John Wall called the Wizards’ bench their “downfall” in the playoffs – a fair assessment. Washington’s starters outscored opponents by 4.7 points per 100 possessions and its bench got outscored by 15.5 points per 100 possessions – the biggest disparity this side of Oklahoma City.
I made this chart to illustrate the point:
Even more glaring than the Thunder, look at the Cavaliers and Warriors in the top right corner. The NBA Finalists had – by far – the best and second-best starters AND benches (as defined by NBA.com) in the 2017 playoffs.
Golden State’s starters are +21.9 per 100 possessions and its bench is +7.8. Cleveland (+19.4, +8.6) has also excelled with both starters and reserves.
The Warriors boast a Finals MVP (Andre Iguodala) and two-time All-Star (David West) off their bench. The Cavs often have LeBron James run sweet-shooting reserve-heavy units (that include Kyle Korver, Iman Shumpert, Deron Williams, Richard Jefferson and Channning Frye).
After a lousy postseason so far, maybe these teams will provide 48 minutes of thrilling action each game of the Finals.
This is just the third matchup in the last 21 years (as far back as NBA.com records go) where the top two starters and benches through the first three rounds of the playoffs met in the Finals, joining Heat-Spurs in 2013 and 2014.
Here’s every Finals matchup in that span with starters rank, bench rank by net rating among the 16 playoff teams:
- 2017: Golden State Warriors (1, 2) | Cleveland Cavaliers (2, 1)
- 2016: Cleveland Cavaliers (1, 1) | Golden State Warriors (2, 3)
- 2015: Golden State Warriors (2, 4) | Cleveland Cavaliers (1, 2)
- 2014: San Antonio Spurs (1, 2) | Miami Heat (2, 1)
- 2013: Miami Heat (1, 2) | San Antonio Spurs (2, 1)
- 2012: Miami Heat (2, 1) | Oklahoma City Thunder (3, 2)
- 2011: Dallas Mavericks (2, 2) | Miami Heat (4, 1)
- 2010: Los Angeles Lakers (3, 5) | Boston Celtics (2, 6)
- 2009: Los Angeles Lakers (3, 3) | Orlando Magic (4, 2)
- 2008: Boston Celtics (1, 10) | Los Angeles Lakers (2, 5)
- 2007: San Antonio Spurs (2, 4) | Cleveland Cavaliers (7, 1)
- 2006: Miami Heat (2, 1) | Dallas Mavericks (1, 3)
- 2005: San Antonio Spurs (4, 1) | Detroit Pistons (2, 5)
- 2004: Detroit Pistons (1, 6) | Los Angeles Lakers (2, 4)
- 2003: San Antonio Spurs (2, 1) | New Jersey Nets (1, 5)
- 2002: Los Angeles Lakers (4, 7) | New Jersey Nets (5, 8)
- 2001: Los Angeles Lakers (1, 1) | Philadelphia 76ers (8, 3)
- 2000: Los Angeles Lakers (2, 3) | Indiana Pacers (7, 2)
- 1999: San Antonio Spurs (1, 3) | New York Knicks (2, 1)
- 1998: Chicago Bulls (1, 2) | Utah Jazz (5, 1)
- 1997: Chicago Bulls (1, 5) | Utah Jazz (2, 11)
In a shocking twist, the Suns firing Earl Watson did not end the dysfunction in Phoenix.
Chris Haynes of ESPN:
John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7:
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
That is a first-rate tweet by Bledsoe. It’s great that he’s having fun with the wild situation, because the rest of us sure are amused peering in.
This was always going to be a long season in Phoenix, but things got out of hand in a hurry. The 0-3 Suns have been outscored by 92 – the worst three-game start in NBA history by 16 points. Now, comes the fallout.
At 27, Bledsoe was getting to be a little too old for a rebuild centered on Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender and T.J. Warren. The Suns could have dealt Bledsoe in the offseason. Now, they’re negotiating from a position of weakness.
Bledsoe is a good starting point guard when healthy. He’s earning a reasonable $14.5 million this season and due $15 million in the final year of his contract next season. There should be suitors, and Phoenix can gain long-term assets while stepping up its tank.
But this sure seems like a crisis-control move more than anything else.
Knicks president Steve Mills started his second tenure talking about rebuilding and listed Willy Hernangomez as a core piece.
But Hernangomez, coming off an All-Rookie first-team season, barely played in New York’s season-opening loss to the Thunder– drawing scrutiny.
Then, he didn’t play at all in a loss to the Pistons – eliciting a strong reaction from Hernangomez himself.
Hernangomez, via Fred Kerber of the New York Post:
“The same. I’m still mad,” Hernangomez said. “I cannot help the team win if I’m sitting on the bench. Two games in a row. It’s tough. I have to wait my moment. I cannot say nothing more.”
The Knicks are moving in different directions. Management is talking about building for the future. Coach Jeff Hornacek, who was hired by previous president Phil Jackson, is trying to win now.
There’s a fine line between developing Hernangomez through playing time and making him earn his minutes. Enes Kanter and Kyle O'Quinn might be better right now.
But being marginally better this season won’t get the Knicks anywhere meaningful except lower in the lottery. On the other hand, even on rebuilding teams, winning is most important to a coach’s job security. Earl Watson implemented the Suns’ tanking scheme, and look where that got him.
Hornacek is backed into a corner, and now one of the team’s most important young players is publicly expressing his displeasure. It’s the latest troubling sign in a locker room already suspicious of Hornacek.
Suns guard Eric Bledsoe tweeted yesterday:
In light of Phoenix’s 0-3 start and Earl Watson getting fired yesterday, that sure looks like a trade request. Still, there’s risk in making assumptions about vague tweets.
John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7:
Why wouldn’t Bledsoe want out? The 27-year-old is in his prime and stuck on a young team that would rather tank than play him.
It’ll be interesting to see how Bledsoe explains the tweet. He previously paid lip service to his situation in Phoenix, but it appears he’s ready to open up. On the other hand, public trade requests typically draw fines from the NBA.
Hornets backup point guard Michael Carter-Williams – out.
Nicolas Batum, who handled a lot of playmaking with Charlotte’s second units – out.
Julyan Stone, another Hornets backup point guard – out.
The Charlotte Hornets announced today that guard Julyan Stone has suffered a Grade 2 strain of his left hamstring. The injury occurred in practice on Sunday, Oct. 22 and he did not travel with the team to Milwaukee. Stone is listed as out for tonight’s game against the Bucks and his expected recovery time is estimated at four to six weeks.
The Hornets have been outscored by an astounding 35.8 points per 100 possessions without starter Kemba Walker, producing an offensive rating of just 61.4. That’s in just 23 minutes, but the problem dates back to last season, when Charlotte was outscored by 7.0 points per 100 possessions with a 100.7 offensive rating sans Walker.
Now, the Hornets have little choice but to turn to rookie Malik Monk. Monk is a scoring guard, but his 6-foot-3 size means he has at least worked on playing point guard. Is he ready to play the position full-time for a team eying the playoffs. Probably not, but he’ll just have to do his best to keep Charlotte afloat in the few minutes Walker rests.