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Section 109: How Much Can Your Team Bench?

February 5, 2010

Comparing one basketball team’s bench to another is like comparing apples to oranges sometimes, or like comparing apples to lawnmowers. Some benches offer more scoring, others lockdown defense, others a change of game pace. From a quality point of view, different benches are hard to compare.

On a good team, you can usually find three bench players who are key rotation players. There’s a saying in basketball, “play eight, trust five.” So if a coach uses nine players regularly, is that a deep bench? Or is ten to 12 the magic number?

I decided to gauge “bench depth” by comparing the total minutes for some top NBA teams. Specifically, I wanted to look at how much the end of the bench — players 9 to 12 — stack up in minutes played. Why? I figure if a coach trusts a bench player to contribute, that player is going to get more minutes. If a guy runs around for a few minutes and doesn’t help, he’s going to sit down again.

Now the disclaimer: This is a one-dimensional analysis that doesn’t compensate for coaching style, injuries and suspensions, fouls per game, and other factors. For instance, if Rasheed Wallace is on your team, how often do you have to sub a guy in for him so he doesn’t pick up a second technical when he’s mad?

I don’t claim to be an actuary, just a geeky hoops fan. But I think it’s notable that the Cavs’ number 9 and 10 players (Delonte West and Jawad Williams) total court time far exceeds that of their counterparts on the other team. Using my crude analytical tool, the Magic and Cavs have a marked advantage in bench depth compared to the other teams in the league.

Bench Depth Rated By Bench Player Minutes (as of Feb 5, 2010)

player minutes

Cavs

Lakers

Boston

Atlanta

Denver

Orlando

1

1967

1929

1726

1816

1681

1719

2

1532

1555

1702

1656

1611

1283

3

1461

1529

1464

1628

1440

1274

4

1455

1488

1359

1471

1362

1223

5

1041

1353

1111

1395

1292

1136

6

1032

1195

1048

1305

1168

1123

7

985

935

764

719

1042

1116

8

851

907

507

646

1003

885

9

820

343

431

406

510

663

10

671

330

387

310

454

623

11

298

216

364

98

152

372

12

93

176

303

61

63

369

total minutes,

players 9-12

1882

1065

1485

875

1179

2027

average total minutes,

players 9-12

470.5

266.25

371.25

218.75

294.75

506.75

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One Comment leave one →
  1. February 5, 2010 3:23 pm

    omfg this is one of the most amazing analysis-its (?) of the game I have ever seen! EMAIL THIS TO YOUR FRIENDS!

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