5 NBA Benchwarmers who are getting paid Big Bucks

Andris-biedrins-benchwarmerThe NBA’s minimum salary for rookies is almost $500,000, so every player in the league is making some nice money, regardless of whether they’re an 8-time All-Star or twelfth man. In regard to the latter, you normally expect the last man on the roster to be the lowest-paid player on the team. After all, the most energy that they normally exert during games is leaping off the bench to waive their towels when a teammate hits a big shot.

But the truth is that some twelfth men actually make some surprisingly high salaries. These benchwarmers can thank years of collective bargaining for this, with minimum contracts going over the $1 million mark for players who’ve been in the league at least five years. Old contracts that were made at a point when players were much better than their twelfth-man status also weigh heavily into this as well. Taking everything into account, let’s look at five NBA players who rarely see the court, yet make more money than some starters.

1. Andris Biedrins, Utah Jazz – $9 million

In the 2009 NBA season, Andris Biedrins had a career year where he scored 11.9 PPG, grabbed 11.2 RPG and had 1.5 BPG. Based on his numbers, the Latvian wonder seemed to be worth every penny of the 6-year, $54 million deal that he signed the previous summer. But then the injuries started… Biedrins’ 2010 season was derailed by groin and back problems along with criticisms by then-coach Don Nelson. Now on the Utah Jazz after several more injury-plagued seasons, he’s averaging 0.5 PPG and 2.8 RPG in the last year of his lucrative deal.

2. Charlie Villanueva, Detroit Pistons – $8 million

charlie-villanueva-benchwarmerFor the first six years of his NBA career, Charlie Villanueva was a solid power foward who had a pretty good outside touch for a 6’11” guy. It was after his fourth year that Villanueva signed a $35 million deal, thanks in large part to the 16.2 PPG, 6.7 RPG and 34.5% three-point shooting that he averaged in 2009. Now in his ninth season, Villanueva’s production has declined considerably. He’s played in just 13 games so far, and in those games, he’s averaging 9.1 minutes. If there’s any silver lining here, it’s that the Connecticut product can still score, putting up 4.8 PPG in these limited minutes.

keith-bogans-benchwarmer3. Keith Bogans, Boston Celtics – $5 million

For a guy who was drafted late in the second round of the 2003 NBA Draft, it’s impressive that Keith Bogans has managed to stretch his marginal talent into an 11-year career. But that career seems to be coming to a close since he’s averaging just 2.0 PPG and 0.5 APG in six games for the Celtics this season. However, Bogans is still making some decent money from the deal he signed with the Brooklyn Nets a year ago.

4. Joel Anthony, Miami Heat/Boston Celtics – $3.8 million

Coming off a 2010 season where he played in 80 games and tallied 1.4 BPG, undersized joel-anthony-benchwarnercenter Joel Anthony signed a 5-year, $18 million deal with the Heat. Anthony continued to be an important reserve for Miami, until the 2012-13 season, when they brought in Chris Bosh. Since that time, he’s been an overpaid benchwarmer who only sees minutes when the game has gotten out of hand. Perhaps he might start getting back onto the court a little more now that he’s been traded to the Celtics.

5. Jannero Pargo, Charlotte Bobcats – $1.4 million

jannero-pargo-benchwarmerAfter several years where he was an important reserve for the Chicago Bulls and New Orleans Hornets, Jannero Pargo has been warming benches for the past two seasons. Pargo played on three different teams before finally looking like he’d found a home in Charlotte, where he averaged 8.4 PPG in 16.2 minutes a game. No such luck this year, as he’s only appeared in 11 contests, playing 5.5 MPG while backing up Kemba Walker and Ramon Sessions. Of course, we shouldn’t be surprised that Pargo found a way to get paid since he once landed a fairly nice one-year, $3.8 million contract with a Russian team.

Could Brittney Griner survive in the NBA?

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brittney-griner-nbaIn 1979, Ann Meyers became the first and last woman to sign a contract with an NBA team. She inked a $50,000 no-cut clause contract with the Indiana Pacers, but, unfortunately, didn’t survive her three-day tryout.

Since that time, standout women basketball players have far more avenues to continue their playing careers. There are plenty of female European leagues along with the WNBA. And up until this week, the WNBA is pretty much where everybody expected 6’8″ Baylor Bears star Brittney Griner to be heading….that is, until Mark Cuban made some attention-seeking remarks about her.

Before a game between the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers, Cuban claimed that he’d actually think about taking her in the 2013 NBA Draft. His statement went as follows:

If she is the best on the board, I will take her. I’ve thought about it. I’ve thought about it already. Would I do it? Right now, I’d lean toward yes, just to see if she can do it. You never know unless you give somebody a chance, and it’s not like the likelihood of any late-50s draft pick has a good chance of making it.

