the Lakers.

     

    Follow Joseph on Twitter @JosephFafinski.

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