Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Non-Star Team

All-Star weekend is almost upon us and with it brings out the articles about all those deserving athletes that weren’t invited to this year’s game. The Bibbys, Webbers, and Gasols of the world may not be participating in the festivities this weekend, but nonetheless are known league-wide for the all the things they bring to their respective teams. The All-Star games always make you forget about the little guys, whose 15-20 minutes a night still go a long way in determining a team’s success. So this year I’ve come up with a mid-season All-Role team. These guys are the Robin to the league's Batman, the Merles to the league's Jimmy Chitwoods, the David Spades to the league's Chris Farleys…, well you get my point. Before they were selected, each of these players had to meet certain criteria:

Played For More Than Three Teams in Their Career

If a guy has played for only two teams in his career it obviously means that someone has noticed his talent enough to want to keep him on their team in a bench role. It is the perseverance factor of this journeyman team. Being kicked around from team to team fitting into whatever role is given.

Five or More Years in the League

This is the point where most players lose their “upside” label. They are no longer hidden gems that teams spot ten minutes a game to aid in their development. You don’t see any GMs say “This guy has been rotting on teams’ benches for the last few years, let’s see what he can do in our starting lineup”. Well, maybe Isaiah Thomas. After five years its “what you see is what you get”.

No Sixth Man Award

If they won one of these, people have noticed that they are good at what they do. It’s like trying to say Return of the King was one of the most underrated movies in 2003. You’re not fooling anybody.

No Former First Round Draft Picks

First round draft picks are supposed to be contribute in some form or fashion during their time in the league. They were picked to because they were one of the 30 most talented players in the country during that particular year. The label for former first round picks that have averaged ten minutes a game for their career is “bust” not “role player”.

With that said, let’s get to the actual team.

Guards (3)

Earl Boykins – Denver Nuggets

Boykins wouldn’t be the tallest player on a 6th grade basketball team, yet the 5’5’’ 133lb Eastern Michigan alum is getting the job done off the Denver bench this year. Boykins played for five teams in his first three years in the league, but after a breakout year in Golden State in 2003, Boykins was signed by Denver. For the past year and a half he has been a spark plug off the Denver bench, even stealing some crunch time minutes from incumbent starter Andre Miller.

Rick Brunson – Los Angeles Clippers

When the Clippers suffered a rash of backcourt injuries (Marko Jaric, Shaun Livingston, Kerry Kittles), Brunson got the call to fill out the starting lineup. In the month of December, the 6’4’’ point guard averaged seven points and seven assistants while playing starter’s minutes. The eight-year, ten team veteran has allowed the Clippers to remain poised for a second half playoff push.

Lucious Harris – Cleveland Caveliers

For twelve years and for four teams, Harris has been using his solid mid-range game to give teams a boost off the bench. This year’s beneficiary is one of the hottest teams in the East. He’s only averaging about 17 minutes and 5 points off the bench this year, but that, coupled with his veteran presence in the locker room, is one of the reasons that the Cavs are only two games behind the defending world champion Pistons in the Central Division race.

Forwards (3)

Fred Hoiberg – Minnesota Timberwolves

Hoiberg is a natural two guard, but for this team the 6’5’’ Iowa State alum is being pushed into a forward spot. Hoiberg has bounced between three teams over his ten year career doing one thing: nailing the three ball. In 16 minutes a game for the T’wolves this year, Hoiberg is shooting a red hot 51% from behind the arc and is one of the bright spots in a dismal Minnesota season. In comparison, Shaq is shooting a white hot 46% from the free throw line. Role players that can fill it up from behind the arc are remembered, just ask Steve Kerr.

Michael Curry – Indiana Pacers

This guy is Mr. Intangible. Curry has started for the better part of three seasons in his eleven year career and has never averaged over six points a game. His jump shot may be worse than Jean-Claude Van Dam movie, but he is simply one of those guys that play the game the right way. He’s a hustling, unselfish, lock down defender (in his prime) whose classy veteran leadership is respected around the league.

Raja Bell – Utah Jazz

In his first year in the league, Bell played in a grand total of five games. Four years and three teams later and he is averaging 12.2 points per game as a spot starter for the Jazz. His game is about as sexy as Condoleezza Rice, but by the end of the night, he’s filled up the stat line.

Centers (2)

Mikki Moore – Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers are the sixth team is Moore’s seven year career, but may be his last stop for awhile. At the start of the year it looked as if Moore would be buried on the bench behind a foursome of Chris Kaman, Elton Brand, Zeljko Rebraca, and Chris Wilcox. After Kaman went down and Wilcox decided to stop playing effective minutes, Moore stepped in and has averaged a healthy five points and three boards in 15 minutes a game for the Clips, helping them in their run back toward respectability.

Tony Massenburg – San Antonio Spurs

Thirteen years, thirteen teams. This guy has gotten around more than the Pam Anderson – Tommy Lee sex tape. He’s even played for four teams in one year (91-92). After all this, the 37 year old is still able to give the Spurs some solid production off the bench, as well start five games for a team tied for the best record in the West.

Coming Monday Night:
Why to Love the NFL Draft


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