Star players get all the headlines from BetBubbles, but the balance between star players and role players is essential for a winning team. Role players are easily overlooked. Those are the guys who do the dirty work. I don't mean they play dirty, but they do grunt work like boxing out on the boards, fighting for a loose rebound, diving on the floor to keep a ball alive, taking a charging foul. And sometimes they have to sit and watch and keep their mouths shut when other guys are going good. That's not always easy for pro athletes with large bank accounts and bigger egos.
I'll always remember when Larry Bird talked about his college days at Indiana State, he spoke about one of the unsung role players being one of the most important players on the team. This may be shocking to some, as Bird was the star (and only NBA talent) on that team, but he understood how valuable role players are. And it's true: One guy can't defeat five.
Take a look at the Houston Rockets. So much has gone wrong for the Rockets, with stars Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming missing significant time with injuries, which is why they are last in the Southwest division. Houston has, for the most, been saddled with ONLY role players trying to carry the team. This is not a recipe for success. Of course, the correct recipe is to get one or two stars and THEN augment those stars with some team-oriented role players.
But with McGrady and Ming back together the last few weeks, Houston is on a 5-1 SU, covering in 3 of the last 5 games. Ming and McGrady were the stars of a big win over Utah, 102-88, with 27 and 25 points. But notice Rafer Alston had 13 assists, David Wesley nailed 7-of-10 shots and Dikembe Mutombo and Chuck Hayes combined for 8 rebounds and 2 blocks. Trying to ask Mutombo to play most of the game at center and for Wesley to get most of the shots won't work, but having them as role players is a working formula. If McGrady and Ming stay healthy, Houston should considerably improve its miserable 7-16 straight up, 6-17 against the spread record at home.
New Orleans has overachieved with a bunch of unknowns and rookie sensation Chris Paul. Notice that after a 100-94 upset win at Minnesota, Kirk Snyder had this to say of teammate Speedy Claxton: "He is a good teammate because he could have cried about not starting. But he just does his job whatever role the coach puts him in." And said Kevin Garnett after the loss, "We never adjusted to Speedy." Those are fine compliments. A guy like Claxton can start or provide a valuable role off the bench. I'm a fan of current injured LA Clipper Corey Maggette, but I found it odd that earlier in the season when he was asked to come off the bench he didn't like it saying, 'I'm a starter, not a 6th man.' OK, Corey, but there's nothing wrong with being a great sixth man. In fact, it's an honor!
One of the great stories of the season is the play of the Dallas Mavericks. They have stars and key role players, like defensive forward Josh Howard and Jerry Stackhouse coming off the bench. In their last game against Denver, three players came off the pine and played almost twice as many minutes as starters DeSagana Diop and Adrian Grffin. That's role playing teamwork, which is why Dallas is 20-4 at home and 19-7 on the road! The Mavs are also 4-1 SU, 5-0 ATS as an underdog.
It's not always easy to teach players with big egos to understand the value of role players, but they can be just as important as the stars. Just ask the Spurs and Pistons, teams loaded with unselfish role players who have won the last three NBA titles.