Ranking all 30 NBA benches: A non-playoff team secures top spot
Boston and San Antonio are bringing plenty of depth as well
Free agency is all but over, so we are looking ahead to the 2016-17 season. We started by ranking and analyzing all 30 teams' starting lineups, and now we're moving on to their reserves. While teams will still make minor moves before training camp begins, we have a pretty good idea of what they are going to look like. CBS Sports' Zach Harper, Matt Moore, Ananth Pandian and James Herbert each ranked every bench unit, so the following is based on a composite score.
30. Brooklyn Nets
PROJECTED BENCH: Greivis Vasquez, Randy Foye, Sean Kilpatrick, Trevor Booker, Justin Hamilton
The good news: Brooklyn has almost completely transformed its roster after its dismal 2015-16 season. The bad news: There still isn't much depth here. In addition to the guys listed above, there will likely be opportunities for Caris LeVert, Anthony Bennett, Joe Harris, Chris McCullough and Isaiah Whitehead to earn minutes. The Nets will be happy if Vasquez, Foye and Booker help foster a more professional atmosphere and a couple of their unproven young players become keepers.
PROJECTED BENCH: Jose Calderon, Lou Williams, Brandon Ingram, Larry Nance Jr., Tarik Black
Ingram, the No. 2 pick in the draft, is the most intriguing part of this second unit. He may end up being so good he's a starter right away and you see Julius Randle pushed here. Other than that, either Larry Nance Jr. or Tarik Black is the most intriguing option. Jose Calderon is a steady hand but he's not going to be a huge impact guy. Lou Williams is a good scorer but does he even want to be on this team anymore? The Lakers will lose a lot of ground when the second unit filters in.
PROJECTED BENCH: Ramon Sessions, Marco Belinelli, Jeremy Lamb, Frank Kaminsky, Cody Zeller
Charlotte managed to retain its starters in free agency, but that meant it took big hits on the bench. Jeremy Lin, Courtney Lee, Al Jefferson, all gone. Sessions is a borderline third guard, so having him at backup point guard is suspect. Belinelli was good on the Spurs because everyone is good on the Spurs but there's also a reason he is no longer on the Spurs. Charlotte giving up a pick for him is madness.
Jeremy Lamb showed great promise last year early on and then evaporated. Zeller is starter-quality, and Kaminsky showed... flashes. But there's a lot to be worried about with this team's depth.
27. Milwaukee Bucks
PROJECTED BENCH: Michael Carter-Williams, Rashad Vaughn, Malcolm Brogdon, Mirza Teletovic, Miles Plumlee
This one has some upside. Vaughn and Brodgon both showed good things in Summer League, those are quality rotation players. Plumlee does a fine job and Teletovic is a terrific shooter. But the youngster's inexperience, with Plumlee's non-impact, and MCW's overall seriously-I-feel-bad-for-the-former-Rookie-Of-The-Year struggle makes this one a bad overall unit.
26. Phoenix Suns
PROJECTED BENCH: Tyler Ulis, Devin Booker, P.J. Tucker, Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender
Ideally, this would feature either Brandon Knight or Eric Bledsoe and you'd see Devin Booker moved into the starting lineup. If that doesn't happen, this second unit is a glimpse into the future, but at the moment, it'll be in for a tough dose of reality.
Chriss and Bender are painfully young. They'll have a lot of cool highlight moments but even more tough rookie realities as they learn the strength and speed of the game. Tucker and Booker are good players, but we're not sure how Tyler Ulis will look outside of college and summer league. This Suns team is bad but you can see hope in the future.
25. Sacramento Kings
PROJECTED BENCH: Garrett Temple, Ben McLemore, Matt Barnes, Omri Casspi, Kosta Koufos
You could argue that Sacramento is a bit too low here. Barnes, Casspi and Koufos are solid role players, and perhaps new coach Dave Joerger can help McLemore realize his potential. Unless McLemore becomes reliable, though, they're going to have a pretty thin guard rotation.
24. Miami Heat
PROJECTED BENCH: Briante Weber, Dion Waiters, Josh Richardson, Josh McRoberts, Derrick Williams
The good news for Miami is Josh Richardson has developed incredibly well, and Dion Waiters playing like he did in the playoffs would be a huge boon for this team. Unfortunately, they're relying a lot on Derrick Williams playing defense and Josh McRoberts being healthy. Guarantee us that McRoberts can play regular minutes over 70 or more games and this ranking gets better, but you can't do that.
