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Irish Coffee: Do Celtics really have NBA’s best bench?

10.26.12 at 1:45 pm ET
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By now, you may have heard the latest in a long line of uberconfident Jason Terry quotes about his Celtics.

“We haven’t made [me coming off the bench] official yet, but if that is the case we have the deepest bench in basketball,” Terry said after Thursday’s practice. “The Clippers may have something to say about that, but for us in this locker room, our mission every night is to go out and outwork and outscore everyone’s bench.”

Similarly, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said, “If you could play 10-on-10, we would beat everybody.”

The mission here is simple: Determine the accuracy of their claim, breaking down the C’s division, conference and eventually the entire NBA. But first let’s look at Boston’s depth behind a not-so-bad starting five: Rajon Rondo, Courtney Lee, Paul Pierce, Jared Sullinger and Kevin Garnett. (For the purposes of this exercise, we’re inserting Terry and Sullinger into the starting lineup, since both took the floor first for 5-of-8 preseason games.)

BACKCOURT: 2011-12 NBA statistics

  • Jason Terry (63 games): 31.7 MIN, 15.1 PTS (43.0 FG%, 37.8 3P%, 88.3 FT%), 3.6 AST, 2.4 REB, 1.2 STL
  • Avery Bradley (64 games): 21.4 MIN, 7.6 PTS (49.8 FG%, 40.7 3P%, 79.5 FT%), 1.8 REB, 1.4 AST
  • Leandro Barbosa (64 games): 21.6 MIN, 11.1 PTS (42.5 FG%, 38.2 3P%, 81.5 FT%), 2.2 REB, 1.3 AST

FRONTCOURT

  • Jeff Green (75 games): 32.4 MIN, 13.3 PTS (44.9 FG%, 30.3 3P%, 81.1 FT%), 4.8 REB, 1.4 AST (2010-11)
  • Brandon Bass (59 games): 31.7 MIN, 12.5 PTS (47.9 FG%, 81.0 FT%), 6.2 REB
  • Chris Wilcox (28 games): 17.2 MIN, 5.4 PTS (59.8 FG%, 61.5 FT%), 4.4 REB
  • Darko Milicic (29 games): 16.3 MIN, 4.6 PTS (45.4 FG%, 43.2 FT%), 3.3 REB
  • Jason Collins (30 games): 10.3 MIN, 1.3 PTS (40.0 FG%, 46.7 FT%), 1.6 REB
  • Fab Melo (rookie): No. 22 overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft
  • Kris Joseph (rookie): No. 51 overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft

Sure, the Celtics have depth on their bench, featuring as many as five guys who have at one time averaged double-digit scoring (Terry, Barbosa, Green, Bass, Wilcox) — and two others who have come close (Bradley, Milicic) — but there are a ton of question marks: Will Terry’s numbers drop at age 35? How will Bradley perform after two shoulder surgeries? Will Barbosa even play when Bradley returns? Can Green replicate his preseason when the real one starts? Is Bass comfortable coming off the bench? Can Wilcox stay healthy? Will Milicic mesh? Is Collins anything more than a big body? Are Joseph and Melo any good?

Naturally, those questions remain for all benches across the league as well. Let’s take a look.

ATLANTIC DIVISION

Forget about the Raptors. They’re a young, plucky bunch, but please. To suggest their bench is better than Boston’s is like saying the Olive Garden is your favorite Italian restaurant. So, here goes.

PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

Backcourt: Nick Young, Damien Wilkins, Royal Ivey, Maalik Wayns

Frontcourt: Thaddeus Young, Dorell Wright, Lavoy Allen, Kwame Brown, Arnett Moultrie, Devin Searcy

Breakdown: Kwame and Darko are about as much of a push as you can imagine, but I’d take Terry over Young; either Bradley or Barbosa over Wilkins, Ivey and Wayns combined; Green over Wright; Bass over Allen; and veterans Wilcox and Collins over rookies Moultrie and Searcy. Advantage: Celtics.

NEW YORK KNICKS

Backcourt: Jason Kidd, Ronnie Brewer, Iman Shumpert, Pablo Prigioni

Frontcourt: Marcus Camby, Kurt Thomas, Rasheed Wallace, Steve Novak, Chris Copeland, John Shurna

Breakdown: As much as I respect Kidd as a player, he had his worst season last year, and he’s 87 years old, so I’m taking Terry over him. Would you take Brewer, Shumpert or Prigioni over either Bradley or Barbosa? Didn’t think so. The combination of Camby, Thomas and Wallace is comparable to Wilcox, Milicic and Collins, but Bass is better than anybody the Knicks can throw in there. I’m also taking Green over Novak — a more significant advantage than Copeland over Melo. And let’s call Shurna and Joseph a push. Advantage: Celtics.

