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SORRY FOR THE HTML, WHICH APPEARED WITH MY WORD PASTE!
Last year, the Blazers bench was the worst in the league. Some called it perhaps the worst bench ever. The bench scored only 18.5 points per game, while allowing the league median of 33.5 points per game. Thus, the bench gave up 17 points per game.
Contrast this to the Blazers starters last year. The starters were tops in the league in scoring, at 79.0 points per game. They also allowed the most points per game in the league, at 68.9.
Because the bench was so poor, Portland played its starters more and its bench less than any other team in the league. The starters played 35.1 minutes per game (mpg), well above the league median of 30.7 mpg. And the bench played 13.3 mpg, well below the league median of 18.0 mpg. So let's look at the respective bench and starters performance on a per minute basis.
The bench scored 1.39 points per minute, almost ½ a point per minute less than the league median (1.87 ppm). No wonder Coach Stotts didn't play them much. On defense, the bench essentially allowed the league median in scoring (1.85 ppm). So the problem was not in bench defense, but bench scoring. The Blazers lost almost ½ a point per minute (-0.46) for every minute the bench played. The next worse team lost less than half of that per minute, and the league median for net bench scoring was no net difference. So while the average bench neither gained nor lost ground on a per minute basis, the Blazers gave up ½ point per minute, all on the (lack of) offensive end. Over the amount of time that the bench played, this totals 6 points per game.
The starters were fifth in the league in scoring per minute (2.25 ppm) , behind Miami, OKC, Houston, and the Clippers. On defense (2.19 ppm), in contrast, they were 23rd in the league. Overall, the starters were 7th in net scoring per minute (+0.06 ppm).
Now let's focus on bench scoring and conjecture about the upcoming 2013-2104 season. If the bench can maintain its league average defensive productivity, and improve its scoring to that of last year's second worst offensive bench (1.58 ppm), they would add +0.19 ppm, or 2.5 points per game (if the bench played the same amount of time as last year). This can be viewed as going from historically worst in the league to typical worst in the league, so this is probably a minimal expectation. Last year, the Blazers as a team gave up 3.2 points per game more than they scored (22st in league). So this level of improvement in bench scoring would take the team to -0.7 ppg, good for 18th in the league. This would be a team on the cusp of the playoffs.
If the bench is able to attain the third quartile point in scoring, where it is better than ¼ of the league, scoring would be 1.80 ppm. Only three teams last year were significantly below this level, so it is not unreasonable that they would achieve this level of scoring. This would add 0.41 ppm, or 5.5 points per game. The team as a whole would have a net of + 2.3 points per game. This would have been 10th in the league last year. This is definitely a playoff team, with perhaps a chance at home court in the first round.
These future illustrations are based upon the same time distribution between starters and the bench. Probably the biggest benefit of having a better bench would be less minutes for the starters, so they could be fresher at the end of games and the end of the season.
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