23. Orlando Magic
PROJECTED BENCH: D.J. Augustin, Jodie Meeks, Mario Hezonja, Jeff Green, Bismack Biyombo
Meeks just had another foot surgery, Hezonja didn't prove much as a rookie and nobody is excited about Green anymore. The Magic have two steady backup point guards -- did they really need to sign D.J. Augustin when they already had C.J. Watson? -- and probably the best backup center in the NBA in Biyombo, but this is clearly still a team searching for an identity. Who knows how the pieces will fit.
22. Atlanta Hawks
PROJECTED BENCH: Jarrett Jack, Thabo Sefolosha, Mike Scott, Kris Humphries, Tiago Splitter
If Splitter and Jack are their normal selves after hip and ACL surgery, then this isn't such a bad bench. They're both on the wrong side of 30, though, so it's unclear if the Hawks will be able to count on that. Malcolm Delaney is another name to watch here -- he's played all over the world in the last five seasons, and Atlanta might need another guard to soak up some minutes.
PROJECTED BENCH: Wade Baldwin IV, Troy Daniels, Vince Carter, JaMychal Green, Brandan Wright
Their reserve players fit perfectly with their starters in mixed rotations, but with the kind of starting unit they're paying for (Conley and Parsons each got huge deals), you know the bench is going to be a little weak. There's a good chance that Andrew Harrison takes one of the starting guard spots, and a good chance that Daniels winds up in a small forward role.
JaMychal Green is interchangeable with Zach Randolph depending on the matchup and either way, that's a strong part of this unit. If Brandan Wright's back healthy, that helps them, too. This isn't a unit that can go out and help win games on its own... but the roster's also not dependent on it doing so.
20. Dallas Mavericks
PROJECTED BENCH: J.J. Barea, Devin Harris, Justin Anderson, Dwight Powell, Quincy Acy
Dallas' bench remains just OK. Devin Harris and J.J. Barea are fine players but they only bring so much to the table. Quincy Acy's energy is a nice addition but he's a pretty limited offensive player. The Mavs' only hope for their second unit is if Justin Anderson and Dwight Powell take a noticeable jump in their respective games.
PROJECTED BENCH: Trey Burke, Marcus Thornton, Kelly Oubre, Andrew Nicholson, Ian Mahinmi
One writer had them as the third worst bench in the NBA. The rest had them in the top 17. So do you believe in a backup backcourt of Trey Burke and Marcus Thornton? There should be plenty of scoring, but ball movement and defense will be at a loss. That's also where you need Kelly Oubre to really improve in his second season. Bigs Andrew Nicholson and Ian Mahinmi -- both offseason additions -- will be solid contributors, but the depth of this bench will rely heavily on the guards available.
PROJECTED BENCH: Kris Dunn, Brandon Rush, Shabazz Muhammad, Nemanja Bjelica, Cole Aldrich
This voting was all over the place (8, 14, 20, 27). It's tough to get a handle on the Wolves. Kris Dunn looks to be a very fun rookie, but his shaky outside shooting will determine how effective he is early. Brandon Rush getting heavy minutes is dangerous.
If Tom Thibodeau can mold Shabazz Muhammad right away, he becomes a very dangerous reserve. If not, he could be off the team. Nemanja Bjelica gives them a nice stretch-4 option and they have Cole Aldrich as the main backup big, assuming Kevin Garnett doesn't factor in heavily due to retirement or injuries. This bench unit is more intriguing than strong for the moment.
PROJECTED LINEUP: Austin Rivers, Jamal Crawford, Wes Johnson, Paul Pierce, Marreese Speights
So... two of our panelists think this unit is top-10 and two think it's bottom-10. Rivers is probably underrated, but Crawford started to decline significantly last year. Pierce might not even come back, and even if he does it's hard to see him in any kind of a significant role. Wes Johnson's a decent small forward, and Marreese Speights will get buckets but is bad defensively. This unit has been bad through the years and lost maybe their best player in Cole Aldrich from last season. Lot of bucket-getters on the squad, though.
PROJECTED BENCH: Jerryd Bayless, Nik Stauskas, Dario Saric, Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid
Similar to its starting lineup, Philadelphia's second unit will likely be ever-changing. Nerlens Noel, Dario Saric and Joel Embiid could all end up being promoted to the starting unit. Jerryd Bayless was a nice addition and is a big upgrade over T.J. McConnell, and perhaps this could be the year of Nik Stauskas. The Sixers have some talent on their bench, it just depends on how long it takes for it to develop.
