Starting off with the NBA Rising Stars Challenge, most NBA players will finally get some time to recuperate and prepare for the home stretch of the regular season, where much more than a spot in the All Star festivities will be on the line.
It couldn’t come at a better time for some of the top bench players in the NBA. With injuries, streaky play, or sometimes a combination being a factor, a number of players have been plagued with something over the past month. Odds are they couldn’t be happier with the timing.
Ryan Anderson will be one of the lucky ones who will be in Houston this weekend, showing off the same shooting stroke that has wooed Hornets fans all season as he partakes in the Three-Point Contest on Saturday.
Aside from that, nobody in this week’s table will be seen – at least not on the court – in any of the weekend festivities. Either way, most everyone on this week’s list will enjoy their time off. And some need it more than others.
Ever since Amar’e Stoudemire made his way back into the New York Knicks rotation, J.R. Smith has not been the same spark off the bench that he was for a good chunk of the first half of the season. His shooting percentages flagged went down while his minutes have stayed about the same.
Smith’s situation is somewhat unique to this list as other members have been hit with the injury bug.
Jamal Crawford is someone that will savor a chance to take a break and shoulder injury that kept him out of a couple games. He returned recently and again is playing at as high a level as his Clippers team, but some more time off certainly won’t hurt.
Manu Ginobili, who has been in and out of these rankings, finally got back onto the floor Wednesday, getting in 10 minutes. He had been battling a hamstring injury for two weeks and decided it was time to try to get back into the flow of things before another few days to rest.
“El Contusion” will need it, too. The age of the Spurs has tended to show up in the latter half of recent seasons, and they need all the rest they can get.
Even a guy like Gordon Hayward, who has been hovering around the top five but not quite crashing the party, has been out for over two weeks with a nagging shoulder injury. The Jazz have still picked up wins, including a 15-point victory over the Thunder. But it’s safe to say the Jazz miss Hayward’s production off the bench.
Players who rest up during the break can at the very least sleep easily, knowing they will be with their respective teams when the break is over. Others on this list cannot necessarily say the same.
Take J.J. Redick, whose name has been thrown around in trade rumors as recently as last Saturday. Rumors like these can be tough on any player, and while he will be able to rest his body most players, Redick may be a bit more on the edge of his seat than others, especially until Thursday’s trade deadline passes.
Oh, and Redick is nursing an injured shoulder as well. Imagine that. Scientists may want to look a the correlation between high-scoring bench players and shoulder injuries.
Anyway, on to the rankings.