As valuable as NBA stars are to winning games, it’s role players whose impact more often than not, determines a deliriously happy fan base following a title run, or a downtrodden, disappointed one after coming up short.
Those critical but complimentary players are essential to a team’s success, even if they don’t get as much credit or acknowledgement for their impact. Some of them are their team’s glue, that is they come off the bench, make shots, assists and rebound that lead to wins, just when they are needed.
Here we take a look at five players who are near the top of the leaders board when it comes to being a “glue guy” whose impact not only helps keep the team intact, but keeps their goals of a deep playoff run very much alive and well.
Derrick White, Boston
Folks have reason to be skeptical when the validation for a glue guy’s play centers around analytics that don’t always take into account the players on the floor with an individual and how that may allow their numbers to look better than they really are.
That is not the case with Derrick White who has been uber-aggressive this year in taking - and making - his own shot.
He has a league-best net rating of plus-14.3, doing so while having the ball in his hands … a lot.
Only Jayson Tatum and Jrue Holiday have a greater time of possession for the Celtics, than White according to nba.com/stats. And his 4.25 seconds per touch is tops among all Boston players.
Throw in a defensive rating of 105.2 (second on the team to Al Horford’s 104.2 rating), and it’s clear how impactful White has been at both ends of the floor and all points in between.
Bruce Brown, Indiana
No one player benefited more from the Denver Nuggets’ title run last season, than Bruce Brown. He parlayed a strong postseason showing into a lucrative two-year, $45 million contract. While the Pacers certainly have flashier, higher-profile talent like All-Star Tyrese Haliburton, Brown has once again put his imprint on a franchise with his consistent effort at both ends of the floor.
His 11.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists are on par with the numbers he posted last season (11.5 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.4 assists) in Denver.
But Brown’s NBA game has never been about stats but rather team success. This not only manifests itself in terms of team success (the Pacers are one of just four teams in the East to advance to the In-season tournament’s knockout round)
More than just the in-season tournament, Brown has been a vital cog to Indiana’s success in part because of his impact at both ends of the floor in late-game situations. In clutch situations, Brown ranks among Indiana’s top three in minutes played, points and plus-minus. He is the only Indiana player on the team who is ranked in the top three in those critical categories among Pacers.
Malik Monk, Sacramento
After spending the bulk of his career up to this point going back and forth as a starter in this league, Malik Monk appears to have settled into being a better-than-average scorer off the bench.
According to hoopsstats.com, the backup unit for the Sacramento Kings (36.9 points per game) ranks 10th in the NBA in scoring, with Monk having a major hand in that success.
This season, Monk is making a strong case for the league’s Sixth Man of the Year. He’s not only scoring, but delivering when it absolutely matters most - in the clutch.
His 5.2 clutch points per game ranks fourth in the NBA, and is tops among non-starters. Monk’s ability to come through in late-game situations is among the key reasons why the Kings have advanced to the knockout stage of the In-season tournament.
Jaden McDaniels, Minnesota
The Western Conference-leading Minnesota Timberwolves have been the biggest surprise of the still-young NBA season, fueled in large part by the play of Anthony Edwards.
But one of the low-key reasons for their strong start has been the play of Jaden McDaniels who recently suffered a Grade 1 ankle sprain and is expected to miss at least two weeks with the injury.
The Timberwolves will miss McDaniels’ impact, especially in the latter stages of close, down-to-the-wire games. Prior to the ankle sprain, McDaniels averaged a league-best 7.2 minutes per game in clutch situations.
Tim Hardaway Jr., Dallas
Dallas has been among the NBA’s most lethal offenses this season, showcasing a potent offensive arsenal that’s about more than just Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving. The play of Tim Hardaway Jr., and his 16.8 points off the bench has provided a huge boost to the Mavericks offense which has the third-best offensive rating in the NBA this season.
His defense historically has not been very good (In his defense, the Mavs as a team rank among the NBA’s worst defensively), but he’s doing his part to keep the wins piling up with a slew of impressive scoring performances. It’s the kind of impact that speaks to his value to the team, and his role as one of the Mavericks’ all-important glue guys.
A. Sherrod Blakely is in his Michael Jordan year (No. 23) of covering the NBA, and is also a full-time lecturer at Boston University.
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