NBA: Clippers Have Best Bench in the NBA
For some teams in the NBA, the second unit for the Los Angeles Clippers could be their starting five. The Clippers management worked long and hard during the offseason to revamp the bench of the Clippers who were ranked a dismal 26th in the NBA in scoring last season. Jamal Crawford, one of the NBA’s most prolific sixth men, was given the task by Vinny Del Negro, the Clippers head coach, with revitalizing the bench.
Del Negro explained to Crawford that the starters on the Clippers became worn down during the regular season last year as both Blake Griffin and Chris Paul had to play over 36 minutes each game and had injuries that bothered them down the stretch. Those injuries to both Griffin and Paul and one to Caron Butler helped the Spurs swept the Clippers in the playoffs.
Crawford said the success to a second unit becoming a formidable unit is for them to have chemistry. The bench has to be a team within a team. During pickup games at the Clippers practice facility during the offseason, Crawford chose sides for a reason.
He wanted players he would be subbing with during the season, on his team during the offseason. He picked teammates Ronny Turiaf, Lamar Odom, Ryan Hollins and Eric Bledsoe. He said because they played so much together during the summer that they were more than ready when the season started.
When Chris Paul saw Matt Barnes, at the time a Lakers forward, playing he spoke to him and found out he was a free agent. He helped Barnes decide to sign with the Clippers and join what has become the league’s best second unit.
Wednesday night Los Angeles won its 11 straight game, their longest winning streak since the days of the Buffalo Braves and Bob McAdoo. The surge by the Clippers is thanks to a vastly improved defense and a second unit on the bench that is envied by NBA teams across the country.
Some teams want three or even four superstars on the team and that means other stars might have to play huge minutes, just ask Kobe Bryant. He is playing 38 minutes per game, which is seventh in the league since the salary cap will not allow the team to have quality players on the bench.
However, no Clippers are even in the top 50 for playing minutes in the league since they have a bench that is averaging an incredible 42 points per game. That mark is close to 15 points higher than they scored as a unit last season.
Both Griffin and Paul have always averaged over 36 minutes per game in their careers. This season they are both averaging just over 32 minutes per game.
During back-to-back wins earlier this month, the second unit for the Clippers played so well, that no starter on the team played a single minute during the fourth quarter of both games. The very next game, Butler was the only starter who played during the fourth quarter of another rout.
The Clippers built their bench around veterans Chauncy Billups and Grant Hill, however Billups has only played three games and Hill none. However, that does not seem to matter as Crawford, Odom, Barnes and Bledsoe have all remade themselves into bench supersubs.
Thus far, Crawford has the early led as the best sixth man in the NBA, Barnes is averaging 10 points each game and Bledsoe is knocking down nearly 9.5 per game.
The Clippers are quickly becoming one of the elite teams in the NBA and could be the team to beat come June thanks to great starters and the NBA’s best second unit.