While the Lakers' bench now seems sufficiently formidable, it has ample competition in the Western Conference. Please note that the NBA's top three teams in bench points are (in order) the Dallas Mavericks, Portland Trail Blazers and Denver Nuggets.
The bench upgrade in Dallas was generated when the Mavericks brought in veterans Shawn Marion, Drew Gooden, Tim Thomas and Matt Carroll. While Marion works from the starting lineup, his presence helps in the dispersal of minutes. The Mavs also have reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year Jason Terry on the payroll and providing 17 points per game. Thomas and Carroll join Terry to give Dallas an impressive crew of shot-makers not named Dirk Nowitzki.
Things also are going quite well in the reserve department for the Nuggets, whose biggest move was acquiring rookie point guard Ty Lawson in a deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves (it should be noted that the T-Wolves somehow managed to pick three points guards in the first round of the 2009 NBA Draft and still missed Brandon Jennings).
As a change of pace (from quick step to warp speed) at the point, Lawson presents the defense with more pressure than that faced by George Karl's barber. But don't overlook Denver's acquisition of two-guard Arron Afflalo, who stepped into the defensive stopper role vacated by Dahntay Jones. This enables Karl to continue using J.R. Smith off the bench in a super-sub role that hands Denver almost 17 points per game.
Lawson, Smith and Chris "Birdman" Andersen give the Nuggets a good head start against any team's reserves, but Karl eventually could miss the 10 per-game, frontline points provided by the now-departed Linas Kleiza.
Another point guard was the main order of business in Portland, where the personable (yeah, I'm kidding) Andre Miller was brought in to provoke more offense from the likes of rising stars Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge. But it seems that with Roy and Miller on the floor at the same time, the Blazers' plus-minus evaluation geeks have determined the machine may be breaking down a tad.
So, in order to maintain a pecking order that insists on the team being built around the shot-creating efforts of two-guard Roy, Miller has been jettisoned for duty on an already successful bench. The relative rise of starting center Greg Oden leaves Portland with a legit reserve in Joel Przybilla, while gunner (and I don't use that word in the pejorative) Rudy Fernandez is a threat to go off at any time.
However, the Blazers' depth advantage has taken a hit with an injury to small forward Travis Outlaw. In addition to removing 10 points from the sub detail, Outlaw's absence puts more of a burden on Martell Webster.
But a healthy return by Outlaw would leave the optimistic Blazers with a bench unit of Miller, Outlaw, Fernandez and Przybilla. That could help win plenty of playoff second quarters.
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