When an NBA fan thinks of the League's best benches, the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, Utah Jazz, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Chicago Bulls probably come to mind. And when an NBA fan thinks of the best bench players, Paul Millsap, Ben Gordon, Lamar Odom, or James Posey probably comes to mind.
But, Miami's Daequan Cook should be considered among those names when referring to the best bench players in the league.
While some may not consider Cook one of the best in the league, he is hands down the Miami Heat's best bench player.
When the Heat traded their pick (Jason Smith) in the 2007 draft for Cook, I was hesitant at first. I didn't see a reason to trade for a shooting guard with only one year of college experience under his belt. But, the Ohio State product has truly blossomed in a Heat uniform and emerged as not only their best bench player, but their best three-point shooter.
Cook is averaging 9.5 points, three rebounds, and shooting 41.3 percent from beyond the arc in just under 25 minutes a game. His three-point percentage is second on the team, only to Chris Quinn, who is averaging half the attempts than Cook is, and his 59 three-pointers is by far the most on the team.
While some people might find it odd that I dub Cook as the Heat's best reserve player considering No. 2 draft pick Michael Beasley comes off the bench, you have to realize what Cook brings to the table.
Cook is an up-beat player that brings a much needed energy boost off the bench. He enters the game and is ready to play. In addition, he is a great shooter, he is consistent, and has the ability to be a No. 2 or No. 3 scorer for the Heat on most nights.
Even though Beasley is Miami's leading bench scorer and their second leading scorer, he does not have that same energy and boost that Cook has on a nightly basis. There are times when Beasley looks lost, confused, and sluggish on the court. While he will put up his points, it mostly comes after a series of errors and non smart play.
While there is no doubt that Beasley can score, his scoring doesn't have the same affect as a dynamic three-point shooter does. And when I say this, I am only referring to bench play, not starters play. An example is in last night's game against the Golden State Warriors. Cook checked in off the bench and lit up the Warriors' defense.
In a five-minute span, he scorched Golden State with five three-pointers, giving him 15 points in the second quarter and allowed the Heat to come back from an 11-point deficit. He had 17 first half points and ended the game with 20.
Cook simply took over with his three-point shooting and gave his team a much needed spark off the bench. When talking about the difference between Beasley and Cook, it comes down to the fact that Cook has the ability to take over a period of time in a game differently than Beasley can. While everyone knows that Beasley is the better player and has the potential to become an NBA superstar unlike Cook, it just comes down to the fact that Cook can take over a period of time better than Beasley can.
Cook's second quarter performance is a prime example of that. His three-point shooting has been and is so vital to this team. It also has been very clutch. There has been a number of times this season and last season, where he has knocked down clutch three-pointers to either get his team back into the game or take the opponent out of the game (similar to what James Posey does).
The fact is that Cook has greatly improved from last year and really emerged to be an important piece of this team. With three-point specialist James Jones out for the entire season up to date, Cook has picked up the slack and become their main three-point threat. When Jones does return from injury, the Heat will have two legitimate three-point shooters that will space the floor and knock down key shots.
Cook's improvement can be seen across the board, as he has increased his points, steals, and three-point percentage (from 33.2 to 41.3 percent). His 59 three-points this year is just 20 away from last year's total and his 257 points this year is half way to his 518 points last year, and the season is not even half way over. It is clear that Cook has greatly improved from his rookie season.
When the Heat return all their players from injury, they will have a bench that features Beasley, Cook, Jones, and Dorell Wright. That is an above average bench that will help Miami in scoring, shooting, and rebounding. But, as of now, Cook is having the greatest impact on the Miami Heat bench and has quietly become one of the NBA's best reserves.