She’d still have to make the team. I’m not going to carry her just to carry her. I don’t think, anyways. But I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to giving her the opportunity.

brittney-griner-nba1Cuban went on to say that he thinks Griner would have plenty of marketing potential if she were to try out for his team. But is that where the discussion of Brittney Griner playing in the NBA ends, with marketing potential?

The Houston native has fascinated many basketball fans since YouTube videos surfaced of her throwing down two-handed dunks. Sure she wasn’t the first woman to dunk; however, Griner is the first known lady to be putting down two-handed slams with ease. She certainly lived up to expectations at Baylor too after racking up the following accolades:

– Led the Bears to the 2012 NCAA title and a 40-0 record
– Blocked 736 career shots, more than any college female or man
– Dunked a record 18 times, more than all other college women combined (15)
– Averaged 23.0 PPG or more for her last three seasons

Obviously Brittney Griner was a fantastic collegiate player – quite possible the best ever in women’s college hoops. This being said, it’s no wonder why the Phoenix Mercury are assuredly going to take her with the first pick overall in this year’s WNBA Draft. But is she good enough to transcend the women’s game and actually play in the NBA?

Brittney GrinerStarting with the positives, Griner has a huge wingspan (7’4″) and excellent timing, which easily explains her incredible shot blocking ability. She also developed a nice mid-range game while at Baylor and greatly improved her basketball IQ.

However, Griner weighs just 207 pounds, which at 6’8″ isn’t exactly the ideal NBA frame. Seeing as how she would probably be playing power forward in the NBA, Griner would regularly be competing against the likes of Blake Griffin (6’10”, 250 pounds), Paul Millsap (6’8″, 253 pounds), Zach Randolph (6’9″, 260 pounds) and David Lee (6’9″, 240 pounds). It’s hard to envision a scenario where she wouldn’t be constantly backed down by these guys and scored on at will.

Luckily we won’t ever have to see this scenario because Griner will be picked number one overall on April 15th. Cuban wouldn’t be able to draft her until June 27th, at which point he would have to purchase her rights from the Phoenix Mercury. And while Cuban may be an attention whore, he’ll likely be more focused on rebuilding a Dallas franchise that has spiraled downward following a 2011 championship season.

This being said, the hypotheticals involving Brittney Griner to the NBA are just something for the media to have a good time with. And if there ever is a female player who goes to the NBA, it’ll likely be a talented guard who doesn’t have to bump heads with 250 and 260-pound men in the paint.

Jamison believes Michael Jordan could still play at 50

michael-jordoan-comeback-1Few people would argue that the NBA isn’t a place for 50-year-old men. The majority of successful players are in their late 20’s or early 30’s, and most pro ballers fade off in their mid-30’s.

But even with this being said, Los Angeles Lakers forward Antawn Jamison believes that Michael Jordan, who’s almost 50, could still play in the NBA. Jaimson told ESPN, “I wouldn’t doubt that in the right situation with a LeBron (James) on his team or with a Kobe (Bryant) on this team, he could get you about 10 or 11 points, come in and play 15-20 minutes. I wouldn’t doubt that at all, especially if he was in shape and injuries were prevented and things of that nature.”

Jamison added, “You hear stories still to this day, especially last year, him going to the practice facility and playing 1-on-1 with the guys and still they can’t stop him.”

Utah Jazz v Los Angeles LakersAges Ago

The last time Jordan played was when he donned a Washington Wizards uniform during the 2002-2003 NBA season. And he averaged 20.0 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 3.8 APG and 1.5 SPG while playing 37 minutes per game. Of course, this was a decade ago, and MJ was obviously not at his peak back in these days.

That said, it’s questionable as to whether or not Michael could really average double figures at his age. As we’ve alluded to several times already, the obvious roadblock is that Jordan is just a few days shy of 50. Plus he hasn’t played a regulation NBA game since 2003. However, there are also some things that MJ has going in his favor, which we’ll discuss next.

Favorable Rules

In his prime, Michael Jordan played basketball in an era where hand-checking and hard fouls were simply signatures of a good defensive team. And even in a day and age where physical defense was perfectly acceptable, “His Airness” upheld the highest career scoring average (30.12 PPG) in NBA history.

michael-jordoan-comebackContrast this to today’s game, where the rules are set up to encourage more scoring and less physical D. It’s hard to imagine how many points a young Jordan could’ve averaged in this offensive-friendly era.

Another thing worth mentioning here is that Michael hasn’t exactly let himself go like other former NBA stars – a la Charles Barkley. Jordan works out, plays golf regularly and even practices with the Charlotte Bobcats from time to time. And as Jamison mentioned, Michael does quite good in these practices too.

