Wednesday, May 28, 2008

NBA's Final Four: Going to the bench

In every sport, you hear a lot about how important a team's depth is -- who can do what coming off the bench. Scorer. Shooter. Defender. Rebounder. Shot-blocker. Veteran leader. Energy guy. And so on.

What's interesting about the four teams that remain in the NBA postseason is that their biggest weakness may be their benches.

For example, the Spurs have a relatively "old" bench with vets like Horry (16 years), Vaughn (10 years), Finley (12 years), and Barry (12 years). That's not to say they can't play and veterans are great because they provide leadership and smart play. They can also catch fire, like Barry did in Game 4. But the Spurs traded away Udrih and Scola this year and both could have helped off the bench.

When Phil Jackson goes to his bench, he's got Walton, Vujacic, and Farmar -- all young guys who have continually improved. If Bynum and Ariza hadn't been slowed by injuries, LA would have the most depth of the Final Four teams.

Boston's best player off the bench has been PJ Brown. Cassell hasn't contributed as much as people expected and House has been inconsistent. Powe and Davis are still too young for this stage.

I think Flip Saunders has done a great job with his bench. Young players like Stuckey and Maxiell provide athleticism and energy. On the other end of the spectrum, 35-year-old Ratliff and 37-year-old Hunter are still giving the Pistons 10 mins/game.