The NBA bench player handbook
August 19th, 2007

For those amongst you who, like me, have a strange fascination with transactions, both those finalized and those possible, this is a bad time of year for you. This is late August, the draft is long since gone, and most of the juicy bits of free agency have passed us by. Of the remaining free agents, only a select few are good enough to be starters in this league – Ruben Patterson to name……one – and merely the journeymen remain. This is the NBA’s equivalent of what it’s like to try and completely scrape clean an almost-empty pot of jam – you can try and try and try to clean every last morsel out of the jar, and occasionally strike it lucky with a decent-sized chunk. But most of the residual jam offers up stubborn resistance, and is not even worth your time – even if there was a practical way of getting it off there, you wouldn’t garner anything useful from it anyway.

Additionally, when writing these new player profiles for the site, I have had a very tough time trying to keep them interesting. How, for example, do you make the profile of JamesOn Curry read wildly different to that of Jannero Pargo or Salim Stoudamire, when they are similar players? It’s a quandary that has cropped up all too often. Too many players are too alike too many other players, and too many players conform to stereotypes.

So, let’s look at those stereotypes and give them broad definitions based around the pioneer – the trendsetter, if you will – of that particular stereotype. Every team needs their role players, after all.


1 – The Jerome Williams: The athletic forward whose main skill is the fact that they are an athletic forward. They’re too small to play power forward unless against others such as themselves, yet they have not the dribbling skills, jump shot or defensive footwork to play much small forward. They compensate by running around a lot and causing bother. A classic player-without-a-position situation.

Notable examples: Darvin Ham, Linton Johnson (although he’s nearly good enough to not qualify), Jerome Williams, Ryan Bowen
Pencil them in: Mike Harris


2 – The DeSagana Diop: They’re tall. They’re athletic. They’re often foreign. This perks your interest. It’s rarely worth it.

Notable examples: Boniface N’Dong, DeSagana Diop (the poster child), Peter John Ramos, Mile Ilic, Didier Ilunga-Mbenga
Pencil them in: Cheikh Samb


3 – The Esteban Batista: They’re tall. They’re strong. They’re far from athletic. They’re often foreign. They don’t do much else. This also perks your interest. It’s also rarely worth it.

Notable examples: Esteban Batista, Dalibor Bagaric, Mengke Bateer, Jake Voskuhl, Jared Reiner
Pencil them in: Aaron Gray, Marc Gasol, Kyrylo Fesenko


4 – The Zoran Planinic: Dedicated to those taller guards – often European – who are touted as being tall point guards, yet who are basically shooting guards (or, occasionally, small forwards) with slightly above-average dribbling skills. These players are generally exposed during any subsequent attempts to play point guard due to their lack of foot speed, and also aren’t exactly primed for the two guard position due to their decidedly temperamental jump shots. The old saying goes that your position in the NBA is defined by the position that you are best at defending, yet it wouldn’t go amiss for these players to get themselves a defined position on offence. For the “bit of one, bit of another” thing isn’t really working.

Notable examples: Zoran Planinic, Marquis Daniels, Thabo Sefolosha, John Salmons, Jiri Welsch, Sasha Vujacic
Pencil them in: Cedric Bozeman (in anticipation of a fairytale comeback), D.J Strawberry (sorta)


5 – The Eddie House: Small guards who come into a game solely for the purposes of putting up lots of long jump shots and running around enthusiastically. The genre is named after Eddie House himself, a man so perfectly awesome at this role that it defies any attempt of mine to explain it. If you’re short (or tall by normal human standards) and want to make it in the world of basketball, this is probably your best bet.

Notable examples: Eddie House (obviously), Jannero Pargo, Salim Stoudamire, Quincy Douby, Damon Jones
Pencil them in: JamesOn Curry, Guillermo Diaz, Robert Hite


6 – The Eric Piatkowski: A logical extension of the Eddie House type. Decent-sized perimeter players whose offence is largely limited to an extremely good outside jump shot, and whose defence is just plain limited. Something of a retro position that I cannot ever say enough good things about.

Notable examples: Eric Piatkowski, Casey Jacobsen, Voshon Lenard, Fred Hoiberg, Matt Carroll
Pencil them in: Adam Haluska


7 – The Pat Garrity: A further extension of the Eddie House genre, this role has similarities to the Jerome Wiliams genre above, in that the player concerned has no defined defensive position. They’re power forwards with no power to their game, forced to play the position due to their lack of speed. The other slightly massive difference between this group and group one is that this group of extremely unathletic players also happen to have fantastic outside strokes. These players tend to share other common traits – they are usually poor defensive players and weak rebounders. This group compromises the most one-trick ponyness of all the groups listed here. And yet, every year, one or two fresh faces pop up.

Notable examples: Pat Garrity, Steve Novak, Scott Padgett, Matt Bonner
Pencil them in: Nick Fazekas (not quite yet, but just you wait…….)


