Bench players are often not accredited for being as important to their team as starters are. Their are upper echelon players such as LeBron James, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook who are forces on both sides of the ball and that would start for any and every franchise. Their are defensive stalwarts such as Andre Drummond and Deandre Jordan that would also start everywhere. An offensive spark plug such as James Harden would be a staple in all starting fives. While these players undoubtedly belong in the starting five, the same cannot be said of all players in the starting five.
A starter is supposed to earn his position in the starting lineup and whether this is in a rookie role or as a vet, he is supposed to showcase that he belongs there. Each and every team has their holes. However, when a coach inserts a less than capable player into his starting five he is proclaiming this player is worthy of the role. Despite what the coach may think, the following fifteen players have no business being in their respective team's starting lineup. Note - Rookies are not included.
15 Cody Zeller - Charlotte Hornets
He may or may not be the Hornets best option at Center (any Roy Hibbert fans?), and while he has shown growth in each of three seasons it has been minimal at best. Zeller started 60 of 77 games he played in for Steve Clifford's group last year. He averaged 8.7 PPG and 6.2 RPG in 24.3 MPG. With Al Jefferson departing to Indiana, Zeller should see an increase in minutes. However, as evidenced by his low minute career average, it isn't safe to say that Clifford is comfortable with Zeller as his every day starting Center. In addition, Clifford has depth at the five position. The forenamed Hibbert as well as Spencer Hawes could chew up many of Zeller's minutes if he doesn't impress early.
14 Maurice Harkless - Portland Trail Blazers
Many would argue that Evan Turner should indeed be the Trail Blazers starting Small Forward. A former player for the St. John's Red Storm, Harkless started 14 of his 78 games played last season and touted averages of 6.4 PPG and 3.6 RPG. On the other hand, Turner put up 10.5 PPG and 4.9 RPG as a member of the Boston Celtics. Harkless' contributions in the playoffs may have cemented his position as the team's starting three for Terry Stotts. In the playoffs Harkless upped his averages to 11.0 PPG and 5.1 RPG. The position belongs to Harkless for the time being but Turner is certainly a threat to Harkless for his starting position.
13 Willie Cauley-Stein - Sacramento Kings
The sixth overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft can arguably lay acclaim to having the most disappointing rookie campaign of last season. Cauley-Stein averaged 7.0 PPG and 5.3 RPG for the Kings as he manned the front court with fellow big DeMarcus Cousins. The Kings roster may be the biggest obstacle for Cauley-Stein as the 7'0'' Center is playing out of position in the four slot as the 6'11'' Cousins mans the Center position. Cauley-Stein only saw the court for 21.4 MPG in his 66 games played, 39 of which he started in. With new Head Coach Dave Joerger perhaps Cauley-Stein will see more touches. However, one thing is clear; the offense will still run through Cousins, not Cauley-Stein.
12 Dion Waiters - Miami Heat
When Dwyane Wade departed the Miami Heat for the Chicago Bulls it was clear that the incoming Shooting Guard for the South Beach franchise would have big shoes to fill. The man to fill those shoes was none other than Kyrie Irving's former backcourt mate, Dion Waiters. While the scoring void of Wade is something that Waiters cannot replicate, it is where his greatest contribution will come. Unfortunately, that is likely where it only will come. Waiters has averaged a little over twelve point a game for his career, which is ironically almost two times below Wade's career average of 23.7 PPG. Waiters holds career averages of 2.6 RPG and 2.5 APG, not exactly numbers that jump out at you. Waiters will have the green light more so than he ever has in his career as he no longer plays alongside superstars Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
11 Jared Dudley - Phoenix Suns
The reason Dudley finds him on this list is due to Coach Earl Watson placing him as the team's starting Power Forward. Dudley is 6'7" and he is no Draymond Green who dominates the glass despite being undersized. Dudley has never averaged more than 4.6 RPG. As a result, him being the Suns starting Power Forward is rather puzzling. Dudley has always been a more than serviceable three point shooter, just look no further than his career 40% average. While the stretch four is more vital in today's game than ever before, Dudley is far from a stretch four. Had Dudley been the team's starting swingman he wouldn't find himself on the list, but playing out of position does him no favors.
10 Miles Plumlee - Milwaukee Bucks
Greg Monroe signed a 3-year $50 million deal in the 2015 offseason. While his first year in Milwaukee was below expectations it is quite ironic to see him out of the starting five. Even more ironic is to see Miles Plumlee taking over at the Center position. Plumlee played in 61 games last season and started 14 of them. Plumlee averaged a lackluster 5.1 PPG and an even more disappointing 3.8 RPG. The former Duke Blue Devil hasn't averaged over 20 MPG since his sophomore campaign. In his second season Plumlee averaged 8.1 PPG and 7.8 RPG in 24.6 MPG. Perhaps Coach Jason Kidd realizes all Plumlee needs is an ample amount of court time in order to showcase his strengths and abilities.
9 Solomon Hill - New Orleans Pelicans
Signing with the New Orleans Pelicans in free agency, Hill brings prior starting experience to the "Big Easy". Frank Vogel started Hill in the 2014-2015 season for 78 of his 82 game started as a result of Paul George's gruesome leg fracture during a 2014 Team U.S.A. scrimmage. Hill was obviously no George; he posted 8.9 PPG and 3.8 RPG in 29.0 MPG. Hill is neither a volume scorer nor a staunch rebounder. In addition, he is a poor shooter from behind the arc as evidenced by the 32% he shoots. Hill comes off last season averages of 4.2 PPG and 2.8 RPG last season. A change of scenery may or may not prove to be beneficial for Hill.