How would a Comeback Attempt go?

Practicing against the team you own once and a while, and surviving a grueling 82-game schedule are two different things – especially when you’re half a century old. And while Michael Jordan is largely considered the greatest basketball player ever, we’re not quite so sure that a comeback would be in his best interests.

He’d be relegated to a backup role, which would be a completely different and dissatisfying experience for Jordan. Plus there’s the whole matter of going against guys half his age on a regular basis. So all in all, we like Michael better in the Bobcats’ owners box over making a return to the court.

Brian Scalabrine dominates Amateurs One-on-One

During his 11-year NBA career, Brian Scalabrine wasn’t exactly considered the most “talented” player. The USC product never possessed great speed, a 40-inch vertical leap, or an incredible outside shooting touch – all of the qualities that a couch potato fan readily expects from a pro baller.

Due to the great white hype image that Scalabrine cultivated over the years, many fans publicly questioned his skills and asked how he stayed in the league for so long. So in order to quiet these naysayers, Scalabrine challenged four talented amateurs to one-on-one games. CBS Boston discussed the details of the challenge by writing:

Scalabrine, who retired over the summer after a very serviceable 11-year NBA career, took on four of Boston’s best ballers in 98.5 The Sports Hub’s 1-on-1 “Scallenge,” put on by morning hosts Toucher & Rich..

Listeners sent in their tryout videos, showing off their skills and talking some trash towards Scal, but it turns out even Boston’s best was no match for Scalabrine.

As you can see from the video we’ve posted below, the one-on-one “challenge” was more of a massacre than anything. Brian won all four games by a combined score of 44-6. And it wasn’t like he was playing total bums whose main claim to fame was winning five YMCA pickup games in a row.

Instead, some of these guys were actually pretty good, including the first challenger, 6’8″ Matt Tomaszewski, who played for Syracuse last year. Before we continue talking about the Scallenge, you can take a look at all four games below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FHrz5Q29ECM

Tomaszewski gives Scalabrine some decent competition since he’s fairly quick on defense and matches up with Brian’s heighth. However, he easily gets out muscled by Scalabrine en route to an 11-3 blowout. The second and third games aren’t even contests because they both end in 11-0 shutouts. As for the final game, this turns out to be another 11-3 score, making the fourth straight blowout.

People really shouldn’t have expected anything different from this competition because there’s a massive difference between a longtime NBA player, and some guys who put up good numbers in their adult men’s league. While these wannabe ballers were guarding 5’11” shooting guards from Joe’s Auto Shop, Scalabrine was trying to stop Kevin Garnett every week in practice.

Thanks to his strong work ethic, team approach and great practice habits, Brian Scalabrine was able to last for over 11 seasons in the world’s toughest basketball league. Sure he never averaged more than 6.3 PPG or 4.5 RPG in a single season, but Scalabrine did become a fan favorite and earned a ring with the Boston Celtics in 2008.

Now retired, Brian is looking forward to life after basketball in his new role as a sports analyst for CSN New England.

NBA Power Rankings for December 19th, 2012

Throughout the year, we’ve ranked the Oklahoma City Thunder lower than most power rankings put out by other sites. The reason why is because they hadn’t really beaten any top-notch competition on the way to the NBA’s best record. However, they recently grabbed a big win over a great team and have shot up our rankings. If you’re interested in seeing how far they’ve moved up, keep on reading…

1. Miami Heat (16-6) – The Heat may not have the league’s top record, but they are the defending champion and perhaps the most talented team too. This being said, we’ve had the Heat at number one or two from the very beginning of the season. Don’t be surprised if Miami is hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy again in June.

2. Oklahoma City Thunder (20-4) – After winning their last 11 games – including a comfortable victory over the Spurs – Oklahoma has moved up two spots from last week. Could the NBA Finals be a rematch of Miami and the Thunder? Maybe with the way that Serge Ibaka has stepped up his scoring production this year (from 9.1 to 14.6 PPG).

3. New York Knicks (18-6) – It may seem illogical to drop the Knicks two spots in the power rankings since they went 2-1 last week and are playing without Amare Stoudemire. But the Thunder are on fire lately and we can’t get off our original pick for the Heat to win the title yet. Knicks PG Raymond Felton has been steadily improving over the year and he’s now averaging 16.2 PPG and 6.7 APG.

4. L.A. Clippers (18-6) – Besides Oklahoma City, another team that’s streaking lately is the Clippers. They’ve rebounded nicely from a four-game losing streak in November to win 10 straight games now. The scoring has been pretty balanced on this team since seven players are averaging 9.6 PPG or more.