15. Indiana Pacers
PROJECTED BENCH: Aaron Brooks, Rodney Stuckey, C.J. Miles, Lavoy Allen, Al Jefferson
The additions of Aaron Brooks and Al Jefferson will help provide the Pacers with some scoring off the bench. Defensively though, this unit is not the best. Yet there is enough depth for the Pacers to at least remain in the top eight in the East.
14. Denver Nuggets
PROJECTED BENCH: Jameer Nelson, Will Barton, Wilson Chandler, Joffrey Lauvergne, Jusuf Nurkic:
So much versatility here. Jameer Nelson is stable and good, though some of his minutes will go to rookie Jamal Murray in a combo-guard role. Will Barton had a phenomenal year last season and when he's in the right space, he can be a difference-maker on both ends as a hyper-Corey-Brewer type. Lauvergne has issues and holes in his game, but is a constant worker who provides production. If Jusuf Nurkic is ready to commit to the team and his work ethic, he's an absolute monster. Wilson Chandler provides a quality scorer and rebounder with positional flexibility. The Nuggets have quality players 1-12.
13. Detroit Pistons
PROJECTED BENCH: Ish Smith, Stanley Johnson, Reggie Bullock, Jon Leuer, Boban Marjanovic
One vote for 26th. The rest of the votes were in the top half of the league. The concern is that Jon Leuer, Boban Marjanovic and Ish Smith don't warrant big minutes for a second unit that was brutally bad last season. Reggie Bullock may fall into that category as well. But the promise of Stanley Johnson, who played so tough against LeBron James in the playoffs, gives you a ton of hope. He's as tough as they come and is a better scorer than he showed in his rookie campaign. The Pistons' bench couldn't make shots a year ago. Will that be the case again this season?
PROJECTED BENCH: Cameron Payne, Kyle Singler, Alex Abrines, Nick Collison, Enes Kanter
Cameron Payne should make strides from a rollercoaster rookie season with more time to play next to Russell Westbrook in combo-guard lineups. Singler is much-maligned but is still an OK fill-in option. Abrines provides intriguing potential, while Kanter showed improved defense and at times monstrous offensive production last year. There are weapons here, but they all come with skill-specific reservations, more than the units above them.
11. Houston Rockets
PROJECTED BENCH: Pablo Prigioni, Eric Gordon, Corey Brewer, Michael Beasley, Nene
Prigioni is an ancient rune, but always finds ways to be impactful for about 40 games a year. Gordon is a starter-caliber scoring weapon who can operate as a combo-guard. Brewer could be crazy in 7 Seconds or Less and he usually follows good years with bad and vice versa, so after a disastrous season last year, he could be in a line for a big year. Nene is an issue defensively but it won't stand out because the rest of the roster is brutal on that end as well. And somehow, someway, Michael Beasley continues to tease why he was a No. 2 pick. You could do worse than the weapons they have on this bench... but you could also definitely do better.
PROJECTED BENCH: Langston Galloway, E'twaun Moore, Quincy Pondexter, Dante Cunningham, Alexis Ajinca, Terrence Jones, Buddy Hield
The Pelicans, somewhat surprisingly, have a pretty solid bench. New Orleans went out and added quality players in Langston Galloway and E'twaun Moore, two versatile guards who can also provide some toughness. Dante Cunningham and Alexis Ajinca are fine rotational bigs to have. Terrence Jones was a nice pickup on the cheap and if he can play like he did earlier in his career with the Rockets, then the Pelicans will have even more depth. Even rookie Buddy Hield should be able to contribute, especially if his shooting translates to the NBA. However, the main key for New Orleans is the return of Quincy Pondexter, who missed all of last season due to injury. If he can quickly return to form, the Pelicans should have some quality depth this season.
PROJECTED BENCH: Brandon Jennings, Justin Holiday, Lance Thomas, Kyle O'Quinn, Willy Hernangomez
The Knicks have some intriguing talent on their bench. Willy Hernangomez is a rookie, so he will likely go through some growing pains but he had a fine, if brief, international career. And then the Knicks have very solid and skilled role players in Lance Thomas, Justin Holiday and Kyle O'Quinn.