8 Tony Snell - Milwaukee Bucks
The Milwaukee Bucks are razor thin at Shooting Guard with Khris Middleton being out due to a torn left hamstring. Coach Jason Kidd had to call an audible and that audible ended up being Tony Snell. Snell never proved to be a key cog for the Bulls under the leadership of Tom Thibodeau or Fred Hoiberg. In Milwaukee Snell gets a fresh start with a new team and a new coach. Snell has never averaged more than 6 PPG in his past three seasons. He has never averaged more than 1 APG per game. His career high in rebounds is 2.8 RPG per game. The Riverside, California product has the opportunity to seize the majority of minutes with Middleton out and Jason Terry and Rashad Vaughn behind him on the depth chart.
7 Andrew Bogut - Dallas Mavericks
The former number one overall pick in 2005 was the weakest link on the historic win setting Golden State Warriors squad that went 73-9 and he will be the weakest link on the 2015-2016 Dallas Mavericks. Bogut has never been known for his scoring; in fact, he never averaged double digit points since 2011-2012, his last season with the Milwaukee Bucks. Bogut has been a solid rebounder in his career averaging just a hair over eight a game. He also has an impressive 1.6 BPG average to add to his resume. Despite the career averages, Bogut had his worst statistical season last year as he averaged a measly 5.4 PPG and 7.0 RPG. Bogut is not a player on the uprise; he is a player on the decline.
6 Randy Foye - Brooklyn Nets
The former Villanova Wildcat has been a journeyman throughout his ten year career. Foye has played for a fifth of the league playing for Minnesota, the Los Angeles Clippers, Utah, Denver, Washington and Oklahoma City. Foye is now on his seventh team with the Brooklyn Nets. Foye has played in 683 games total and started 393 of them, about sixty percent of games he has played in. Foye hasn't averaged double digit points since the 2013-2014 season. He also shot a subpar 30.1% from three point range last season. Foye looks to be a player on the decline not the uprise. The youth movement appears to be the route the Nets are looking toward; yet, their decision to start Foye at the two says otherwise.
5 Sergio Rodriguez - Philadelphia 76ers
Rodriguez has not played in the NBA in six years as he last donned a Sacramento Kings jersey in 2009-2010. He now finds himself the starting Point Guard for the Philadelphia 76ers (at least until Jerryd Bayless returns and potentially longer). From 2005-2010, Rodriguez started 22 out of the 285 games in which he played. Now, six years removed from the league, he finds himself the starting Point Guard of an NBA franchise. Rodriguez never averaged more than 7.4 PPG and 3.6 APG. Rodriguez will have the benefit of playing with an influx of talent in the front court with Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor. Although Sam Hinkie may no longer be running things in the "City of Brotherly Love", perhaps Rodriguez is a part of "trusting the process"?
4 Rondae Hollis-Jefferson - Brooklyn Nets
The Nets are in rebuild mode and Hollis-Jefferson could prove to be a perennial piece for the Brooklyn franchise for years to come. Unfortunately in his rookie campaign Hollis-Jefferson only hit the court for 29 of 82 games as he was sidelined by injury. Hollis-Jefferson started 17 of those 29 and averaged 5.8 PPG, 5.3 RPG and arguably most impressive, 1.3 SPG in 21.2 minutes of action. The Nets have another player, Bojan Bogdanovic who is perhaps better suited for the starting swingman role. Bogdanovic averaged 11.2 PPG and 3.2 RPG last season. New Head Coach Kenny Atkinson has instilled his trust in Hollis-Jefferson to hold down the fort as the Nets starting Small Forward. There is no reason to think Hollis-Jefferson has a stronghold on the position especially with Bogdanovic on the roster.
3 Luc Mbah a Moute - Los Angeles Clippers
He's had his fair share of being a starter as well as being a bench player. Mbah a Moute, playing for his forth team in five years is in his second year as the Los Angeles Clippers starting small forward. In 75 games played and 61 games started last season he averaged a paltry 3.1 PPG and 2.3 RPG. To make matters worse, Mbah a Moute had one of the best ball distributors, if not the best ball distributor in the league in Chris Paul on his own team. Mbah a Moute had his worst statistical season last year yet he some how, some way still finds himself in the starting lineup for the 2016-2017 season. Doc Rivers, "you've got some 'splainin to do".
2 JaMychal Green - Memphis Grizzlies
Is Zach Randolph slowing down? Sure. Is Zach Randolph rapidly slowing down? Absolutely not. You'd be hard pressed to find a coach that would be dismissive of 15.3 PPG and 7.8 RPG (Randolph's stats in the 2015-2016 season) averages. On the contrary, Green averaged 7.4 PPG and 4.8 RPG last season. Yet, first year man David Fizdale made the bold call to insert second year player, Green into the starting lineup and move Randolph into a bench role. Fizdale could end up looking like an absolute genius if his experiment ends up paying dividends for the Grizzlies. Regardless, it is a call that many can only scratch their heads at as Randolph had not done anything to lose his starting role.
1 Luke Babbitt - Miami Heat
One would think that after Pat Riley lost his starting Shooting Guard, Dwyane Wade, the most glaring weakness on his roster would be at the two guard position. You'd be wrong. The weakest link for the Miami Heat is starting Power Forward, Luke Babbitt. With Chris Bosh being out for the unforeseeable feature, Riley had to look for a new starter at the four position. Riley signed Babbitt in the off-season away from the New Orleans Pelicans. This will be Babbitt's seventh season in the league. He has only started 48 games in the six years prior. He has never averaged more than 18.0 MPG. He is a Power Forward with a career average of 2.3 RPG! Maybe Coach Spo and Riley should look at their own roster and see if they can tap into the untapped potential of Derrick Williams.
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