Today, I’d like to take a moment to talk about benches. Specifically, we’ll be discussing a handful of players who often come off the bench for their real-life teams, and why some of those players deserve a spot on your fake team’s bench. And we start with…
Jusuf Nurkic: The 20-year-old Nuggets big man (and No. 16 pick in the 2014 Draft) has blasted out a couple notable lines recently, including 16 points, eight boards, two steals and two blocks in 27 minutes on Tuesday, followed by 10 points, 10 boards and three blocks in just 21 minutes on Thursday. In total, Nurkic has played 18 or more minutes five times, and in those games he has averaged 10.6 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 1.4 spg and 2.0 bpg. Nurkic looks capable of putting up some dynamic numbers even in a platoon/backup role, and with that in mind I’d make it a priority to add him right now. As of Friday morning, he was only owned in 4 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Nikola Mirotic: Some of the players we’ll discuss here need an injury to one specific player to see a spike in value, but it’s a different story for Mirotic, who would likely see a boost in minutes and production if any one of three players gets hurt: Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah or Taj Gibson. And it doesn’t hurt Mirotic’s cause that Gasol, Noah and Gibson have all had issues with durability in the past. Mirotic has played 25 or more minutes nine times this season, and in those games he has posted 15.2 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 0.7 spg, 1.3 bpg and 2.2 3s. I’ll file several players on this list under the category of “run to the wire if an injury happens”, but Mirotic – with multiple potential avenues to an uptick in value – has a strong case for being stashed on benches right now.
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Kyle O’Quinn: He has struggled lately as the starting PF playing alongside Nikola Vucevic (3.5 ppg, 1.5 rpg in his last four games heading into the weekend), but it was a different story for O’Quinn while Vucevic was out in early December. In those six games, O’Quinn posted 12.8 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.0 spg, 0.8 spg, 1.0 bpg and 0.3 3s, and despite his recent struggles, he would be worth an immediate add if Vucevic runs into another injury.
Dennis Schroder: The good news for Schroder is that he’s ready to produce if needed (13.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 7.3 apg in three games while Jeff Teague was out due to a hamstring injury). The bad news is that the aforementioned Teague is pretty durable (just five missed games total the last two years). Furthermore, Schroder is just 8-of-40 on 3s this season, which limits his upside even in a best-case scenario. Bottom line: He’s obviously a must-add on the off chance Teague misses significant time, but I’d be surprised if Schroder makes a big impact this season for the reasons stated above.
Mason Plumlee: This one is a technicality, because the Nets actually brought Plumlee off the bench to start the second half on Tuesday, likely causing a small ripple of panic among those who have been enjoying his monster production lately (15.5 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 0.9 spg, 1.6 bpg on 64.0 percent shooting in his last 12 games). I assume many of you have already reached this conclusion, but just to be clear: under no circumstances would I consider dropping Plumlee right now. It remains to be seen whether or not the benching was just a one game/one half thing, but either way, I fully expect him to get a lot more chances even if the brittle Brook Lopez disrupts his momentum for the moment.
Some other names to keep in mind…
Rudy Gobert: He’s hit-or-miss on a game-to-game basis, but already has some standalone value right now (6.6 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 2.0 bpg in 22 minutes per game in December), and would be a very exciting add if Derrick Favors or Enes Kanter misses time.
Lavoy Allen: He’s an interesting play in deeper leagues (and daily leagues) because he averages a decent baseline (7.1 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 0.9 bpg) and will randomly go off on occasion (most recently six points, eight boards, five assists and four blocks on Monday). Unfortunately, there’s not much long-term upside even in the event of an injury. For example, when Roy Hibbert missed four games in late November, Allen still played just 22 minutes off the bench – right in line with his season average.
Jordan Farmar: We haven’t had to talk about Farmar much this season because Chris Paul has yet to miss a game, but he’s the only true backup PG the Clippers have. As a reminder of what he might do in a starting role: In five starts for the Lakers last year, Farmar posted 9.6 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 6.4 apg, 1.2 spg and 1.4 3s on 35.3 percent from the field.
John Henson: He still hasn’t been playing a lot even with Larry Sanders sidelined, but the shot-blocking potential here is difficult to ignore. Henson’s last four games: 6.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 0.5 spg, 3.3 bpg in just 21 minutes per game.
Throwback Box Score of the Week
In honor of today’s bench theme, we go back more than a decade to April 11, 2004, when a 24-year-old Jamal Crawford (then a starter for the Bulls) uncorked 50 points, seven boards, six treys, two steals and a block against Toronto. Also of note: Jalen Rose put up a 32-7-6 line for the Raptors, and someone named Eddy Curry scored 25 points with 12 boards for Chicago.
Speaking of things that happened in and around 2004, I recently saw the Top 10 career highlights from one of my all-time favorite players, Baron Davis. If you haven’t seen these yet, take a look. It’s easy to remember Baron as broken down and injury prone at the end of his career, but it’s a lot more fun to remember him attacking the rim like he was trying to break something.