Every team is about 10 games deep into this young NBA season. From just about every squad in the league, we are seeing star players rise to the occasion. Starting lineups, for the most part, are beginning and ending every contest. To the casual fan, they are the players that are known. But what can often get lost in all the SportsCenter highlight reels and Twitter hoopla is the grind of the bench unit.
They may not have all the glitz and glamour of the starting five. But what they do on a nightly basis is immensely impactful to the success of their respective clubs. We’ve seen plenty of stellar play from reserves, so let’s dive into a handful of those players and see what they’ve been able to do to help their teams win.
Marcus Morris – Boston Celtics
First up is the ninth-year veteran playing a reserve forward for the Celtics. He has seen many roles on many teams throughout his career, but has seemed to settle in quite well as the sixth man for Boston.
Morris is averaging career highs in both points and rebounds per game, at 14.7 and 6.9, respectively. He’s putting up those numbers in only 25.5 minutes per night. A large part of this can be tied to his career-high effective field goal percentage of 62.7 percent.
He’s leading the team in rebounding percentage and, among players who have been in all games, he’s leading in true shooting percentage, too. This is a very stacked Boston squad, but Morris is doing everything he can to stick out.
Zach Collins – Portland Trail Blazers
Coming off the bench is nothing new to this second-year standout from Gonzaga. During his lone year in college, he was the backup center. While he did come off the bench for an all-conference caliber player, he played plenty of meaningful minutes and did enough to find himself in the lottery on draft night.
He has a team-high 57.1 percent block percentage. His impact is definitely felt strongest on the defensive end. He is contesting 9.4 shots per game. He’s also fourth in scoring at 10.6 points per contest on 57.7 percent shooting, all on only 21 minutes a night.
One of the most obvious figures pointing towards Collins’ impact on the defensive end is the team’s defensive rating. With him on the court, it’s at 97.6. With him off the court, it rockets up to 106.2. His length clearly gives him an advantage at the rim, but his athleticism allows him to still remain useful on the wing.
Jae Crowder – Utah Jazz
After being traded from the Celtics to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Jae Crowder found himself playing some of the worst basketball of his career. Fast forward half-a-year, after another trade found him on the Utah Jazz roster, and he’s arguably playing the best basketball on the team.
Ever the defensive presence, it is only a matter of time until Crowder finds himself in the starting lineup. As scary as the Gobert-Favors frontcourt seems at times, it doesn’t give the team enough spacing. Substitute Crowder in for Favors at the four and the Jazz net rating skyrockets. With Favors at the four, they have a negative 7.5 rating. Crowder at the four boasts a plus-18.6.
He’s pouring in 14.2 points a night, which matches his career high from a few years back with Boston. If he continues to play at this high level, he may end up playing his way into the starting five.
Spencer Dinwiddie – Brooklyn Nets
A legitimate contender for Most Improved Player last season, Dinwiddie finds himself coming off the bench this year, and it might be a move that is actually paying off for Brooklyn. Dinwiddie’s high level of play has kept him on the court to close out games, and his game-winner last week against the Pistons in overtime shows why.
He’s averaging a career-high 14.1 points per night on 48.3 percent shooting from the field and 43.1 percent from three – both career highs as well. His assists have dipped from last season, but his hot shooting could be a telling sign as to why. And while his net rating is a minus-0.3, it is the best of his career thus far.
Domantas Sabonis – Indiana Pacers
Sabonis has found himself playing for two different teams in his young career. After being drafted in the lottery and traded from Orlando to Oklahoma City on draft night, he played solid minutes for the Thunder off the bench. Moving forward a season, Sabonis was part of the blockbuster Paul George trade that found him sent to the Indiana Pacers.
Having easily the most efficient season of his career, Sabonis is both scoring and rebounding at an incredibly high mark. He brings a great boost of effort off the bench and truly anchors that unit. He is currently second on the team in scoring at 14.1 points a contest on a blistering 65.6 percent from the field. He’s also leading the team in rebounding at 8.9 per game, rebound percentage at 18.2 percent and true shooting percentage at 70.4 percent. Finally, his player impact rating, which according to NBA.com measures “a player’s overall statistical contribution against the total statistics in games they play in”, is a team-high 18.6.
Julius Randle – New Orleans Pelicans
Many people around the league were incredibly intrigued with how the Lakers would handle the free agency of Randle. On one end of the spectrum, he is a freak athlete who has proven many times he can play at a high level. On the other end, he can be quite the handful, as many have questioned just how engaged he has been throughout his career.
The Lakers decided to let him walk and he went on to sign a two-year contract with the New Orleans Pelicans. This move has paid off to the highest degree, so far. Through the first part of the season, Randle has already seen huge performances off the bench. His elite mix of size and athleticism make him a handful on offense and – when engaged – he can be incredibly good on defense, as well.
His player impact rating, the advanced stat mentioned earlier, is 15.3. That is second on the roster behind MVP-candidate Anthony Davis. He is still not completely polished on the defensive end of the court, and his play can seem a little inefficient at times, but he’s shown just how high his ceiling can be when he is fully engaged.
This list could obviously contain a handful of other candidates who have proven to be quite the commodity coming off the bench. The league is chock-full of elite talent, both young and old. But this list was created to simply highlight some of the cream that has risen to the top.
Look for these players to continually make an impact on their respective rosters and maybe even break into the coveted starting rotation.
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