8 – The Malik Allen: One final twist to the one-dimension shooter saga. These guys are tall, with a centre’s size. And they can shoot. Yet they have issues to address at every other facet of the game. But, then again, it landed Troy Murphy a $58 million contract.

Notable examples: Troy Murphy, Malik Allen, Martynas Andriuskevicius, Kevin Pittsnogle, Damir Markota, Pat Burke, millions of others
Pencil them in: Kosta Perovic, Oleksiy Pecherov


9 – The Chuck Hayes: They may be undersized, but by God, that doesn’t mean that their rebound is not theirs. Not tall enough for traditional power forward/centre size in this league, and without the eye-popping vertical to overcome this, these players choose to go the other way – they beef up, and work harder than the other guy for the rebound. Try and take it off them, and they’ll kill you, no questions asked. This is especially true for Lonny Baxter, who has a thing for guns and shooting – if the White House doesn’t scare him, then neither will you.

Notable examples: Chuck Hayes, Craig Smith, Lonny Baxter, Brandon Hunter
Pencil them in: Chris Richard, Carl Landry


10 – The Bruce Bowen: Decent-sized reasonably athletic small forwards who play good defence on the perimeter, but who are contractually mandated on offence to stand in the corner and wait for an open three-point attempt. To attempt to do anything else would result in asphyxiation, death, or worse.

Notable examples: Bruce Bowen(the master), Ime Udoka, Jumaine Jones
Pencil them in: Thabo Sefolosha


11 – The Ibrahim Kutluay: Disenfranchised European player who was pretty good back on home soil but who is not good enough in the NBA to crack a rotation. Rather than accept this, though, they opt to play off of their misguided sense of entitlement, sulk, and invariably wind up being bought out for a minimal amount so that they can return to Europe and vent. A relatively modern genre that I’m truly enjoying.

Notable examples: Ibrahim Kutluay, Arvydas Macijauskas, Sergei Monia, Vassilis Spanoulis
Pencil them in: Viktor Khryapa, Sarunas Jasikevicius


12 – The Mateen Cleaves: If you’re not good enough to get into the game, you may as well act like you’re happy to have been given such good tickets to see it. This genre is for those players who like nothing more than to come flying enthusiastically off of the bench after a good play, smacking arse and waving towels, and acting like nothing could be more right with their life. And why shouldn’t they be happy? They get paid to sit down. I wish I did.

Notable examples: Mateen Cleaves, Ronny Turiaf, Eric Piatkowski, countless more
Pencil them in: Um, don’t know. Hopefully, everyone.


13 – The Kelvin Cato: “Why does no one want me? I’m tall, I used to be good, what gives? Come on, just give me a minimum salary, I’ll make it worth your while”.

Notable examples: Kelvin Cato, Bo Outlaw, Michael Olowokandi, Alan Henderson
Pencil them in: Michael Sweetney, Vitaly Potapenko, Danny Fortson


14 – The Gary Payton: The former star who still wants the ring really, really badly. They’ll forego their pride, their legacy and their reputation to sign for pittance just to try and get it. Named after Gary Payton, a man who has done this twice – once with the Los Angeles Lakers and once with the Miami Heat. Strangely, having won the ring, Payton still did not then retire, and eked out one more season for the minimum salary in a bid to win a second. He did not do so. Now, hopefully, that will be it.

Notable examples: Gary Payton, Alonzo Mourning, Kevin Willis, Chris Webber
Pencil them in: Reggie Miller (oh God I hope not), P.J. Brown, Jalen Rose


15 – The Jacque Vaughn: The “heady veteran” point guard who doesn’t run nearly as well as he used to, yet who continues to look for (and sometimes get) NBA work as an old timer whose “experience” will help the team’s younger point guards, and also provide a calming influence on the court. But basically they just aren’t rotation players any more and are out for what they can get.

Notable examples: Jacque Vaughn, Randy Livingston, Howard Eisley, Anthony Carter, Darrick Martin
Pencil them in: Jeff McInnis, Brevin Knight


16 – The Michael Curry: You have no idea what this guy is supposed to do, but the coach likes him.

Notable examples: Michael Curry, Michael Ruffin, Scot Pollard, Adrian Griffin
Pencil them in: Hopefully, no one.


These people are not to be overlooked, though. Not in any way. The defending champion San Antonio Spurs, for example, have two number 10’s including the poster child himself, a number 4, a number 6, a number 7, recently traded away a number 2, recently traded for a number 11 to go along with the one they already had, have THE number 15, and have themselves an extremely successful number 14 in Robert Horry.

Of course, they also have Tim Duncan, which counts for a lot. But do they really win their three recent titles without checking off a good half of the criteria thrown up by this list?

(Yes, probably.)

Posted by at 4:13 PM