Final Bench Data

The Rockets finished the regular season using their bench 35% of the time, which ranked 4th from last place. The Rockets bench had a net rating of 2.1, which ranked 11th in the league. Click on the graphic below for a complete visual representation of the league’s bench usage and effectiveness.

Click for a full-sized interactive version

Click for a full-sized interactive version

At this same time last year, the Rockets bench played 31% of the time (2nd to last) and had a net rating of 3.0 (4th highest). That the net rating has decreased slightly this year is probably explained by the weakness of the bench at the start of the season. The data throughout the season (you can click through different points in time) certainly show a positive trend as far as net rating is concerned. The increased usage compared to last year is also a good sign and is consistent with the league as a whole. In fact, the league average for bench usage has increased from just above 35% at the end of last season to over 37% right now.

The Dallas Mavericks, whom the Houston Rockets play in the first round, play their bench 37% of the time, identical to last year’s usage. Their unit’s net rating is 2.5. Given the age of the Mavericks, it’s a little surprising that their bench usage isn’t higher. Perhaps a viable strategy is to run their old and highly-utilized starters off the floor. Of course, in order to do this the Rockets have to play their bench more, which is almost certainly not going to happen.

Like last year, the Spurs sit at the top of the chart with a 43% usage rate. Their net rating is 5.2, 2nd highest in the league. Interestingly, their opponents, the Clippers, are dead last at 32% (they were 2nd to last last year) and have a net rating of -2.2. That’s a very stark difference and definitely favors the Spurs if that series goes six or seven games.

Undoubtedly the most noticeable difference is from the Golden State Warriors. Last year their bench usage was 32%, 3rd from the bottom. Their net rating was -2.9, well below league average. Last year’s late injury to Andrew Bogut served as a wake up call, because this year the Warriors play their bench 39% of the time, well above average, and their net rating of 5.7 is highest in the entire league. Not only are the Warriors better than they were last year, they’re also more sustainable. Be very happy that the Rockets sit on the other side of the bracket.

About the author: Richard Li is an independent researcher and consultant. He likes numbers and pictures.

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