5. Memphis Grizzlies (16-6) – Memphis checks in at number five for the second straight week following two wins last week. The jury is out on whether Memphis is a true threat to dethrone Oklahoma City as the Western Conference champion, but they are definitely playing well so far.

6. Atlanta Hawks (15-7) – The Hawks recently lost to the Golden State Warriors, but they still move up a spot based on another team’s demise. Al Horford continues to provide solid, all-around play for this club since he’s averaging 15.3 PPG and 10.0 RPG.

7. San Antonio Spurs (19-8) – San Antonio represents the biggest drop in our rankings after falling from number three to number seven. They’ve lost four out of the past five games and have vacated the West’s top spot. If there’s anything good to come out of the downturn, all of the losses came against quality teams on the road.

8. Golden State Warriors (17-8) – Few people predicted the Warriors to be among the league’s best teams. But here we are a quarter of the way through the season and Golden State is keeping pace with the elite ballclubs. Two of their past three victories have come on the road against Miami and Atlanta, which is definitely a good sign.

9. Chicago Bulls (14-10) – Chicago could definitely be higher if Derrick Rose weren’t out for most of the season. But he is and the Bulls are dealing with it the best they can. Joakim Noah came up big against the Celtics last night after putting up a triple-double (11PTS, 13REB, 10AST).

10. Milwaukee Bucks (13-10) – The Bucks have bounced in and out of the top 10 this year, and at the moment, they’re back in. Winning four out of the past five games has propelled the Bucks into the thick of things. C Larry Sanders is providing some outstanding defensive play (3.1 BPG) for Milwaukee this season.

NBA Power Rankings for Dec. 6th, 2012

With grueling road trips and tough injuries, the top NBA teams are constantly flip-flopping in the standings. Lately, the Memphis Grizzlies and New York Knicks have taken control of their conferences after a good run. But that could all change next week due to the fickle nature of the NBA. This being said, our following power rankings take talent and potential into play just as much as the actual team records.

1. New York Knicks (14-4) – After dropping three out of four games towards the end of November, the Knicks are back on top following five straight wins. The latest victory was a 20-point blowout of the Heat in Miami. And remember that all of this is still happening without Amare Stoudemire.

2. Miami Heat (12-5) – As we just mentioned, Miami lost by 20 points to the Knicks. Plus they lost to league bottom-feeders Washington just a couple of nights earlier. Still, the Heat are the defending champions and we don’t see many scenarios where this could change by the end of the year.

3. San Antonio Spurs (15-4) – With a recent win over the Western Conference-leading Grizzlies, we like the Spurs a lot right now. Tim Duncan continues to pace San Antonio with his usual 18.8 PPG and 10.1 RPG.

4. Memphis Grizzlies (13-3) – It really looks like the Grizzlies are evolving into a title contender this year. Mike Conley Jr. continues to raise his game throughout the year since he’s now averaging 15.0 PPG and dishing out 6.3 APG. Zach Randolph is also playing excellent so far with 17.7 PPG and 13.3 RPG.

5. Oklahoma City Thunder (15-4) – One could argue that the Thunder should be higher; however, almost 20 games into the season, we have yet to see Oklahoma City beat a top-tier team. We’ll wait until future big-time matchups to see where the Thunder stand without James Harden.

6. L.A. Clippers (12-6) – Offseason additions like Lamar Odom and Grant Hill haven’t really panned out. However, every starter is averaging double digits and Chris Paul is doing an excellent job of distributing the ball (9.5 APG).

7. Brooklyn Nets (11-6) – The Nets had a five-game win streak snapped by the Heat and Thunder. And while we don’t think Brooklyn is quite ready to contend with these league superpowers, they are looking like a strong playoff team. Brook Lopez (18.5 PPG) is having another strong offensive campaign thanks to the passing contributions of Deron Williams (8.8 APG).

8. Atlanta Hawks (10-5) – Atlanta has replaced Joe Johnson’s scoring with a balanced effort that includes more contributions from Louis Williams (14.1 PPG), Jeff Teague (13.3 PPG) and Kyle Korver (10.8 PPG).

9. L.A. Lakers (9-10) – Based on talent alone, we’re still keeping the Lakers in our top 10. However, it may not be long before they drop out if this keeps up! Both Kobe Bryant (28.0 PPG) and Dwight Howard (18.5 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 2.84 BPG) have played as advertised. However, Pau Gasol (12.6 PPG) continues to struggle to find a place in this offense and has been involved in trade rumors.

10. Golden State Warriors (11-7) – For the first time this year, Golden State cracks our top 10 after getting off to a hot start. SG Klay Thompson (16.0 PPG) is looking much better in his second season while both Stephen Curry (19.1 PPG, 6.6 APG) and David Lee (17.6 PPG, 10.7 RPG) lead this team.