July 7, 2020 | 6:55 pm
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Depth To Go the Distance: The best benches in the NBA

With the NBA preseason in full swing, players across the league are gearing up for another long and fast-paced campaign. For the next seven to nine months players and coaching staffs will be in constant transition between planes, trains, and automobiles to deliver the excitement basketball fans crave every single day.

One strategy used by coaches to keep their starters fresh throughout the season is by having and using a deep bench. Management and coaches want to ensure that each position has plenty of back-ups to keep players rotating in and out of games so that everyone is properly rested both short term and long term.

Roster depth is a crucial component to a team’s success throughout the season. Depth allows for coaches to deploy different lineups that will take advantage of an opponent’s weaknesses. Coaches often choose to pull only a couple of starters at a time to keep offensive momentum flowing. True NBA contenders will need to compete at a high level through June so it will be imperative for them to properly utilize their roster depth to stay healthy and go the distance. The bench should to be able to come in and maintain a lead that the starters generate or shake up the opponent’s momentum if necessary.

So, without further ado, let’s dive in and take a look at the five teams with the best benches in the NBA.

Number 5: Utah Jazz

The Utah Jazz enter the 2016-2017 season swagging out going three deep at every position. Point guard George Hill will be backed up by the explosive, yet agile, Dante Exum. The third year guard is a great option when playmaking and defense are needed. His ability to defend multiple positions will be key if the Jazz are going match up against teams like Warriors and Clippers out West.

Shooting guard Alec Burks will sub for the starter Rodney Hood. Burks is great scorer and underrated passer. His health has been questionable in recent seasons but his talent is undeniable. He’s a great option to have in the second unit. Small forward Gordon Hayward heads to the bench to make way for  Joe Johnson. The veteran is known as a 5-tool player—meaning he can shoot, pass, handle the ball, rebound and play great D. He will prove valuable in situations that call for versatility, adaptation and clutch shooting.

Power forward Trey Lyles will serve as relief for Derrick Favors. Lyles has been described as a playmaking four which will make him valuable when the Jazz need to utilize their big men while also having someone who can set up and execute offensive plays. Lastly, Jeff Withey will relieve big man stud Rudy Gobert for the Jazz this year. Withey is often underrated but his fans believe in him. The Jazz will benefit from his ability to be a good guard off the pick and roll. Keep your eyes peeled for the Utah Jazz this season. I have a feeling they’re going to surprise us.

Number 4: Denver Nuggets

Denver has been struggle city for basketball these last few years. However, this team has fully embraced rebuilding mode and are primed to show the league what they’re made of this upcoming season. Second-year point guard Emmanuel Mudiay has a little help behind him with rookie Jamal Murray coming on board. Murray is a sharp-shooter coming out of his first year at Kentucky with a 40% 3 point average. Murray also brings a high level of confidence and creativity in making shots much like his teammate Danilo Gallinari.

Shooting guard Gary Harris is out for a few weeks with a groin injury so 6th man of the year nominee Will Barton will be reporting for duty. Barton is a scorer and has a decent range from three shooting 35% from that distance last season. He is fearlessness going to the rim and his aggressiveness is one of his best attributes. Italian small forward Danilo Gallinari pairs up with Wilson Chandler who is back from a recent injury. Chandler is incredibly versatile, and brings steadiness and consistency to this young team.

Kenneth Faried starts ahead of Darrell Arthur at the power forward position. DA is a fierce defender who is great at setting picks and popping out for good looks. Arthur aids the offensive flow whenever he’s in the game. Bosnian Beast Jusuf Nurkic comes off the bench for Serbian Silver medalist Nikola Jokic at the center position for the Nuggets. Nurkic is a juggernaut under the rim and consistently positions himself well for good rebounding. I fully expect to see Denver make the playoffs this year and hopefully they can make a good run in the post-season.

Number 3: Golden State Warriors

We’ve all heard the Warriors referred to as the super team this summer with the recent acquisition of Kevin Durant. Nonetheless, I have ranked them number 3 on this list because a team of superstars doesn’t necessarily equal a championship team. I remain a skeptic until I see what they can do this year. The reigning league MVP Stephen Curry pulls in Shaun Livingston as a reserve at the point. Livingston is one of my favorite players, and proves himself to be a key small ball player that the Warriors’ offense has become famous for. He’s a great sweet spot passer with 3.3 assists per game, a great bench leader and has one the deadliest mid-range jumpers in the league.

