End of the Bench

Most NBA teams use a 9 or 10 man rotation during the season, then tighten it to an 8 or 9 man rotation in the playoffs. The Jazz were pretty close to that this last season with 11 players getting 900+ minutes over the course of the season and getting 15+ minutes per game. That's including all the wings we brought in after Burks went down for the year.

Given that, I started wondering what our 8 man rotation would look like. I started with just those players under contract (no FAs or draft picks), and found that we have a solid 8 man group, which looks like this:


  • Gobert
  • Favors
  • Booker


  • Hayward
  • Burks
  • Hood


  • Exum
  • Burke

If we wanted a 9 man rotation, I would probably put Millsap as the 4th wing (with Ingles taking that spot if he's brought back). A draft pick may also fit into that 9th spot.

But this post isn't really about these guys, it's about everyone else: the end of the bench guys.

What's the purpose of end of the bench players?

I've been thinking about what players 10-15 on a roster are for. They rarely get game time, but they must have a purpose. Some of the reasons may be obvious, but I wanted to list them out and examine what we want from these guys. My reasons are as follows in order of importance (as I see it):

Injury Insurance

This is the most obvious reason. When Burks went down with an injury last season, we needed someone to take his spot in the rotation. When Hood had to sit due to his own injuries, we had to dig even deeper.

Talent Evaluation

There are plenty of good players out there that haven't been able to stick on a team. Dennis Lindsey has used the end of the bench to evaluate these players and see if they're good enough to crack a rotation. Finding that diamond in the rough doesn't happen very often, but it can be a low risk, high reward strategy.

Cheap Contracts

The league requires at least 12 active players to be on a roster, with a max of 15. That means most teams have to pay at least 2 or 3 players that they aren't planning to give any game time to. Many teams have 4 or 5 players that they have to pay to sit on the bench. Given the salary cap and luxury tax, small contracts are really important to owners, since they can save money by paying minimum salaries to players out of the rotation.

Practice Squad

Practicing without an opponent can only do so much. At some point, every player needs to practice shots with a defender in his face. Similarly, it's hard to practice defense without have someone trying to score on you. End of the bench guys are great for this because the coach doesn't need to save them for game time. They can go all out in practice.

Public Relations

End of the bench players are often used to get the team involved in the community. They may be ambassadors to youth leagues, or go on school tours and to summer camps. It's great for the players if they enjoy it and it can get their names out there. It's nice for the team because they look good without taking away training time from rotation players.

So what makes a good end of bench player?

Coaches, GMs, owners, and fans will all have different priorities. The GM will be looking at evaluation and contracts more than public relations, which the owners will value. Coaches want injury insurance and a practice squad, while fans sit somewhere in the middle. Finding a balance among all these groups can't be easy. The better the player is, the more likely he is to move from the end of the bench to the rotation. That's great for the coach since he has more options if an injury occurs. It's also nice for fans since the team is deeper. For GMs, it's a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it's always nice to find new talent, on the other hand, the better a guy plays the more money he'll be offered, and that can stretch budgets. (Think Chandler Parsons going from $900,000 per year to $15M)

So really, the ideal end of the bench player is a guy that can hold his own when called upon, consistently improves, but not enough to be part of the regular rotation, is always payed near the league minimum, can push the other players in practice, and is willing to spend time with the community. We have had one of those guys on our bench in Jeremy Evans, that's why he was locked into a 3 year deal.

This offseason we don't have an established end of bench player. Evans is a free agent, and Dennis Lindsey and Evans will have to evaluate whether or not it's still mutually beneficial to keep him on the team. If Evans leaves, then DL will have to find someone else to exemplify the end of the bench role. Joe Ingles seems to have many similar traits and may be brought back on a deal like Evans got (~$5M over 3 years). It may be a little higher since the cap is going up, but locking in a solid end of the bench guy can be invaluable. Elijah Millsap seems to be another player on DL's list since he has already been signed to 2 more years with the Jazz. I'm not sure he fits all the criteria I listed, but he's a Millsap, so I don't want to underestimate him. Bryce Cotton also appears to be an option

For the most part, players fill this role for just a year or two before moving on, and I'm okay with that. I do like the idea, however, of trying to keep at least one or two guys around for longer. Evans has been great here, but if he needs to move on I understand. I just hope we can find someone who fits that role as well as he did and with the same enthusiasm.

All comments are the opinion of the commenter and not necessarily that of SLC Dunk or SB Nation.