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NBA's most productive benches
NBA's most productive benches
Top 5: NBA's most productive benches
By MATT SOUTHARD
Depth is the secret to success in basketball. Roster rotations, fresh legs stepping up in the fourth quarter and the potential for players to make a name for themselves is key.
But in some cases, just because the bench is pouring in the points, doesn't mean everything is going as planned.
Bench points per game: 37.4
The reason: Jason Terry carrying the load
This year with Josh Howard gimpy due to an ankle injury and Jason Kidd showing his age, Dallas (13-10 SU, 9-14 ATS) has had to call on its bench to buoy the team.
Jason Terry has answered the challenge for the Mavericks. He leads the highest scoring bench in the league and has done the lion's share of the work himself. Terry is averaging 20.7 points per game and has been a major reason Dallas has stayed afloat in the competitive Southwest Division.
Prior to Howard's return Monday night in a 99-88 defeat by the Denver Nuggets, Terry averaged 24.5 points off the bench in 11 games. As a team, the Mavericks went 9-2 SU (5-6 ATS) without Howard due in part to Terry's performance.
What "The Jett" gives the Mavericks is an experienced and explosive offensive weapon that gives the team the spark it has lacked since the trade of point guard Devin Harris for Kidd last season. What's more, the nine-year veteran is still averaging starter's playing time with 34.5 minutes per game.
The angle: With Howard's injury, Kidd having a sub-par year (9.7 points, 8.5 assists) and coach Rick Carlisle questioning Dirk Nowitzki's effort, it is easy to see why the Terry is excelling off the bench and the Mavericks are under performing ATS.
Bench points per game: 37.3
The reason: Poor play by the starters
Washington has been absolutely dreadful so far (4-18 SU, 9-13 ATS) so it's only natural the bench gets as much time as it does considering the Wizards have lost eight games by ten points or more.
With Gilbert Arenas still on the sideline following September knee surgery, Washington lacks a true, consistent scoring threat. Caron Butler (22 points) and Antwan Jamison (19.9 points) are great players, but don't have the burst and ability to take over a game that Arenas possesses.
In his second season out of Southern California, Nick Young has made the most of his 22.5 minutes per game, averaging 10.4 points per game. Andray Blatche continues his solid work off of the bench, putting in 8.5 points per contest off the bench.
The Dec. 10 trade of bench-regular Antonio Daniels to the New Orleans Hornets in a three-team deal may hurt the Wizards in the long run, but the team received Mike James (who scored 16 points Dec. 13 versus Philadelphia). James may succeed Juan Dixon as starting point guard as the season wears on.
The angle: The Wizards prove that good bench play doesn't always translate to great success whether it's straight up or against the spread. The return of Arenas will only help the team's depth.
Portland Trail Blazers
Bench points per game: 36.2
The reason: Depth and lots of it
Recent drafts and player development have put the Trailblazers (16-10 SU, 12-14 ATS) into a position as one of the deepest teams in the league. The biggest beneficiary is 2006 first-round draft pick Brandon Roy (22 points), who was left to carry the team down the stretch last year.
Rookie Rudy Fernandez has helped shoulder the load. The former Spanish League sensation is averaging 11 points off the bench in 26.8 minutes of play. Per 48 minutes, that translates to 19.8 points per contest.
Along with Fernandez is Blazers' 2003 draft pick Travis Outlaw. Outlaw (10.5 points) has been nothing but great off the bench for the Blazers the last two seasons and provides with Fernandez, a dangerous fourth quarter combination.
Add Joel Przybilla (6.2 points) to the mix and it's no wonder Roy is having a big year. But the most interesting item this season is when Roy scores 30 or more points, the Blazers are 1-3 SU. In the last four Blazers contests, Roy has scored thirty or more points. Only once in that stretch did the bench trio of Fernandez, Outlaw and Przybilla all score in double-digits. And that was in the 109-108 defeat to Orlando on Dec. 12.
The angle: It isn't surprising that Roy's point totals have gone up as the Blazers have struggled. In the month of December, the team is 0-7 ATS, and 3-4 SU. Teams will adjust to the bench rotations, not to mention, Portland is still extremely young.
Bench points per game: 35 points
The reason: Villanueva and Sessions
The Bucks are 11-15 SU, but have been one of the top ATS teams for much of the season now. With a 17-8-1 ATS record, the Bucks are second to Cleveland (19-5 ATS) so far.
With all-star guard Michael Redd having played in only 12 games this year, the onus was on the bench early in the season. But with Redd back in the fold, the bench is flourishing.
Charlie Villanueva is averaging 17.4 points in December coming off of the bench and has scored 20 or more points in five of the last seven games.
Ramon Sessions, the second-year man out of Nevada, has progressed by leaps and bounds. In 29.2 minutes, Sessions has averaged 12.8 points and 5.4 assists. Averaged out over 48 minutes, Sessions would average over 21 points and nine assists. There's even rumbling amongst fans now that Sessions should get the starting nod over Luke Ridnour.
The angle: Milwaukee is still struggling to find an identity and with Redd back, the team ought to congeal. With a little consistency Villanueva and Sessions can only benefit. In that case, expect the Bucks' ATS record to continue its upward climb.
San Antonio Spurs
Bench points per game: 34.8
The reason: Who else? It's Manu
The Spurs know the importance of keeping legs fresh, especially as key players like Tim Duncan and Tony Parker gather more miles on the tires.
The key in keeping the team fresh is Manu Ginobili. The reigning NBA sixth man of the year winner has played in only 11 games this year due to an ankle injury, but has averaged 15.5 points coming off of the bench in seven of those games. Since Ginobili's return Nov. 24 against Memphis, the Spurs are 9-2 SU and 7-4 ATS.
Joining Ginobili in the bench onslaught is George Hill (9.9 points) and Matt Bonner (8.2 points).
The big surprise has been Roger Mason. Mason (13.3 points) had started the season backing up Bruce Bowen but with Bowen struggling to find his game, Mason has moved into the starting lineup.
The angle: Ginobili may be the most important player the Spurs have had in their run of dominance this decade. Their ATS mark is steadily improving with his return. The Spurs will find themselves at the top of this list before season's end.