The Hardwood Paroxysm Awards: Bench Mobs, Unemployment, and PINE

Because there can never be enough awards, acronyms, recognition, or roundtables, HP proudly presents the HPAs. In true HP style, the Matty goes to…


This particular season has been like cramming swordfish into a sardine can with the schedule compressed, meaning second units can be critical to success later on giving high-minute starters breathers. What team’s second unit gets your Bench Mob of the Year Award?

NoamSchiller: This feels like the lazy answer, but there’s no way any Bench Mob beats the Chicago Bench Mob. The Bulls haven’t lost a beat despite Derrick Rose missing large chunks of games for the first time in his career by fielding a team so ridiculously deep it’s scary. John Lucas and C.J. Watson are inexplicably viable options, Gibson-Asik might be the best defensive frontcourt in the entire league, and nobody on the team has a PER lower than 12.2. Not even Brian Scalabrine. BRIAN SCALABRINE!

Jared Dubin: Chicago. The Lucas-Korver-Deng-Gibson-Asik lineup (and yeah, I know Deng’s a starter) is sporting an absolutely preposterous 78.8 defensive efficiency on the year (all numbers current through Saturday, when I wrote this). You simply cannot score against the Bulls’ bench. But we know Chicago is good at defense. What’s even more amazing is that the aforementioned unit has a 110.8 offensive efficiency this season, a mark that bests OKC’s league-leading 108.0. THAT is a bench mob. (FWIW, subbing Jimmy Butler for Deng brings those numbers to 116.2 on offense and 93.5 on defense, both of which would still easily lead the league, but that unit has only played 42 minutes together this year.) Honorable mention goes to the Knicks, or really just to Steve Novak, Jared Jeffries and Iman Shumpert, who have been HUGE off the pine for New York this year.

Amin Vafa: I’m going to go with Denver, simply because it’s nearly impossible for me to tell Denver’s starters apart from their bench. That team is so freaking deep it’s crazy. Remember how they were the weird dark horse WCF favorites in the first half of the year? I know this isn’t part of the question, but next year they’re going to be as deep or deeper (if McGee goes elsewhere). Crazy.

Connor Huchton: I’d go with the Rockets’ bench. It might not be the best bench in the league (though it’s certainly good), but it’s complete. There are no weak positions on the Rockets’ bench, not after the Rockets traded for Marcus Camby at the deadline. Goran Dragic (assuming a healthy Lowry), Courtney Lee/Kevin Martin (assuming a healthy Martin), Chase Budinger, Patrick Patterson, and Camby form a unit that has no glaring weaknesses, and thus can be effective against nearly any second unit in the league.

Sean Highkin: I have no delusions about their ability to win a championship, but Denver’s bench this season is remarkably deep and versatile, with plenty of guys capable of sliding into the starting lineup when they’re hit with one of the many injuries to key players they’ve faced this year.

Who gets your Don of the Bench Mob Award?

NS: Again, I’d like to be special here, but James Harden is so far ahead of the back that it’s absurd. OKC’s bench mob isn’t so much of a mob as it is Harden, Collison, and several hopefuls (I miss the good version of Nazr Mohammed. I’m probably the only one), but those two pretty much make the Thunder bench a legitimate unit on their own. Hard to get more Don-like than Harden, with the kind of game that often has him operating as his team’s best player.

JD: James Harden. Is there really any other answer? He’s the league’s premier 6th man (though I’ll accept arguments for Jason Terry or Lou Williams), and is already a top 5 shooting guard in the league. His beard is feared throughout the league, and his game should be even more so.

AV: I’ll say Ramon Sessions for this one. Without him, the Cavs have gotten worse, and out in LakerLand fans assume he’s the second coming of Magic Johnson (it’s been a long time since they’ve seen a competent PG, I guess). I’m not saying he’s the 6th man of the year or anything. But he has the ability to be the best reserve on the floor at times, and for some reason people like to think he put the Lakers over the top in terms of getting back to the Finals.

CH: James Harden- He’s currently the best bench player in basketball by a decent margin, so this award belongs to no one else.

SH: Hard not to pick James Harden. He’s good enough to start at shooting guard on any team that isn’t the Lakers or Heat, which itself is enough to put him on here. But that talent is made even more deadly by how brilliantly and effectively he’s used off the bench, and also how seemingly okay he is with not starting. That’s a rare combination.

Some very good coaches suddenly joined the ranks of the unemployed this season. Give me your Best Available Coach Kickin’-it.

NS: If we’re assuming that Phil Jackson, Jerry Sloan, and Jeff Van Gundy are done for good – and I do – then I have Mike D’Antoni narrowly edging Nate McMillan in a battle of recently fired Team USA assistants. Both prefer to dictate the pace (slow for Nate, fast for Mike) and choose their personnel, but recent results have us forgetting just how good they both are at doing so when the front office plays along and their players don’t revolt.

JD: Mike D’Antoni, who I have no doubt will come into Madison Square Garden with a new team next season and beat the Knicks by double digits. Being in New York, I had to deal with my fair share of D’Antoni-haters for the better part of the last four years. They’re crazy. The guy is a good coach, he just couldn’t connect with one guy (whose fault that truly was is up for debate, and likely leans toward Carmelo) and lost his job because of it. But he’ll catch on somewhere this off-season and find success; I know it.