BROOKLYN NETS

Backcourt: Marshon Brooks, Keith Bogans, C.J. Watson, Tyshawn Taylor

Frontcourt: Andray Blatche, Reggie Evans, Josh Childress, Mirza Teletovic, James Mays, Tornike Shengelia

Breakdown: As good as Brooks was as a rookie, all four backup Nets guards might fall behind Terry, Bradley and Barbosa on a theoretical depth chart. Take Green over Childress. Blatche could be better than C’s big off the bench, but Bass is more consistent. Evans can rebound, but Darko can rebound and score. Finally, for now, take the known of Wilcox and Collins over the unknown of Teletovic and Shengelia. Advantage: Celtics.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Toss the Cavaliers, Pistons and Bobcats out of this mix before we even get started. They’re the Brendan Fraser, Ashton Kutcher and Dane Cook of this Academy Awards show. Moving on.

MIAMI HEAT

Backcourt: Ray Allen, Mike Miller, Norris Cole

Frontcourt: Udonis Haslem, Rashard Lewis, James Jones, Joel Anthony, Josh Harrellson

Breakdown: At this point, Allen is Terry, Terry is Allen, Finkle is Einhorn. Now, do you want Bradley and Barbosa or Cole and Miller? I’m taking the former. And even if you considered Bass/Green and Haslem/Lewis a push, the Heat’s frontcourt is as thin as an Olsen twin. Advantage: Celtics.

CHICAGO BULLS

Backcourt: Nate Robinson, Kirk Hinrich, Marco Belinelli, Marquis Teague

Frontcourt: Taj Gibson, Nazr Mohammed, Jimmy Butler, Vladimir Radmanovic

Breakdown: Nate Robinson is their backup point guard. Enough said on the backcourt depth. As for their frontcourt, the Bulls lost Omer Asik, and while Gibson, Mohammed, Butler and Radmanovic are all serviceable off the bench, none match the impact of Bass or Green. Advantage: Celtics.

INDIANA PACERS

Backcourt: D.J. Augustin, Gerald Green, Lance Stephenson, Orlando Johnson

Frontcourt: Tyler Hansbrough, Ian Mahinmi, Sam Young, Jeff Pendergraph

Breakdown: I’m not trading Terry, Bradley or Barbosa for any of those four Pacers guards. In fact, Hansbrough might be the only guy on Indiana’s entire bench that would crack the C’s rotation. Advantage: Celtics.

ATLANTA HAWKS

Backcourt: Devin Harris, Lou Williams, John Jenkins

Frontcourt: Ivan Johnson, Anthony Tolliver, Kyle Korver, Anthony Morrow, Johan Petro, Mike Scott

Breakdown: You could argue Harris and Williams are comparable to Bradley and Terry, but Barbosa owns an edge over Jenkins. Meanwhile, Korver and Morrow provide quality depth at the 3, but neither is better than Green. And consider this: Collins started four games at center for the Hawks last postseason. Advantage: Celtics.

WASHINGTON WIZARDS

Backcourt: Shelvin Mack, Bradley Beal, Martell Webster, Jannero Pargo

Frontcourt: Emeka Okafor, Trevor Booker, Chris Singleton, Kevin Seraphin, Cartier Martin, Shavlik Randolph

Breakdown: I love Beal, but he and those other guards haven’t reached the heights of any of the three C’s backups at this point in their careers. In the frontcourt, outside of Okafor (finally where he belongs — and could flourish — as a backup), Washington’s depth up front remains the same. Which isn’t good. Advantage: Celtics.

ORLANDO MAGIC

Backcourt: E’Twaun Moore, J.J. Redick, Ish Smith

Frontcourt: Al Harrington, Quentin Richardson, Josh McRoberts, Maurice Harkless, Gustavo Ayon, Andrew Nicholson

Breakdown: Moore rarely cracked a much shallower Celtics rotation last season, and their fifth guard’s name is literally Ish (slang for a similar sounding word). Harrington, Richardson and McBob aren’t such a bad trio off the bench, but wouldn’t you take Bass, Green and Wilcox over them, respectively? Advantage: Celtics.

