The NBA today certainly is a super star driven league. When the NBA is being commercialized often times players such as LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and other star caliber players will be front and center, in an effort to promote the league. We have seen recently super star tandems such as the big three of the Miami Heat, be able to win multiple championships together. There is no doubting that most teams need super stars to be elite, and without a super star presence on the roster, it can be extremely difficult to compete for an NBA championship.
Another trait that is undeniable in many championship contending teams is strong bench play. An NBA team with a good rotation allows super stars to be able to rest when needed, and still keep their team in games. This is evident when we look at the 2015 NBA champion Golden State Warriors, who had a good mix of superstars and bench players. Andre Igoudala proved to be monumental against the Cleveland Cavaliers off the Warrior bench, and even managed to be the NBA Finals MVP.
These NBA teams that are deprived of great bench players are mostly teams that struggle to compete with the elite class of NBA teams. Championship caliber teams rarely have putrid bench play, and starting line ups cannot play an entire game without help from key reserves. When studying these poor benches, it is obvious that winning does not come easy for most of these teams. Frequently these poor benches have a low plus minus rating, which in this case is how much the teams bench is winning or losing by when they are in the game. Here are the 15 worst NBA team benches.
15 Denver Nuggets
The Denver Nuggets had another tough season, but there were not high hopes towards the beginning of the season that this team would emerge as a playoff contender at the beginning of the season. Their bench has been mediocre at best. They have no depth at shooting guard, and their small forwards consist of the veteran Mike Miller, who rarely plays, and JaKarr Sampson. They have veteran point guards in DJ Augustin and Jameer Nelson that have seen their best playing days disappear. The Nuggets as a team have a plus minus score of -0.7, which is below the league minimum, and shows that the Nuggets bench is counterproductive to the team’s success on the court.
14 Houston Rockets
The Houston Rockets have Patrick Beverly on their roster, and he is the only true point guard on their roster after getting rid of Ty Lawson. Jason Terry is the backup shooting guard, and he is a shell of his old self now. The Rockets still managed to squeak into the playoffs. This had little to do with their bench production, and more with the play of their star players James Harden and Dwight Howard. They have a lot of depth at the power forward and center positions. The Houston Rockets have a -0.7 plus minus rating, and only contributed a lowly 32 points per game.
13 Los Angeles Clippers
The Los Angeles Clippers rely heavily on Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, yet Jamal Crawford is the only bench player that is a consistent threat to opposing teams. Their depth at point guard is below average with an aging Pablo Prigioni and an inconsistent Austin Rivers. Jeff Green is a solid back up small forward, but the real bench problems come at the power forward and center position. Jeff Ayres and Cole Aldrich have never been big time contributors in the NBA. The Clippers are a solid team, but in order to stay good they need to begin assembling a formidable bench. The Los Angeles Clippers had a -0.7 plus minus rating in the 2015-16 NBA season.
12 New Orleans Pelicans
The New Orleans Pelicans had a rough season record wise, and have been injured riddled much of the season. There have been a ton of different players on this roster throughout the course of the season. The bench players discarding all the injuries are still not a great group of players despite averaging the most bench points per game during the 2015-16 NBA season. Kendrick Perkins can’t provide much for a team anymore backing up at center, and Tim Frazier is more of a D league player playing point guard in the NBA currently. Dante Cunningham is the team’s best option at small forward, and he is a career journeyman. The New Orleans Pelicans had a -0.7 plus minus rating during the 2015-16 NBA season.
11 Dallas Mavericks
The Dallas Mavericks made the playoffs, but did not get much of a lift from their bench. J.J. Barea is not the worst option as a backup point guard, but Devin Harris and Raymond Felton have seen their best playing days disappear. Justin Anderson was a great player at the University of Virginia, but is still a bit of an unknown at the NBA level. Dwight Powell is a decent back up for the best player in franchise history Dirk Nowitzki. David Lee has not been able to regain his all-star status with the Mavericks. The Dallas Mavericks had a -0.8 plus minus average this season.
10 Detroit Pistons
The Detroit Pistons finally broke their playoff drought of the 2010s this season. The bench averaged an appalling 26 points per game this season, and relied on their starting lineup heavily to carry the scoring load. Spencer Dinwiddie has not proven to be an average NBA player. He is also more of a scorer, and is not efficient at running an offense. Jodie Meeks has been hurt most of the year, but is only good for making three pointers. Anthony Tolliver is at a disadvantage if he has to guard a big power forward, and does not score in bunches. The Detroit Pistons had a -0.8 plus minus rating this year.
9 Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers were horrendous during the 2015-16 NBA season, and had their worst season in franchise history. Their bench has been just as poor as their starting lineup. The only bright spot on their bench is backup point guard Lou Williams, who has been a great bench player for many years in the NBA. Nick Young at the shooting guard position likes to shoot the ball, but not at a very high percentage. The backup front court of Larry Nance, Ryan Kelly, and Tariq Black is not frightening any opposing second units. The Los Angeles Lakers had a plus minus rating of -1.
