In order to have a championship caliber team, or a competitive one at the very least, there are certain elements that are necessary to success.
A team has to have at least one star player, a head coach with above average knowledge of the game and strategy, and team chemistry from the first player to the last on the bench. Even despite having all of the aforementioned, there is one more aspect that can push a team over the top from a playoff contender to a championship winner. That critical element? Role players.
Role players understand what is expected of them and they stay within their bounds. They bring unselfishness to the table and always put forth a team-first mentality. They are willing to do whatever is asked of them and are willing to forgo the glamour and publicity for the sake of the entire team benefiting.
There are quite a few role players in the league today, but it no surprise that the top teams in the league today have some of the best role players available.
It is no secret that Manu Ginobili is one of the most popular and well-liked players in the NBA. But people tend to forget that he doesn’t even start for the Spurs. The unselfish character of the Argentinean star has enabled Ginobili to come off the bench for about 25 minutes per game and shoot at a very efficient 48 percent. He tallies just over 15 points and three assists per game while providing the spark the Spurs need each night.
The second year player is not very well known throughout the landscape and playing in Utah doesn’t exactly help his cause as far as notoriety is concerned.
However, Paul Millsap has earned the respect of head coach Jerry Sloan with his hardnosed and aggressive interior play. He averages 14 points along with nearly nine rebounds and a block per contest. The ceiling on this second year star is high but what makes him special is his willingness to blend in behind superstar Deron Williams and veterans Andrei Kirilenko, Mehmet Okur, and Carlos Boozer.
Effort and intensity are high on the lists of the very demanding Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant. That hasn’t been a problem for Trevor Ariza as he brings the intensity and pedal to the medal effort night in and night out. It is no wonder that he fills out the stat sheet quite nicely in just 24 minutes of play.
Through a quarter of the season, he is averaging just under 10 points, 5.2 boards, 1.88 steals and two assists per game. Most of all, knowing his role on the team and being willing to dive for loose balls has made him a superb addition to the Championship-Or-Bust Los Angeles Lakers.
Tough to classify Terry as a role player given how many minutes he plays per game but believe it or not, he comes off the bench (most of the time). However, it is not the fact that he starts or doesn’t that makes Terry worthy of this list. Behind superstars Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki, Terry finds a way to do what he does best; shoot. The veteran is averaging over 20 points per game and does so in electrifying fashion. He knows when to defer, and he knows when to go; exemplifying him as a true role player.
The “Blur” as he is known is a mini-me version of Jason Terry. In years to come, he will no doubt become a more refined basketball player. Barbosa, similar to Terry, knows his role to a tee. He comes into the game for about 22 minutes per night and provides the scoring spark for the Phoenix Suns.
With the Suns roster changing more and more each week, Barbosa’s role in the offense should increase. Don’t be surprised if in a year or two, you find this young budding star’s name in the top ten or fifteen leaders in points scored.
Stats don’t tell the story with the poor man’s version of Robert Horry. James Posey, frustrated Kobe Bryant and the Lakers last year as a member of the World Champion Boston Celtics with his relentless defense and ability to hit key shots in critical moments of the game. Well now the veteran has brought his show to New Orleans to team up with Chris Paul and Co. in his pursuit of another title.
Posey’s tenacity and toughness rub off on teammates and is the biggest reason the Hornets acquired the forward through free agency. His leadership by example should help the Hornets take another step towards the ultimate goal.