Players glued to the end of the bench still possess the mental tenacity to answer the bell when they’re called upon. Even if their moments of glory come when their team has a 30 point lead, they’re still able to contribute to the success of their team.
They don’t take their minutes for granted, because they have no idea when they’ll next enter a game.
These guys have a passion for the game that equals those of star players, but whether it’s due to talent or opportunity, they coast through a grueling season in relative anonymity, content to be called a professional while never glancing towards the crowd and seeing fans donning jerseys with their name on the back (unless it’s friends or relatives).
My All-NBA Garbage Time First Team honored the scrappy players who grind out production in the few minutes they receive, usually coming in less stressful situations where a certain outcome has become inevitable.
The All-NBA Garbage Time Second Team expands on that concept, including players of the same ilk not quite dominant enough to warrant a First Team selection, but still impressive nonetheless.
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To be eligible, a player had to play in 40 or more games and average less than 10 minutes per game. Here are the selections at each position.
Roberts has the role of being Damian Lillard’s backup point guard in Portland, and can’t expect to get significant playing time in a backcourt that features not only Lillard, but a fellow 20 ppg scorer in C.J. McCollum. The Trail Blazers have an intimidating duo of starting guards, but the fact that Roberts can produce in such limited minutes makes the roster even more adept. He put up good numbers while on the Charlotte Hornets earlier this year, and didn’t miss a beat after he was traded to the Pacific Northwest. Roberts averaged 21 points per 48 minutes with the Trail Blazers, which ranked 3rd on the team behind only Lillard and McCollum.
The Cleveland Cavaliers had the best regular season record in the Eastern Conference not only due to the stellar play of guys like LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love, but role players who could put up impressive numbers when asked to deliver. Cunningham is one of those players who makes the most of his sparse minutes on an extremely talented team. His field goal percentage was low, but Cunningham was able to put up 14.1 points per 48 minutes. His lack of efficiency makes a promotion unlikely for the time being, but he should still be commended for finding ways to score in tiny pockets of playing time.
Like his counterpart James Jones on the First Team, Miller is perhaps best known to basketball fans as a guy whose job was to stand at the 3-point line and wait for a penetrating LeBron James to dish him a pass and reap the benefits of a collapsing defense giving him an open look from the perimeter. Not many people have been better than Miller at his specific skill set going on over a decade and a half, and he still uses his talent as a catch-and-shoot threat in small doses to make him valuable to the Denver Nuggets. Miller had an uncharacteristically poor 3-point field goal percentage this season at .365, but still ranked 2nd on the team in that category among players who played at least 40 games for the Nuggets and averaged at least 1 attempt from downtown per game.
James Michael McAdoo
McAdoo deserves this spot not only because of his talent, but because playing for a Golden State Warriors squad that won a record 73 games this season provided him with a lot of blowouts to enter and show his stuff. McAdoo is a symbol of the Warriors terrific depth, as he’s undoubtedly qualified for a more substantial role on a weaker team. McAdoo ranked 4th on the historically dominant Warriors in points per 48 minutes, averaging 21.4 for the Bay Area’s team. He also gobbled up rebounds at an impressive rate, averaging 10.6 boards per 48 minutes. McAdoo can take pride in helping to cap off many of those 73 wins in the dwindling minutes of eventual victories.
Varejao’s selection makes this Second Team an all-Warriors interior, but Varejao also spent time playing this season on the formidable Cleveland Cavaliers. No matter what team he was a member of, Varejao provided grittiness and a fierce presence inside. He averaged 15 points per 48 minutes for the Warriors, and also added 12.9 rebounds per 48 minutes for Golden State. Varejao came to the Warriors as a midseason acquisition after being waved, and adjusted to a new role that he wasn’t accustomed to. He garners this slot because of his willingness to embrace a decreased role while still continuing his impressive production.