MILWAUKEE BUCKS

Backcourt: Beno Udrih, Doron Lamb, Orien Greene, Marquis Daniels

Frontcourt: Mike Dunleavy, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Ekpe Udoh, Joel Przybilla, Drew Gooden, John Henson

Breakdown: I could make a “Why can’t we get guys like Greene and Daniels?” joke, but it’s not even worth it. When Udrih is your best guard off the bench, nobody’s fearing those deer. And again, are you taking Dunleavy over Green? Gooden over Bass? Or Udoh over Darko? No, no and no. Advantage: Celtics.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Trim the Jazz, Kings, Hornets, Mavericks, Rockets, Suns, Timberwolves, Trail Blazers and Warriors from this pack. They’re the Ron Paul, Fred Karger, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Buddy Roemer, Rick Perry, Jon Huntsman and Michele Bachmann of these candidates. Here goes.

LOS ANGELES LAKERS

Backcourt: Steve Blake, Jodie Meeks, Chris Duhon, Devin Ebanks

Frontcourt: Antawn Jamison, Ernie Clark, Robert Sacre, Jordan Hill

Breakdown: Good one. Very funny. Advantage: Celtics.

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER

Backcourt: James Harden, Eric Maynor, Reggie Jackson, Daequan Cook

Frontcourt: Cole Aldrich, Nick Collison, Hasheem Thabeet

Breakdown: Harden is better than anyone on the Celtics bench — or anybody else’s bench for that matter — but the Terry/Bradley/Barbosa trio goes deeper than Harden, Maynor and the Jackson/Cook poop soup. Regardless, I didn’t even realize how thin this Thunder frontcourt is until now. Advantage: Celtics.

DENVER NUGGETS

Backcourt: Andre Miller, Evan Fournier, Corey Brewer, Julyan Stone

Frontcourt: Timofey Mozgov, Wilson Chandler, Anthony Randolph, Kosta Koufos, Jordan Hamilton

Breakdown: Miller makes the C’s backcourt rotation, but Fournier, Brewer and Stone probably don’t. And as good as Chandler, Randolph and Mozgov are as backups, they’re no Green, Bass and Darko. Advantage: Celtics.

MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES

Backcourt: Jerryd Bayless, Wayne Ellington, Tony Wroten, Josh Selby

Frontcourt: Marreese Speights, Darrell Arthur, Quincy Pondexter, Hamed Haddadi, Jerome Jordan, Ron Dupree

Breakdown: The once stacked Grizzlies are deep no more. In fact, is there a single backup on their roster (Bayless, Ellington, Pondexter, Speights, Haddadi) you’d take over any of the first five guys off the C’s bench (Terry, Bradley, Green, Bass, Milicic)? Advantage: Celtics.

SAN ANTONIO SPURS

Backcourt: Manu Ginobili, Gary Neal, Patty Mills

Frontcourt: Tiago Splitter, Stephen Jackson, Matt Bonner, Josh Powell

Breakdown: Now we’re talking. Terry and Ginobili are two of the best and most experienced Sixth Men in the league. Give both Bradley (defense) and Barbosa (track record) the edge over Neal and Mills. Meanwhile, up front, Green should be better than Jackson at this point in their careers. Same goes for Bass over Bonner and Splitter over the other Celtics bigs. Slight advantage: Celtics.

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS

Backcourt: Jamal Crawford, Eric Bledsoe, Grant Hill

Frontcourt: Lamar Odom, Matt Barnes, Trey Thompkins, Ronny Turiaf, Travis Leslie, Ryan Hollins

Breakdown: Again, tough call. You could call Crawford and Terry a wash, but the former shot 38.4 percent from the field last year. You might say Bledsoe has the potential to be Bradley-esque, but he hasn’t been. You might take Hill over Barbosa, but maybe not when you consider Hill already has a knee injury. Odom and Barnes are a better backup wing tandem than Green and Joseph, but Green’s the best of that lot. That’s where the comparisons end, because any referee would stop the fight at the 4 and the 5. Slight advantage: Celtics.

It’s pretty clear the Celtics, Spurs and Clippers have the three deepest benches in basketball, and when you consider most NBA teams won’t play more than nine or 10 guys in their rotations, the Spurs group of Neal, Ginobili, Jackson, Bonner and Splitter probably gives the Celtics squad of Bradley, Terry, Green, Bass and Milicic the best run. However, injuries play an important role in the 82-game season, and Barbosa, Wilcox and Collins give the C’s strength at roster spots 11-13 that no other team can match.

(Have a question, concern or conception for the next Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)

Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Jason Terry, Los Angeles Clippers
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