But this unit will go as far as Brandon Jennings can take them. Due to injury, he is coming off the worst season statistically of his seven-year career and it is unclear if he can ever relive his past glory -- if you want to call it that. Jennings is still just 26 years old and has a lot to prove after signing a one-year deal. He has the perfect opportunity to make an impact in New York and he likely will be a big part of the Knicks' fortunes this season, one way or the other.
PROJECTED BENCH: Jerian Grant, Tony Snell, Doug McDermott, Taj Gibson, Bobby Portis
Chicago has had an abundance of frontcourt talent for years, and that's no different this time. Few teams have two big men as good as Gibson and Portis -- or at least the idea of Portis -- on the bench. The idea of Grant is appealing, too, and McDermott will get another chance to expand his role with Mike Dunleavy gone to Cleveland.
PROJECTED BENCH: Shabazz Napier, Allen Crabbe, Moe Harkless, Ed Davis, Festus Ezeli
The Blazers are giving Shabazz Napier his third chance at trying to be a second-unit point guard. That may not actually happen but the Blazers have plenty of talent on their bench. Ed Davis is an excellent rotational big and the addition of Festus Ezeli is huge. Bringing back Moe Harkless and Allen Crabbe makes sense as well since they make up Portland's young core. They both will have to keep growing their games but just like the rest of Blazers' bench, the potential is clearly there.
PROJECTED BENCH: Mo Williams, Iman Shumpert, Mike Dunleavy, Richard Jefferson, Channing Frye
Shumpert is due for a bounceback season, and Dunleavy is a perfect addition to a reserve unit that was already full of shooting. The only question here is if Williams and rookie Kay Felder can make up for the absence of Matthew Dellavedova, who consistently made 3-pointers and irritated opposing guards last year.
PROJECTED BENCH: Patty Mills, Manu Ginobili, Kyle Anderson, Jonathon Simmons, Dewayne Dedmon
You already know about Mills and Ginobili, and it seems like Anderson and Simmons are due for increased minutes. Dedmon was a steal in free agency, and of course David Lee decided to join the party. Gregg Popovich has a lot to work with once again, and two members of our panel had San Antonio in the top two.
PROJECTED BENCH: Cory Joseph, Norman Powell, Terrence Ross, Jared Sullinger, Lucas Nogueira
Toronto's reserves were dominant last season, and they should be solid again despite the loss of Bismack Biyombo. Joseph and Powell could both be Sixth Man of the Year candidates. The big unknown here is the center position -- will Nogueira finally earn coach Dwane Casey's trust, or will rookie Jakob Poeltl become a regular in the rotation?
PROJECTED BENCH: Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jonas Jerebko, Tyler Zeller, Kelly Olynyk
The versatility on Boston's bench is pretty exciting. Jerebko and Olynyk can both play multiple positions, are fine defenders and can stretch the floor with their shooting. Tyler Zeller is rugged and smart. Marcus Smart could be a starter for several teams and his tenacious play has become a hallmark of Brad Stevens' Celtics. Even Jaylen Brown should be able to make a difference in his rookie season. The Celtics are one of the deepest teams in the league and their bench will likely carry them at times this season.
PROJECTED BENCH: Shaun Livingston, Ian Clark, Andre Iguodala, David West, Anderson Varejao
Having rocks like Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala will boost just about any bench, even more so when you factor in just how well they fit in Kerr's system and how willingly they accept their roles. Anderson Varejao and Ian Clark are huge questions for the Warriors but the cheap addition of David West is a fantastic value. His passing with these weapons will be exceptional.
And don't discount the relaxed situations this unit will find itself in most nights -- playing with a big lead courtesy of the flat-out scary Golden State starters. This unit will very rarely be asked to win a game on its own.
1. Utah Jazz
PROJECTED BENCH: Dante Exum, Alec Burks, Joe Johnson, Trey Lyles, Boris Diaw
The Utah Jazz, after a big offseason in which they added three key veterans, come in as our No. 1 bench unit by a nose over the Warriors. The biggest question they have is the return of Dante Exum, who missed last season with a torn ACL. How quickly will he adapt back to the NBA game and will his defense be as good as it was at the end of his rookie campaign?
Meanwhile, Alec Burks is a Houdini around the rim, Joe Johnson gives them outside shooting and versatility, and Trey Lyles had beautiful development on both ends of the floor during his rookie season. But the key to it all could be Boris Diaw. If he's the motivated Diaw that did whatever Gregg Popovich wanted him to do, this holds up as the top bench in the NBA. He's everything they want in a backup big man and gives Quin Snyder so many lineup options with his versatility.
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