I recently saw a post on a Facebook page that I follow that asked who the best backup point-guard in the NBA was, and gave the options of Shaun Livingston, Dennis Schroeder, or Patty Mills. Instantly, as a Raptors fan, I thought “what about Cory Joseph?”. Of course, Joseph isn’t on the level of those three players, as all three could be starters on most teams, and Joseph couldn’t. All of this got me thinking about how valuable bench players are, and especially the glue guys that do all the little things to make a team great. When the starters go out in a game, and the bench comes on to the court, there isn’t a very high level of skill on the court. That is why these players have to be experts in the dirty areas. Chuck Hayes displayed many of these vital attributes while on the bench for the Toronto Raptors and Houston Rockets, and became a fan favourite because of it. So, without further ado, here is SportsNak’s first annual “Chuck Hayes All-Stars”.
These are the guys who have contributed from the bench, both on and off the court, and do the little things that make everyone else’s job a whole lot easier.
Point Guard: Corey Joseph, Toronto Raptors
Joseph is the quintessential backup point guard. Not only is he able to run the point when Kyle Lowry leaves the floor, but he is also able to play with Lowry. Joseph, a great defender who can defend either guard spot, takes a lot of pressure off of Lowry. He allows Lowry to play off the ball, and save a lot of energy. It is very likely that when the Raptors go on a run, you will see Lowry and Joseph sharing the floor. Averaging a modest 8.5 points and 3.1 assists, Joseph’s real value is not shown using basic statistics. Joseph is part of one of the best lineups in the NBA, and is a very good defender. So why doesn’t he start? He can’t shoot the 3, which is one of the most important assets to have as a point guard in the NBA. Joseph does his best to make up for his limitations, and makes those around him better – as we have seen thus far in the postseason for the Raptors. For that reason, he’s a no brainer for a spot on the squad.
Shooting Guard: Evan Turner, Boston Celtics
Turner is one of the most interesting players in the NBA, just because it’s so hard to figure out what makes him good. Turner is the epitome of a bench guard, averaging 10.4 pts, 4.4 ast, and 4.9 reb in 27.9 minutes per game. His all-around play is what makes him so valuable to his team, and also is the main reason he has avoided talk about being a bust after going second overall. He hasn’t necessarily lived up to the “second pick in the draft” expectations, but he is still a very good player. Turner can guard any position one through three, and can even guard a power forward if push comes to shove. He is a terrible 30% shooter for his career from deep, and is shooting an even worse 22% this season. Still, with his limitations, the fact that he can be arguably the most important bench player on a top-5 Eastern Conference team is enough to get him on the Glue Guys. The Celtics will need him now more than ever with Avery Bradley out for the remainder of the playoffs.
Small Forward: C.J. Miles, Indiana Pacers
C.J. Miles is one of my favourite players in the NBA. He is an extremely versatile player, standing in at 6-foot-6, which allows him to play both shooting guard and small-forward. Miles has done a great job this year coming off the bench and bringing the Pacers a huge boost of energy when they need it most (although, apart from two air-balls – he hasn’t been noticeable in the playoffs as of yet). Last season without Paul George, Miles stepped up his game and helped keep the Pacers afloat. This year he has taken a step back, as his minutes have decreased. Still, Miles is averaging 11.6 points per game while still being a threat from the three point arch. C.J. earns bonus points for having a very entertaining Instagram account: @masfresco.
Power Forward: Marreese Speights, Golden State Warriors
“Mo-Buckets”, as many call him, has expanded his range to beyond the three point line this season – as if the Warriors needed anymore threats from three point range. Speights is shooting 41% from deep, and providing the bench scoring that the Warriors so desperately need. Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit there. Speights is just another player in the Warriors rotation that brings something special to the table. For Speights, that something is energy and bench scoring. Speights fills his role on offence, and does what he can on the other end of the floor. What makes him so special is that he is a very smart player, and knows when to take shots, or when to pass up a shot in order to get a better one for a teammate.
Centre: Clint Capela, Houston Rockets
Move over Dwight Howard, Clint Capela is here to stay. After his breakout playoffs last season, and a very encouraging season this year, Capela figures to be in the mix to take over for a likely-departing Superman. Capela brings elite athleticism and rebounding to the Rockets’ lineup, averaging 7.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. Not only that, but he can hold his own on the defensive end as well, averaging 2.2 blocks per game in his career. Capela is an elite athlete and an energizer-bunny, so a bench role is perfect for him. He really excels in the pick and roll with James Harden, and is an anchor on defence for the Rockets. Capela has drawn praise from many throughout the league, including former Houston great Hakeem Olajuwon. Although their playoffs will not last more than four games, it is a great opportunity for Capela to prove to the Rockets brass that they don’t need Dwight and his antics.
