Good bench players are vital to a successful NBA roster. They can provide a scoring punch, defensive stopper, rebounder or playmaker, when they come in, changing the flow of the game, or keeping up the momentum the starters brought. The 2016-17 has shown us a lot of great bench performances, and with that, here are my top 5 bench players of the 2016-2017 season:
5. Jamal Crawford
Most fans point to Crawford as the best 6th man in NBA history. With his killer crossover and scoring ability, he has won 2 6th man of the year awards, having the ability to take over games when needed. This season, he’s averaging 12 points 2 rebounds and 3 assists for the Clippers, being the 3rd guard to play. Crawford is a streaky shooter, but when he catches fire, he’s hard to stop.
Crawford is one of a few players who scored 50 points on multiple teams. While he is 36 years old, he’s still deadly, scoring 27 points off the bench against the 76ers. He can control a game with his scoring, playmaking, and that killer crossover.
4. Enes Kanter
The 3rd overall pick in 2011 by the Jazz is now one of the premier bench players in the game. Kanter is a skilled post scorer and rebounder, enabling him to get 20 pt.-10 reb. games easily. This season he is averaging 14.4 points, 7 rebounds and 1 assists, scoring efficiently, at a 56.3% clip.
The Thunder playing him off the bench is wise, as he can use his skill and size, to score against much less skilled opponents, and while he is not the best defender, his offensive capabilities, are far too valuable to not play him.
3. Andre Iguodala
While Iggy is not the most dominant scorer off the bench, he does all the intangibles that allow the rest of Warriors to thrive. He is an embodiment of the what the Warriors are, checking your ego at the door, and doing it all for the sake of winning. He’s only averaging 5 points 3 rebounds and 3 assists, but he is just so skilled. Need a clutch basket? Iggy can do that. Get you 8 assists? Iggy. Lockdown Lebron? Iggy. While this former finals MVP’s numbers won’t jump out at you, he does what is asked of him, without complaining.
2. Eric Gordon
The Houston Rockets have been a surprise team this year, earning a 35-13 record (6 wins away from last year’s total) and Eric Gordon has been a huge part of it. He is averaging 17.4 points 2 rebounds and 3 assists, fitting in perfectly in D’Antoni’s 7-second offense. He can score and set people up off the dribble or stand out behind the arc, waiting for a pass from Harden to knock down the three.
The change of scenery as helped Gordon bounce back from all the struggles in New Orleans, performing so well that James Harden has said he deserves to be an all-star (while he didn’t make it, his impact off the bench for Houston has been tremendous).
1. Louis Williams
While the Lakers are struggling this year, Lou Williams has been a bright spot. He is the leading bench scorer in the League averaging 18.2 points, 2 rebounds and 3 assists. Not only is he leading the NBA in bench scoring, he’s the Lakers leading scorer (not Russell, Randle, Ingram, or Clarkson). This season alone, he has had scoring outbursts of 35 (against Phoenix), 38 (against Utah) and 40 (against Memphis) points off the bench.
When the Lakers shocking the league in October going 10-10, Williams closed out games, and a lot of times brought the Lakers back into games with the rest of the bench unit. Louis Williams is the spark that lets the Lakers be competitive in games and is the best bench player in the game.
While we all marvel at the spectacular show that players like, Durant, Harden, and Westbrook put up (and rightly so) we should not forget about the guys who come in off the bench, because these are the players (that when they catch fire) are just as fun to watch as any other player in our league, whether it be Crawford breaking some poor defender’s ankles, Louis Williams scoring 40, or Iggy running the show at the Oracle Arena. Good bench players are key to a successful team, (and are incredibly fun to watch).