8 Memphis Grizzlies
The Memphis Grizzlies have been perhaps one of the most resilient teams in the NBA. They have made the NBA playoffs despite injuries to key players throughout the season. These injuries have led to the bench being incredibly thin, and not producing much help. There backup back court consists of Xavier Munford, who is inexperienced, and Vince Carter, who is well past his prime. The backup front court comprises of Lance Stephenson, Jarell Martin, and JaMychal Green. Lance Stephenson is the only one of these members who has played at an above average level of play in his career, and it has been awhile since he was playing at a beyond satisfactory level. The Memphis Grizzlies had a -1 plus minus rating.
7 Washington Wizards
The Washington Wizards had a majorly disappointing season in 2015-16 after making the playoffs during the previous season. John Wall seemed to play his heart out every night, but lack of contribution from the Wizards bench ultimately played a part in the Wizards fall from the playoffs. Nene has fallen off from his consistently good play throughout most of his career, and the backup wing players have not given as much production as expected. Kelly Oubre in particular was highly touted coming out of Kansas. During his rookie season he has not done much of anything for the Wizards, and he could be a potential bust. The Washington Wizards had a -1.1 plus minus rating.
6 New York Knicks
The New York Knicks continued to play a brand of basketball that was unsatisfying to its large metropolitan fan base. Kristaps Porzingis brought a new element of excitement to the team, but the bench play was extremely sub par. The Knick bench has holes at all five positions. Jerian Grant is still young, but has not pushed Jose Calderon for the starting spot like many faithful fans hoped he would. Sasha Vujacic has never been much of an impact player in the league. The backup front court of Lance Thomas, Derrick Williams, and Kyle O’Quinn is not daunting whatsoever. The New York Knicks had a -1.8 plus minus rating this year.
5 Phoenix Suns
The Phoenix Suns also under performed during the 2015-16 NBA season, and injuries played a part in just how terrible they were. Ronnie Price at the point is a career back up, and not a good one. John Jenkins four points per game was not much of a contribution from a bench player either. Jon Leur at the power forward slot is another career journey man that can give a team minutes, but will not make much of an influence while on the court. Alan Williams at the center spot only provided three points and four rebounds per game backing up at center. It is easy to see why the Suns struggled so much, and the atrocious play of their bench played a factor in this. The Phoenix Suns during the 2015-16 NBA season had a -1.8 plus minus rating.
4 Milwaukee Bucks
The Milwaukee Bucks have a deficit at all five positions when it comes to bench play. Michael Carter Williams has been relegated to back up, and has failed to regain his game from his rookie season when he won rookie of the year. Grevis Vasquez is backing up at the two guard spot, but he is more of a point guard. Damien Inglis only gave the team a below mediocre two points per game. Johny O’Bryant and Miles Plumlee only grabbed seven rebounds combined per game, showing that the Bucks bench did not have much grunt. The Milwaukee Bucks in the 2015-16 NBA season had a -2.2 plus minus rating.
3 Minnesota Timberwolves
The Minnesota Timberwolves have a young roster that many think are headed in the right direction. They still finished with much more losses than wins, and there pitiful bench play contributed to this. Zach Levine and Shabazz Muhammad have been solid contributors off the bench but everyone else has been suspect to bad play this season. Kevin Garnett has been more of a vocal leader than a leader by his play on the court this season. Greg Smith has never amounted to a player that can make a big influence in games. Maybe the Minnesota Timberwolves can improve their bench in the offseason, but during the 2015-16 NBA season the team had a terrible -3.1 plus minus rating.
2 Philadelphia 76ers
Most of the players on the Philadelphia 76ers bench are borderline NBA players. The team as a whole was the worst team in the NBA this season only achieving 11 victories throughout the course of the season. TJ McConnell played well in spurts, but was an undrafted free agent, and was often times too small to deal with opposing point guards. Isaiah Cannon was wildly inconsistent from the field shooting under forty percent. Richaun Holmes also played well at times, but clearly was still learning the NBA style of play. The Philadelphia 76ers during the 2015-16 NBA season had an awful -3.1 plus minus rating.
1 Brooklyn Nets
The Brooklyn Nets had the worst bench in the NBA this season. Sean Kilpatrick spent a majority of the season in the D league, so it is eminent he has not quite adapted to being a backup shooting guard in the NBA yet. Shane Larkin is an under six foot guard who can score at times, but does not facilitate an offense well. Sergey Kerasev is a tremendously one dimensional player. Thomas Robinson is a rebounding machine, but he does not shoot the ball with any type of consistency. The Brooklyn Nets had a -3.9 plus minus rating this season.