There is no doubt that the NBA is a superstar driven sport. Year after year, a superstar is hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Just take the past five championship teams for example: Miami with LeBron James, Dallas with Dirk Nowitzki, Los Angeles with Kobe Bryant twice, and of course Boston with the Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
Despite the best players consistently winning, they could not reach that point without significant contributions from the less publicized. Those players who never know when their name will be called, but when it is they must be ready to perform. Boston fans know just how important a bench can be. Red Auerbach invented the concept of a sixth man after all.
Just as recently as 2008 the bench was a large part of the team’s success. Boston fans can certainly remember the dagger threes James Posey hit all season long, or the clutch jump shot P.J. Brown made in Game 7 against the Cavaliers.
With Danny Ainge making several key acquisitions this offseason, he has reloaded a Celtics roster with depth that they desperately lacked last year, particularly in the playoffs. So this begs the question, which team has the better bench? Let’s break it down.
2008 Bench: James Posey, Leon Powe, Sam Cassell, P.J. Brown, Eddie House, Glen Davis, Tony Allen
2012 Bench: Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, Jared Sullinger, Keyon Dooling, Fab Melo
The 2008 bench would have the edge here with experience. While Terry has been around for a while and played in many big games, the 2008 bench has Posey, Cassell, House ,and Brown. Those four players combined had played more than 50 NBA seasons before joining the Celtics in 2008. The 2012 bench is still relatively young from an experience standpoint, which is vital come playoff time.
While age gave the 2008 team the advantage with experience, it hurts them in this category. One of the Celtics’ biggest needs the past several years has been youth. Ainge responded by adding Lee, re-signing Bass and Green, and using both first round picks to add Melo and Sullinger. Green’s versatility should be a big asset this year, and Lee is known to get out in transition. Rondo should finally have some partners to get out on the fast break with.
Guards/Swing men: 2012
The Celtics could not have won the championship without Posey, and Eddie House seemed automatic from three that year, but the 2012 team is so strong at these positions. Terry is the best player on either bench, and was the second best player on a championship team with Dallas. Lee is a solid player, and Dooling’s leadership proved extremely helpful in mentoring Rondo last year. Cassell was on his last legs during the 2008 campaign, and Allen was just as likely to turn the ball over as he was to score.
Post Players: 2012
For this argument, Green will be considered a four man since he can play multiple positions. Just as the Celtics of 2012 will likely do, the 2008 team played a lot of small-ball with Garnett at center and Posey at power forward. Green will likely fill this spot now, and Bass proved that he can be productive starting along-side Garnett. Davis was a rookie in 2008 and Sullinger is further developed than “Big Baby” was. Powe played very well and Brown was serviceable, but 2012 has better overall quality.
For this round, the statical production of the top three players on each bench were looked at. The top three were taken because typically in the playoffs Doc Rivers will use an eight man rotation. So let’s look at the numbers,
*Players statistics for 2008 bench were taken from the 2007-2008 season, for 2012, Bass and Terry’s numbers come from 2011-2012 season and Green from 2010-2011 (his last season played).
Posey, House, Powe: 22.8 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 3.7 apg
Green, Terry, Bass: 37.4 ppg, 11.8 rpg, 5.4 apg
What made 2008’s bench special was their ability to play their role to perfection. Each player knew how they fit in and did what was needed to win. No one tried to do too much and let the starters be the stars. This is yet to be seen by the 2012 squad. Will they be able to sacrifice individual production for the betterment of the team? If they cannot then 2012 will not end with the same result as 2008.
This newest version of Boston’s bench brigade clearly has the talent. They have former successful starters, an NBA champion and promising rookies. Rivers’ will have his deepest squad since he began coaching the Celtics. Boston fans all saw what can happen when a bench unites together to form a synchronized unit all in pursuit of one common goal. The result was banner 17. The ingredients are all there to cook the perfect meal, but if just one or two items are spoiled, then a sour taste will be left in the mouths of Celtics’ Nation.