Ranking the Utah Jazz bench among next season’s best

Utah Jazz (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)
Utah Jazz (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Utah Jazz
Utah Jazz guard Joe Ingles (Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports) /

An NBA team’s starting unit tends to receive the bulk of media and fan attention. This holds as true for the Utah Jazz as it does for any other team in the Association. Nonetheless, a deep bench can make for a deciding factor in the outcome of games, stretches or even entire seasons.

Injuries are professional sports’ version of death and taxes: nobody wants them, but they’re unavoidable anyway. The deeper a team’s bench, the more easily they can replace injured starters. Even with a fully healthy outfit, no player in NBA history has averaged 48 minutes per game (besides Wilt Chamberlain, who we’re not convinced isn’t a widely believed folklore legend). The more frequently head coaches can spell their starters with quality players, the better their odds of sustaining winning play across entire games.

The Utah Jazz boasted one of the NBA’s best second units throughout 2020-21, but how do they stack up with the field heading into the 2021-22 season? The landscape has certainly changed, especially when one focuses an eye toward Los Angeles. The Lakers and Clippers were two of only three playoff teams to best the Jazz in bench points per game last season.

The former cleared out some of their most productive bench players in a blockbuster deal that found them acquiring Russell Westbrook, while the latter will spend most of the season without Kawhi Leonard, forcing them to shift at least one key bench player into the starting unit. Could these events create a perfect storm for the Utah Jazz to field the best bench in the NBA next season?

Here, we ranked the Jazzmen’s second unit among the rest of the NBA’s best. There is no complex formula at play in these rankings: we did look at league wide bench points per game and bench box plus/minus rankings from last season, but considering that teams will not be fielding the same rosters, this exercise is an inexact science by nature.

We also only considered projected playoff teams in these rankings. Typically, non-playoff teams fare well in bench points per game, because they frequently find themselves playing their second units for entire fourth quarters as they’re getting blown out. The Detroit Pistons led the NBA bench points per game last season at 41.3.

Something tells us they didn’t have the best bench in the NBA.