Point/Shooting Guard: Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics
Coach Brad Stevens loves Marcus Smart, and honestly – so do I. His stats might not stick out, and some of his decisions might not be the smartest but without him I don’t think the Celtics finish the season in the top 5 in the East. As coach Stevens has previously stated, “He [Smart] impacts winning.” He never gives up on a play, and always gives it his all. It’s his grittiness that makes him a “Chuck Hayes All-Star”. He’ll do anything for his teammates as long as it means the team winning, and that is a player every coach wants on their team. He only averaged 9.1 points per game this season, but don’t let that stat fool you – he’s one of the most important players on that Celtics team. With Avery Bradley now out for the playoffs, they will be relying on Smart even more. In fact, he now starts in Bradley’s spot at the shooting guard position…as a point guard. What more do I have to say about this guy?
Point/Shooting Guard: Shelvin Mack, Utah Jazz
When the Jazz acquired Mack to be their stating point guard from the Hawks, most people around the NBA were very surprised – including myself. My first reaction to the trade was, “Why wouldn’t the Jazz get a “legit” point guard? They wanted to get a point guard to lead them into the playoffs and they chose Shelvin Mack? Why Mack? All he’s done in the NBA is sit on the bench and shoot the odd three.” Well, the Jazz made me eat my words real quick as Mack proved me and just about every other NBA analyst wrong. After averaging just over 9 points per game for the Hawks, he saw his scoring averages go up while playing for the Jazz. In the month of March (after the trade deadline) his scoring average went up to over 12 points per game, and in April – 13! He and the Jazz fought hard, but ultimately came short of a playoff berth, but without Mack – they would not have even come close. This guy played his butt off the last few months of the season and definitely changed many people’s opinions on him – myself included.
Small Forward: Kent Bazemore, Atlanta Hawks
Kent Bazemore came into the league with the then-awful Golden State Warriors, and even on that team – he rode the bench. His “claim to fame” was his epic bench celebrations and Bill Simmons even gave him the title as a “chemist” (which is essentially every teams cheerleader). Point is, no one took this guy seriously – and some still don’t. He’s worked his way from the end of the bench in Golden State to the starting small forward on the Atlanta Hawks. When Demarre Carroll left for the Raptors, many Hawks fans weren’t too sure how they would replace him. They didn’t even think of the possibility of Bazemore filling Carroll’s spot in the starting lineup, but look at him now. He is an integral part of this Hawks team, but he isn’t a star player. He grinds, plays tough defence, and shoots the three point shot pretty well (over 35%). He’s the type of player that will do anything a coach needs, and that is what we’re looking for in a “Chuck Hayes All-Star”.
Power Forward: Ed Davis, Portland Trailblazers
Ed Davis has come along way since his days as a rookie in Toronto. He was just starting to come into his own when the Raps traded him to Memphis as part of the Rudy Gay trade. From there, it seemed as if everything had gone downhill for Davis. He played sparingly in Memphis, and even made a stop in L.A and played for the abysmal Lakers. While he got more minutes playing for a struggling Lakers team, he still was just an average bench player. This past summer, the Trailblazers signed him to a three year deal – which came as a surprise to many around the NBA. With all the criticism surrounding Davis’ name, he knew he had to prove himself this season, and boy did he ever. Starting on what was supposed to be an awful Blazers team, he and the rest of the squad turned some heads and even made the playoffs! Davis played some great defence alongside Mason Plumlee, and they formed what could be a scary defensive duo in the future. They both have length and great rim-protection ability, which should excite Portland fans for the future. He brought something to Portland that they hadn’t seen since the days of Zach Randolph and Rasheed Wallace – toughness. You can try and out smart him in the paint if you want, but the probability that you score is very low. What I can tell you is that your shot will either be in the stands, or you butt will be on the floor. Either way, you aren’t scoring an easy layup when Davis is anywhere near that paint. He plays 100% every time he steps on that floor, and the type of season he had this year essentially summarizes what it takes to be on the “Chuck Hayes All Star Team”.
Centre: Bismack Biyombo, Toronto Raptors
“Bismack Biyombo…who the f*** is that?” – every single Raptors fan this past summer.
“Bismack Biyombo…we love that f***ing guy!” – every single Raptors fan right now.
That does it for SportsNak’s “Chuck Hayes All-Stars”, what do you think of the squad? Is there anyone we’re missing? Anyone who shouldn’t be on the team? Comment below!
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