Splash brother Klay Thompson partners with Ian Clark at the two. Clark looks to improve on his consistency from the floor with just a 41% field goal percentage but he does hit 35% from three. How he does with more minutes remains to be seen but he was impactful in a small sample size last year during the postseason when Curry was out.

Sixth man extraordinaire Andre Igoudala will come off the bench for new kid on the block, Kevin Durant as the small forward. To say that Igoudala is vital to the success of the Golden State Warriors is an understatement. Iggy is 35% from the 3 point line and has been absolutely clutch during key games in the playoffs. Igoudala’s days in Denver helped him to become very active in the transition and he is a defensive game changer for Steve Kerr off the bench.

Power forward David West will come off the bench for the assassin that is Draymond Green. West will be an aggressive obstacle in the paint much like Green, and will bring a level of intensity that can sometimes wane when Green takes to the bench for a rest. Georgia big man Zaza Pachulia will be replaced by Anderson Varejao at the center position for Golden State this season. Varejao viciously attacks the boards with high energy and consistently draws fouls, albeit in questionable ways. I personally am not a fan of Kevin Durant’s move to the Golden City, but it is undeniable that the Golden State Warriors are stacked with top-level talent. Let’s see if they can prove to us that they are the super team this season.

Number 2: Cleveland Cavaliers

Not so fast Warriors fans, the Cleveland Cavaliers are also jam packed with all-star talent proven to go the distance this year. Shooting stud Kyrie Irving’s rookie reserve Kay Felder will not disappoint. Felder is known for his lateral quickness and brings the ability to distribute after averaging 7.8 assists per game in college. If J.R. Smith ever signs a new contract with the Cavs he will be backed by Iman Shumpert. Shump has good hands, brings high energy, competitive drive and is particularly useful on perimeter defense. LeBron James has even compared Shumpert to San Antonio Spurs stud Kawhi Leonard…defensively.

Speaking of The King,  James, will be relieved veteran Mike Dunleavy who is a new Cavalier as of this season. Dunleavy brings experience and maturity to the Cavs roster. At almost 40% from three last season, he will certainly carry his weight when subbing for the main man this year. Power Forward Channing Frye comes off the bench for Kevin Love as a stretch four. Frye is a reliable veteran and a great role player. Frye can also be a good option to play with Love which will allow Love to post a little more.

Center Tristan Thompson will now pair up with Chris Andersen. If you’ve ever seen Bird Man play, you know he brings an unreal energy and aggression to the game. He is highly efficient, finishing 53% of his shots at the rim. The defending champs are just that for a reason. We can expect them to make their way to the Finals again this season but who their opponent will be is up for debate.

Number 1: Boston Celtics

If you watched the NBA draft this year, you may have noticed that the Boston Celtics had a whopping 5 draft selections. They came away with some incredible rookie talent to complement their budding roster so keep your eyes peeled for great things from this team. Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley will be supported by Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier in the backcourt. Smart has great hustle and is incredibly tough on defense. He brings an identity to the Celtics organization that has proven to give their team confidence. Terry Rozier brings lateral quickness to his game and is sporting an improved jumper from summer league that will be key off the Boston bench.

Jae Crowder’s back up will be rookie Jaylen Brown at the small forward position. Boston selected Brown as the third pick overall in the 2016 draft. Brown boasts an 8’9 reach so he will be able to play big when needed under the rim. Coach Brad Stevens is looking forward to using Brown’s aggressive nature and versatility in the Boston lineup.  Sweden’s Jonas Jerebko will sub for Amir Johnson in the 2016-2107 season. Jerebko is a very versatile player and will be capable of playing at the forward or center position. This will prove useful when Boston needs to switch things up and play small ball.

Last, but not least, Al Horford will sit when Kelly Olynyk comes in for Boston at the center position. Olynyk has improved his post game to go along with his is good shooting. Olynyk is unique in that he grew up as a guard so he has excellent ball-handling skills and boasts good straight line speed unlike most other centers in the league. Keep a look out for the boys in Beantown this season. We just may see them as a top seed in the Eastern Conference come April.

If I missed your team don’t worry–this is by no means an exhaustive list of all the teams with great depth in the league. There are many organizations that can arguably make a great run given the talent they have stacked up at each position. One thing is for certain: The teams with the most depth will make a run at the playoffs. We can expect to see these teams become major contenders at the conclusion of the regular season. Only a few short weeks until the show begins!

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