Can anyone challenge Miami? How will the James Harden trade work out? What about Mike D’Antoni in L.A.? Those are some of the substantive questions NBA fans are asking this season. Let’s focus on another, much less consequential one: Who will lead the league in DNP-Coach’s Decisions? Who will be most firmly planted on the bench? Below, we pick a candidate from each team for the dubious honor.
(Note: These are players who embody something inherently 12th man-ish, though some may play more than that title would indicate. They are spiritually 12th men.)
Boston Celtics: Kris Joseph (Rookie)
Joseph was an outstanding college player at Syracuse and received many accolades during his four-year career. He is a native Canadian. (Joseph spells it Kanadian.) He was a second-round pick and when selected, tweeted the following: “So kool! I’m a Boston Keltik! Cudos to me!” (Note: This, like many of the “facts” in this piece, is made up.)
Brooklyn Nets: Jerry Stackhouse (18th season)
Stackhouse was once a great player — in the days when Shaggy was claiming “it wasn’t [him].” (It was him.)
New York Knicks: Chris Copeland (Rookie)
Copeland graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2006, but until this season could only find work in the NBA D-League and overseas. It is rumored that Copeland has promised not to cut his dreads until he makes the NBA All-Star team.
Philadelphia 76ers: Kwame Brown (12th season)
You can’t teach height.
Toronto Raptors: Aaron Gray (6th season)
Looks like a taller Cillian Murphy from 28 Days Later.
Chicago Bulls: Marquis Teague (Rookie)
Teague goes from playing a major role with the NCAA champion Kentucky Wildcats to being the third point guard on the depth chart for the Bulls. He’ll bump down to fourth when Derrick Rose comes back from his knee injury. We all miss college.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Omri Casspi (4th season)
Casspi, the former first-rounder, came to Cleveland looking like a guy who could be a big-time NBA performer. What happened?
Detroit Pistons: Khris Middleton (Rookie)
Middleton plays behind fellow “K” rookies Kyle Singler and Kim English at the two wing positions. It’s possible that it’s because his name uses the “Kh” spelling of Chris. No coach wants to put up with writing that on the starting lineup.
Indiana Pacers: Orlando Johnson (Rookie)
No joking around here, because Johnson endured a rough childhood that saw his mother, grandmother, and other family members pass away before he turned 12. Two of his older brothers raised him, and the product of their labor and love is Johnson graduating with a college degree. The inspirational 12th man is the best 12th man.
Milwaukee Bucks: Drew Gooden (11th season)
Gooden has been too productive historically to be a 12th man, but anyone with hair that can look like this is a 12th man at heart.
Atlanta Hawks: Mike Scott (Rookie)
Split-finger fastball pioneer Scott won the National League Cy Young Award in 1986, a season in which he threw a no-hitter and piled up 300 strikeouts.
Charlotte Bobcats: Jeffery Taylor (Rookie)
Taylor is a native of Sweden.
Miami Heat: Josh Harrellson (2nd season)
Harrellson is a man of leisure and earned the nickname “Jorts” for sporting jean shorts like a boss. He’s a solid rebounder and in limited time still led the SEC in rebounding his senior season at Kentucky. And he stopped a drunk driver at the risk of his own life. Props due, Jorts. Props due.
Orlando Magic: Kyle O’Quinn (Rookie)
O’Quinn was an accomplished college player at Norfolk State and has been compared to Eddy Curry, as both a best- and worst-case scenario.
Washington Wizards: Earl Barron (7th season)
Two different royal titles in one name: That’s the kind of class you hear about but never actually see on Real Housewives.
Dallas Mavericks: Jared Cunningham (Rookie)
Cunningham was a premier ball thief during his three years at Oregon State and calls Oakland his home. A lot of ACTUAL thieves also call Oakland home.
Houston Rockets: Scott Machado (Rookie)
Jeremy Lin called Machado in the belief that he’d been traded to Oklahoma City only to find out he was still on the team. That’s the most 12th-man thing I’ve ever heard.
Memphis Grizzlies: Hamed Haddadi (5th season)
Haddadi is the first and only Iranian player in the NBA. And is it just me or do you love the alliteration of his name? Go on, say it three times in a row.
New Orleans Hornets: Hakim Warrick (8th season)
Warrick is known as a shot-blocker and prolific dunker. However, unlike you and me, Warrick didn’t fine-tune his amazing dunking ability as a kid on a Nerf rim and the accompanying soft spongy ball. No. He was hard-core from day one, using a real basketball and flushing it on the metal “rims” of the monkey bars.
San Antonio Spurs: Nando De Colo (Rookie)
De Colo is one of the Spurs’ many Eurostash draft picks, as he was selected back in 2009 in the second round. At only 25 years old, he has a chance to make some noise in the NBA. If not, he can just win all of the Eric Bana look-alike contests.
Denver Nuggets: Anthony Randolph (5th season)
Randolph left LSU after his freshman season and has played for four different NBA teams in his five seasons as a pro. Watch the 3’7” Nate Robinson block Randolph’s shot here.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Malcolm Lee (2nd season)
Lee looks like he could be a member of Immature/IMX because he has that baby face going on but wants to prove he’s a man just like the group seemed to do, singing about adult themes such as accumulating female undergarments, paying taxes, and investing in IRAs.
Oklahoma City Thunder: DeAndre Liggins (2nd season)
Liggins is one of those effort and energy players when on the court. Of course, on a very good Thunder team, most of that energy will have to be focused on cheering on his teammates and most of the effort will go toward not falling asleep during games.
Portland Trail Blazers: Victor Claver (Rookie)
Claver is a native of Spain and bears an uncanny resemblance to U.S. Olympian and Aquaman Michael Phelps.
Utah Jazz: Kevin Murphy (Rookie)
Murphy was an excellent player at Tennessee Tech. However, when I see the name, I can’t help but think of the Kevin Murphy I knew in grade school.
Golden State Warriors: Charles Jenkins (2nd year)
As a current resident of Long Island who’s a 15-minute drive away from Jenkins’ alma mater, Hofstra, I am a Jenkins fan and actually follow what he’s doing in The Bay. Unfortunately, what he’s doing right now is “playing 3.8 minutes per game.”
Los Angeles Clippers: Ronny Turiaf (8th season)
Turiaf is a serviceable big man and a charismatic guy who probably deserves better than being best-known right now for this.
Los Angeles Lakers: Earl Clark (4th season)
Played for a while last year with the Zhejiang Lions of the Chinese Basketball Association.
Phoenix Suns: Luke Zeller (Rookie)
Zeller went undrafted out of Notre Dame after graduating in 2009. So he signed with the BJ League. No, seriously. That’s a real thing.
Sacramento Kings: Travis Outlaw (10th season)
New Jersey Nets fans angry about his contract nicknamed him Travis OutLOL.
Dennis Velasco is the founder of Baller Mind Frame and a contributor to The Basketball Jones, and at one point or another was published by ESPN, Sports Illustrated, SLAM, and Hoops Hype. Follow him on Twitter @BallerMindFrame.