When they aren’t expected to “dab” or “quan-quan” as they greet their teammates after said introductions.
Or when they don’t have to high-five the mascot on their way out to the center court, dap up their homies on the opposing team and listen to confrontational non-sequitors from Joey Crawford before tip-off.
Don’t start with me, Joey! I haven’t even taken off my warm-up pants yet!
Some players like being just a little bit anonymous. They enjoy entering the game when most fans are already a half-beer deep, and everyone under the age of 24 has already lost interest and started scrolling through Instagram or swiping Tinder or checking to see how many people have watched their Snapchat story for the 57th time that day.
In the NBA, bench players are more important than they are in other sports. They’re regularly used to log minutes and tick down that endless game clock, and often times, their performance against their bench counterparts can make a big difference in the outcome of the game.
It’s like somebody once said, it doesn’t matter who starts the game. It’s who finishes. You know, who’s left after Joey Crawford kicks everyone else out.
So before all you 24-year-olds lose int—-oh come on!! Enough with the Snapchat, Aiden!!! No one’s going to have watched your story in the last five min–oh really? 36 people, huh? That’s cool.
Let’s just move on. To the rankings:
1. Will Barton, G, Nuggets. The 25-year-old, who also appears in our Most Improved Player Rankings, is really coming into his own off the bench for the Nuggets. He’s averaging a career-high 15.6 points, 6.2 boards, and 4.9 “Where’d he go to college?” questions from your dad per game. (For the third time tonight dad, Memphis). Barton is also second on the team in scoring and rebounding, and has bought in defensively in head coach Michael Malone’s system.
2. Darren Collison, G, Kings. When Sacramento jettisoned Isaiah Thomas and signed Collison to a 3-year, $16 million deal in 2014, everyone thought the speedy point guard was finally going to get his chance to be a full-time starter. But then Rajon Rondo came along, and he used to be an All-Star, so the Kings got a bargain buy ($9.5 million for one year) for a player who could have been maxed. You know, if he hadn’t gotten thrown off the Mavericks during the playoffs. Collison, as you can imagine, wasn’t thrilled. If you told him he was going to end up in these rankings just a year later, he probably would have stayed with the Clippers. But, DC kept his head up, and now he’s averaging 16.1 points and 5.1 dimes per-36 minutes. Barring a Rondo implosion, he could win this award.
3. Omri Casspi, F, Kings. As our Chris Bernucca wrote in his Mid-Season Awards column, Casspi is the reason Rudy Gay could soon be traded. He’s excelled off the bench this season, averaging 12.6 points and 6.5 rebounds on 50% shooting, and 46% from three-point range. Gay, on the other hand, is shooting just 46% and 35% from three, and remains as of yet unaware that defense is a concept that has been proven to exist in the physical and metaphysical world. Kings fans probably don’t want to see him traded, but maybe Sacramento would end up like Memphis after they shipped Rudy–better off.
4. Trey Burke, G, Jazz. Burke probably didn’t expect to be a backup this season, especially after Dante Exum tore his ACL. But he seems to be more comfortable coming off the bench. He hasn’t started a single game this season, but has played nearly five more minutes per game than his counterpart Raul Neto, who’s started 41 games. He’s also been more effective with his time than Neto, putting up 18.5 points and 4 assists per-36 minutes and shooting a career-high 44% from the field and 36% from deep.
5. Jeremy Lin, G, Hornets. LIIIIIINSANITY IS BACK!!!!!! It’s Lincredible! I need a Lintervention! OK, maybe not. But the Justin Bieber wanna-be has done a solid job backing up should-be All-Star Kemba Walker in Charlotte. He’s averaging 12.1 points and 3 assists per game, and has one of the top-five most confusing hairstyles of all-time. He probably won’t be gracing the cover of Time Magazine anytime soon, but at least he’s giving us a reason to mention him in a postseason-awards rankings column. Which is something.