No team is complete without role players. In some ways they are just as important as star players.
Could the Cleveland Cavaliers have won a title this past year without the help of Channing Frye, Richard Jefferson and Matthew Dellavedova? Probably not.
Role players give their team quality minutes and they are very good at select skills such as rebounding, defending or shooting 3-pointers.
Who are the eight best role players in the NBA this season? Find out below.
8. PG Patty Mills, San Antonio Spurs
In his sixth season with San Antonio, Mills is playing better than he ever has, posting career highs in points (10.9), assists (3.3), field-goal percentage (49.6) and three-point field-goal percentage (41.8). It takes an important player to run the Spurs offense when Tony Parker isn’t in the game, and Mills does a pretty good job with a difficult task. His experience as Parker’s backup has done a lot for his career, and that’s why teams will come calling in the summer when he’s a free agent.
7. PG Brandon Knight, Phoenix Suns
Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker have become the backcourt of choice for the Suns, which is why Knight is no longer a starter. Truth be told, Knight could start for a couple of teams this season, but for now he is coming off the bench for first-year coach Earl Watson. Knight’s numbers are down a bit from last season when he averaged a career-high 19.6 points, but 12.5 points is respectable for a sixth man. He should come around soon.
6. PG Jordan Clarkson, Los Angeles Lakers
Clarkson started every game he played in a year ago, but first-year coach Luke Walton is switching things up by having the third-year point guard come off the bench this season and it has worked out well so far. Clarkson is averaging 15.1 points as part of a dynamic second unit for the Lakers. He has scored in double figures in all but five games this season, and he’s not the only reserve player for Los Angeles that makes this list.
5. SF Wilson Chandler, Denver Nuggets
After missing the entire 2015-16 season following hip surgery, Chandler is back healthy and playing extremely well for the Nuggets. With Will Barton nursing an ankle injury, Chandler has stepped up in the biggest way possible, averaging a team-high 18.3 points and 7.7 rebounds. Injuries have been an issue in the past with Chandler, but as long as he stays healthy, he should produce at a very high level this season.
4. PF Channing Frye, Cleveland Cavaliers
Acquired in a midseason trade from the Orlando Magic, Frye played an important role during the Cavaliers’ title run a year ago, and he is fulfilling a similar role this season with better results. Known for his ability to stretch the floor and make outside shots, Frye is shooting a career-high 48.5 percent from deep while averaging 11.3 points for the East-leading Cavaliers. It’s a luxury to have a big man who can shoot 3-pointers at a high clip these days.
3. PF Zach Randolph, Memphis Grizzlies
A starter for most of his career, Randolph transitioned to a reserve role in his 16th season at the request of first-year coach David Fizdale, who told reporters in October: “We’re going to go after Sixth Man of the Year.” Randolph has answered the call, averaging 14.2 points and 7.9 rebounds. He also provides leadership to the second unit, which ranks 12th in bench scoring.
2. C Enes Kanter, Oklahoma City Thunder
Kanter is best known for making up one half of the big man duo the “Stache Bros” with Oklahoma City Thunder teammate Steven Adams, but he is also one of the most efficient centers in the league. His player-efficiency rating of 24.37 is fourth-highest among NBA centers behind only DeMarcus Cousins (28.55), Greg Monroe (24.50) and Hassan Whiteside (24.45).
Kanter is also the perfect example of doing more with less. He averages 12.7 points and 6.1 rebounds despite averaging just over 19 minutes per game.
1. SG Lou Williams, Los Angeles Lakers
A former Sixth Man of the Year award winner, Williams is having a career year, averaging a team-high 16.1 points for the highest-scoring bench in the league. He is also averaging 33.8 points per 48 minutes. To put that into perspective, Williams averages more points per 48 minutes than Carmelo Anthony (32.2), John Wall (31.9), LeBron James (31.4) and Blake Griffin (30.7), who are NBA superstars.
And Williams has provided the Lakers with needed late-game scoring, with nearly half of his points coming in the fourth quarter. As Jesse Dougherty of The Los Angeles Times points out, Williams is averaging 7.6 points per fourth quarter this season, which is tied for the third in the league with Cousins.