AV: Mike D’Antoni has got to be the answer here. And I hope he gets paired up with John Wall, Nene, and Anthony Davis or MKG next year. Oh man that would be so sweet.

CH: Phil Jackson is the obvious choice, but I have no idea whether he’s actually looking to coach anytime soon, and if a situation exists that appeals to him. New York has been mentioned, but it always is, whether or not validity is present. I think it’d be hilarious to see him coach in LA again, but only for the Clippers.

SH: Going a little unconventional here: appearing on the BS Report over All-Star weekend, Robert Horry told Bill Simmons that he’s always wanted to get into coaching but has simply never had the opportunity. On paper, doesn’t Big Shot Rob seem like he’d be a great NBA coach? He’s played on seven championship teams, alongside some of the all-time greats, and was an unselfish role player who was respected by everyone. In terms of being able to preach team-oriented basketball, manage egos, and command the respect of players, he’d be a great hire for anyone.

The tankathon is on, but a coach’s job is not to prepare the team for the next coach, but to win enough games to not join the ranks of the BACK coaches. Who’s your DEFY winner, Definitely Employed For another Year award winner?

NS: Mark Jackson. Not necessarily because he’s a good coach, or even a subpar one, but because we honestly don’t know it. And despite foolishly promising the playoffs before going down to Tankville, the Warriors probably realize that they owe him at least one more year of trying before declaring him a success or a failure.

JD: Monty Williams. I honestly have no idea how he’s won 13 games with this roster. It was a bare bones team to begin with, but when you factor in that he was missing Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, Carl Landry and Emeka Okafor for about half the year, Trevor Ariza for a few weeks, and Jarrett Jack for a couple, it gets even more insane. Monty’s a very good young coach and the Hornets are lucky to have him. Keeping him around and adding two probable high-lottery picks makes their future a lot brighter than their record suggests.

AV: I don’t think he’ll be back with the Wizards, but this season has made me start liking Randy Wittman. His resume isn’t stellar, but the way he carries himself as a coherent human being while the rest of the Wizards organization is crumbling to pieces around him makes me think he definitely has a place in this league. If he gets hooked up with a team that’s assembling pieces in a rebuild, I think he’d be a great asset in that development process.

CH: Ty Corbin and Kevin McHale both faced many questions at the start of the season, including whether they’d be able to effectively replace two coaching legends in Jerry Sloan and Rick Adelman. Both have responded admirably. McHale has kept a team with two key players injured (Kyle Lowry and to a lesser extent, Kevin Martin) in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race, and shown a willingness to replace players in important units when necessary. Corbin has done the same, making a big difference in the overachieving, possible playoff performance of the Jazz.

SH: Monty Williams, because this year’s abysmal Hornets team became part of the plan the minute they traded Chris Paul. He’s a class act and a great coach who has gotten more than anybody could ever expect out of one of the thinnest rosters in recent memory. The Hornets are right to be committed to him long-term.

There’s always that guy on your roster who in hindsight should have played more, could have helped net that extra win or three. Which underused roster-place-holder earned the Player In No-man’s-land Endlessly award?

NS:  I don’t necessarily know if he helps the team this season, but it’s hard for me to see Marcus Morris’ rookie year get a DNP-CD. The Rockets generally know what they’re doing with the D-League, and have been fairly successful at developing mid-to-lower first round picks at their own pace before unleashing them on the league, but the 14th pick is a pretty high asset to just stash away. Maybe the Rockets drafted Morris assuming that their depth would be traded for a single star by now.

JD: It’s my main man Ish Smith. He was in Golden State and couldn’t get minutes at the point even while Stephen Curry was hurt. In his one and only start, he had 11 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists in a win over the Knicks. Two weeks later he got released. Now he’s in Orlando and can’t get off the bench even though Chris Duhon gets actual playing time. Smith’s no world-beater, but he’s always had respectable assists per-36 numbers (6.4 for his career) and he can capably run an offense. I guess what I’m saying is #FreeIshSmith.

AV: To continue my Wizards-biased answers, I’m going to go with Shelvin Mack here. Now if you look at his minutes, you’ll see that they are fine. But I’ve been wanting him to play the 1 while Wall plays the 2 all season and they’ve never done it. They have no floor time together. A Mack-Wall backcourt is something this world needs, people. Let’s make it happen.

CH: There have been times this season when DeAndre Jordan has been severely underused. Del Negro has often relied on Reggie Evans or Blake Griffin-at-center lineups late in games, typically with little success or reasonableness. Jordan certainly isn’t a perfect defender or player, but the Clippers could have used his impact down the stretch in many close games this season, many of which turned into losses.

SH: CRAIG SMITH CRAIG SMITH CRAIG SMITH CRAIG SMITH AND DID I MENTION CRAIG SMITH! There’s no team in the league that wouldn’t love to have the Rhino on their bench, but he’s spent the season trapped behind Joel Przybilla and Kurt Thomas, who combined are almost as old as my colleague Andrew Lynch.

Seth Carstens