Last season’s super subs

Turns out the bench was pretty darn important last season.

Turns out the bench was pretty darn important last season.

While sifting through the incredible amount of data over at, I came across the NBA Team Starter/Reserve stats page for the 2008-09 season. Check this out:

Last season, the Bulls bench ranked 13th in points per 100 possessions (106.3), 10th in rebounds per game (14.3), ninth in points per game (31.0), tied for 7th in assists per game (6.9), tied for fourth in steals per game (2.7), and an amazing third in the league (behind Boston and Utah and ahead of the Lakers and Cleveland) in net points (+462). That’s some pretty impressive bench production! And note that the four teams around them in net points were a combined 241-87…that’s a winning percentage of 73 percent. So bench-wise, the Bulls were in elite company in 2008-09.

Now check out how the starters ranked in comparison: 19th in points per 100 possessions (105.7), 17th in rebounds per game (27.8), 13th in points per game (71.2), 24th in assists per game (14,2), 19th in steals per game (4.7), and a dreadful 21st in net points (-577). The only teams that ranked below them in net points were New Jersey, New York, Golden State, Minnesota, Memphis, Oklahoma City, Washington, Sacramento and the L.A. Clippers. Note those were all bottom-feeding lottery teams. Further consider the fact that those squads had a combined record of 221-517 (a winning percentage of 36 percent).

So it seems that the Bulls’ bench production more important than we might have guessed…and that the relative productivity of the starters was actually much worse. If the Bulls are going to be more than a seventh or eighth seed this season, they have to continue to get strong performances from their reserves while getting much better total production from the starting unit. If I had to guess, I’d bet that will start (if it happens) with defense.


6 Responses to Last season’s super subs

  1. Patrick September 25, 2009 at 10:35 pm #

    Most of the statistics you employed should not be used for this kind of analysis: all “per game”-stats largely depend on the minutes per game that bench-players/starters play, hence “per minute”-stats (and pace-adjusted stats) would be much more meaningful.
    Otherwise, it becomes a huge distortion that some teams have players (such as the Bulls had Ben Gordon and the Spurs had Manu Ginobili) that do not start games but play starters’ minutes while some of their starters play only relatively little (e.g., the Blazers’ Nicolas Batum averaged only slightly more than 15mins per game).

    Thus, it is not surprising that in pts per 100 possessions (13th of 30 teams) -which suffers less from the problem mentioned above- the Bulls’ bench was much closer to the average/median team while all the other stats would place them near the top of the league.

    That being said, I do not doubt that the Bulls’ bench was above average- I just would have liked to see some more meaningful stats to back up the statement that the Bulls’ bench played really well (relative to other teams’ bench players).
    From the data above, I think, we can deduce only -if pace-adjusted stats showed the same results as the stats you provided- that probably the bulls’ starters were not very much better than the bulls’ bench players, hence the Bulls’ bench played more minutes per game than the other teams’ bench players, thereby producing more.

    Still- no offense! :)

    Jordan September 26, 2009 at 12:39 am #

    It’s going to be tough for the Bulls bench to repeat last year’s success with its best bench player suiting up and possibly starting for the Pistons.

    Matt McHale September 26, 2009 at 3:11 am #

    Patrick — Honestly, the ranking I was most concerned with was net points. And you can see by comparison that the Bulls starters were outscored on the season by a fairly large margin…while the opposite was true of their bench. That’s the primary concern for me. It’s not a good thing when your starting unit gets outperformed on a net basis…as you can see by the teams that ranked below them.

    Jordan — I see what you’re saying, but BG started most of last season.

    grant September 26, 2009 at 4:00 am #

    Thanks Matt for the stats, which confirmed my observation. My general observation is that the Bulls winning% is around 35% during the period that Kirk didn’t play due to injury.

    It seems posters 1 and 2 didn’t watch much Bulls games. In last season, BG started most of time, while Kirk came off the bench. That’s why the Bulls starters production ranked low (just slightly better than the bottom teams), while its bench production ranked very high, because Kirk is a much better all-around player than BG, and Kirk is a legit NBA starter while BG is a bench-caliber player. I never understand why the Bulls GMs/coaches cannot see it; They allowed him to hinder the development of Kirk’s (and other players’) game for years and they even offered more money to BG than to Kirk. Rose is much luckier than Kirk –Rose doesn’t have to defend the opposite best offensive guards (including many elite/good tall SGs) to accommodate BG incompetence (thanks J.D.) and can have his offensive game developed as normal.

    Sharad September 27, 2009 at 10:31 pm #

    Hinrich is possibly the best defensive GUARD in the league…and could be a top 7 PG if given the chance…I think people are forgetting the Bulls from a few years ago when they made the playoffs consecutive years with Hinrich at the helm shutting Wade down.

    felipe garcia September 30, 2009 at 11:28 pm #

    I strongly agree with you Sharad, Hinrich is considered to be the best defensive player in this team and they are should all learn from him especially Derrick Rose.

Designed by Anthony Bain