For the final regular season Friday Five’s, I’ll be taking a look at my starting 5 of favorite role players that will have an impact on this postseason for their respective teams.

Many people have fluctuating definitions of just what a role player is, so for a concrete idea of exactly what a role player is I referred back to a Bleacher Report post featuring maybe the greatest role player of all in, 7-time champion Robert Horry aka “Big Shot Rob” as the foundational piece to compare from.

Stars in their roles, none of these players are top 3 in scoring on their respective teams, and hardly (if ever) have plays called directly for them.

Here are the qualities, referenced from Bleacher Report, in which I chose my starting 5 from:

“Quality One: A Role Player Must Fill Up the Depth Chart With His Versatility”

“Quality Two: A Role Player had Confidence and Plays Hard the Entire Game”

“Quality Three: A Role Player Plays Like a Seasoned Veteran Throughout their Career”

“Quality Four: A Role Player is Humble”

“Quality Five: A Role Player Steps up When Called Upon”

These qualities in mind, I present to you my starting 5 role players for this postseason.

Monte Morris, Denver Nuggets

(Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

Most known for his vice grip-like handle in ball security, leading the nation in taking care of the ball while as a high-usage playmaker, Monte Morris’ ability to play mistake free ball has translated to the league. He spent the last few seasons behind the prolific Jamal Murray as a change of pace guard that not only playmakes but shoots efficiently too.

He’ll likely be in a new role once he’s fully back in rotation, as Jamal Murray is out the remainder of the season. Regardless of whether Mike Malone elects to stick with chemistry and keeps Campazzo in at starting point, or goes back to the ever-steady Morris, one this is sure – he will be heavily depended upon.

The Iowa State product, in his 4th campaign now, has yet to rank anywhere less than the 90th percentile in turnover percentage. That’s an invaluable dynamic in any role, but especially as a lead guard. 

Denver’s a +1.4 when he’s on the floor this season, and will need him and his defensive IQ and impact in abundance with Murray out. They are lacking on that end at the guard, and will need his efforts in combination with Dozier and Rivers to keep their frenetic defensive efforts in rotation for the Nuggets to salvage as much out of this season as they can.

Bruce Brown, Brooklyn Nets

(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

Energy and enthusiasm personified, Bruce Brown rather quickly carved out a role with the Nets this season after being acquired from Detroit.

His versatility on both sides of the ball make him easy to plug and play depending upon what each passing game needs. 

Whether it’s, as a guard, being in motion off the ball with timely cuts, screening and rolling for Brooklyn’s big 3, switching on whoever defensively, hitting the hardwood for loose balls, you name it, he can do it.

He’s able to play this heart charging style while also staying out of foul trouble.

In transition specifically is where he thrives on offense. He’s in the 80th percentile in added points per transition possession when he’s on the floor, at +1.2. 

On a team as top-heavy as the Nets are, those ancillary players, the likes of Bruce Brown, are the type that are needed as the glue to keep the team intact.

It’s inevitable that there will be moments throughout each series where he has a 2 minute stretch where his extra efforts and energy give the Nets a boost that puts games out of reach.

Mikal Bridges, Phoenix Suns

(Noah Graham / NBAE/ Getty Images)

The player with the highest ceiling in this starting 5, and the player that is undoubtedly a “role player” for the (very) short-term, is this Villanova product. He’s 1 of 3 Villanova products that could be mentioned on this starting 5 viably (the others being Jalen Brunson and Donte DiVincenzo).

Bridges is a “do it all” type player. 

He possesses the skills and versatility to play in any constructed lineup, does all the things you need from a modern day wing on the defensive end, and is reliable enough to close for his team.

He is as efficient as it gets on both sides of the floor. 

On the season, he has an eFG% of 64.3 (98th percentile), and has an attention-garnering shooting 53.7/43/83.7 shooting slash.

He’s in the 90th percentile from 3, the 93rd percentile from mid-range (49%), and is in the 91st percentile finishing at the cup, atan astounding 76% (150/198). All to say, he’s projecting toward being far much more than just a 3 and D wing. He is far more dynamic.

The Suns are 4 points better per 100 possessions when he’s on the floor, which ranks him in the 81st percentile. The team as a whole shoots +2.7% better with his presence, and this comes in a variety of ways. From his acumen for making timely cuts that lead to scoring opportunities (for himself or opening a window behind him for a shooter), his constant motion, his sneaky ability to garner extra possessions on the offensive glass, or his feel for making extra passes. 

That perpetual motion off-ball is an element of playmaking in itself, completely unlocking an offense. 

Defensively, he takes on the toughest assignment from the oppositions guards or wings, ranging from Steph Curry to Kawhi Leonard.

His condor-like 7′ 1″ wingspan combined with active hands, high IQ, and great anticipation make him a headache to deal with. He has all NBA quality talent on defense.

Bridges’ play amongst these 5 will have the most impactful effect on his teams level of success this postseason.

Maxi Kleber, Dallas Mavericks

(Photo by Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)

Kleber is as unheralded as they come, but the true fans of the Mavericks are aware of how integral of a piece he is for them.

The 6’11 big man has the lateral mobility to switch and guard nearly anyone on the floor, is trustworthy enough to do so without fouling, and also has a motor that does not stop. 

He has a net impact on their offense, but his defensive impact makes them nearly 4 points better on that end, which ranks him in the 83rd percentile in effect. Teams are shooting over 2 percentage points worse when he’s on the floor, ranking in the 86th percentile. He also defends very well in closing out to the 3-point line, a facet of the game that even the most versatile or laterally quick big men struggle with. Players shoot 3% worse when he’s closing out on them from 3, and can also protect rim viably.

Since the all-star break, the Mavericks have gone 23-13 and have the 10th best defense.

Kleber’s impact plays a huge role in just that. As they continue to build continuity, he will be heavily relied upon as their most valuable defender.

For reference, last season he spent a lot of time doubling between guarding both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in their first round bout with the Clippers, and was surely up to task.

Should the Mavericks make more noise behind Doncic and his ascension, Klebers efforts will be invaluable.

Nerlens Noel, New York Knicks

(Charles Krupa/Associated Press)

3rd in the league in blocks per game, players are shooting -4% when contested by Noel.

His ability to step up in guarding pick and roll specifically, allows for the Knicks to trap or switch on demand from coach Tom Thibodeau. That action alone allows for the Knicks defense to be a lot more aggressive in approach, and them also being able to rely upon Noel behind them should the get beat

Energy and activity have always led to him being viable in forcing turnovers as well, which lead to where he’s most effective in scoring, in transition.

The Knicks are tied for 4th in defense on the season and, especially with Mitchell Robinson’s been down with his fractured foot since the end of March. They went 11-4 in April and Noel’s ability to step in and replicate Robinsons mold at center has been a godsend for them in their return to relevance.

They’ll be in a contentious first round matchup, with either the Bucks, Hawks, or Heat, and his rim protection as well as his vertical spacing will be imperative if they have hopes in advancing.

These are 5 of my favorite role players, by their position, that I see as being difference makers in the next few weeks as we enter playoff play.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s