The best bench unit in the NBA doesn’t belong to the world-champion San Antonio Spurs. It doesn’t belong to the Atlanta Hawks, perhaps the deepest team in the league, nor does it belong to the suddenly-surging Cleveland Cavaliers. Hell, the best bench in the NBA won’t even be found on a playoff team, but rather in one of the bottom feeders: the Utah Jazz.
“Best bench,” of course, is rather subjective and hard to define in any certain terms. Bench units are rarely composed of all non-starters, but instead an amalgam of bench and starting players. For the sake of this exercise, we looked at five-man lineups with the best net rating that have played at least fifty minutes, at least twelve games, and feature no more than two starters.
Now a few caveats should be applied to help explain why this Jazz combination is so potent.
There’s a certain freedom that comes with being completely out of the playoff picture. By now, most playoff teams are trying to shorten and solidify their rotation in preparation for the postseason. The Jazz have no such concerns, so Quin Snyder can throw whatever combination of players together he wants to see with few consequences if it’s a miserable failure.
Trey Burke also complicates matters here. Burke-as-sixth-man is a fairly new development for the Jazz, as he’s started 42 of Utah’s 63 games this year. Snyder moved Burke to the bench in favor of rookie Dante Exum, a tactic that benefited both parties by kick-starting Exum’s development and using Burke as a heavy-usage scorer off the bench. The move also allowed Burke, who had been struggling early in the season, to face opposing second units.
All that being said, this is still an incredibly impressive feat, one that shows just how much progress the Jazz have made under Snyder in his first season.
(Statistics courtesy of nba.com/stats)