In appreciation of the bench

Stephen Dunn

The Nets have not lived up to their lofty expectations through nearly a month of basketball -- not by a long shot. Something the team has utilized, though, that they were not expected to has been their bench. 8 players are averaging over 20 minutes, two of which are logging more minutes than Kevin Garnett.

Shaun Livingston has become the de facto starter of this team with Deron Williams on the mend, so he will not be included in this analysis of the bench, but there is more about him here.

Andray Blatche was a significant player last year to the Nets success, and has become the starting center with Brook Lopez still recovering from an ankle injury. Blatche started the year poorly, but has found his stride over the last five games. The former Wizard is averaging 16 points and five rebounds while shooting 57% from the floor over this past stretch. He also led a huge spurt by the Nets down the stretch in their loss to the Bobcats, becoming their go-to player in the post. Blatche is not known for his defense, and neither are these Nets, but Blatche's defensive rating of 106 is among the best of his career. He still is making head-scratching mistakes, but there is no doubt that he has filled in for Lopez nicely.

Besides Joe Johnson, Alan Anderson may be the Nets most consistent player this season. Anderson has embraced the "3-and-D" role, shooting with confidence and slashing to the rim. Anderson has an effective field goal percentage of 52% and shooting 57% when he is driving to the basket. Anderson is shooting 40% from the three-point line and has limited his turnovers, not even averaging one turnover per 36. On defense, Anderson has not been incredible, but rather right on with his career average with a rating of 110.

Anderson, along with Blatche, has been a part of one of the Nets most successful line-ups. Those two along with Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, and Shaun Livingston have a net rating of +9 when on the floor together even though it has been for such a short time, five minutes in one game.

Blatche has been playing a fair amount off the bench, 22.6 minutes per game, which is right on par with Kevin Garnett and his 22.2 minutes per game. He has come off the bench early in games to give Garnett a breather, and it seems that he is playing the correct amount of time for him to be utilized. However, with Pierce's declining play, the question is going to start being asked: should Anderson see more minutes which would take away from Pierce's?

There is no right answer, but it might not make a huge difference, at least in scoring, if Anderson received more minutes. Pierce plays just about 30 minutes per game while Anderson already plays 21. Therefore, if Anderson was to chip away at Pierce's playing time, it would be a minute or two. There just isn't much room for Anderson to see more minutes, but if Pierce continues to slump, and Anderson continues to play well, Jason Kidd should not be afraid to let the Michigan State grad see some extra minutes.

One role player who has seen an increase in minutes is Mason Plumlee. The rookie has seemingly jumped Reggie Evans on the depth chart and has earned a spot in the rotation. He is playing 16 minutes a night, and 20 over his last five. Plumlee has seen the minutes boost following the injury to Lopez and the Nets need for length on the inside, something Evans does not have. Per 36 minutes, Plumlee is averaging 13 points and seven rebounds while shooting a phenomenal 63% from the floor. He has an offensive rating of 118, second best on the team only behind Lopez. The former Dukie has progressed very nicely already as a Net and seems to have a bright future. Kidd is smart to give him minutes early on in his career.

The last bench player that who should be included is Mirza Teletovic. Don't remember him? He was the Bosnian captain who garnered a lot of hype following a successful stint in Eurobasket. Teletovic has been seeing minimal time when the Nets have been out of games late, which has been a fair occurrence, but Sunday's loss in Detroit was his first meaningful minutes. Teletovic showed everyone what he was brought across the Atlantic to do: hit threes. Teletovic hit three from beyond the arc when the Nets were struggling to make buckets. Was this the game Teletovic needed to bust into the rotationMaybe? Possibly. The Nets are 22 in the league in points scored; if they can get him to get going from three, they can spread the floor and have an opportunity to be feared on offense.

All in all, the Nets are in shambles. The starters, sans Johnson, are either injured or in a slump. Although all seems lost, several players have managed to perform very well off the bench and may be able to spark the team if they saw some increased minutes, taking away from some that are struggling.

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