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Pistons’ bench is costly, but it’s producing more than expected for its price

The Pistons’ bench has been a source of pride this season for many fans and PistonPowered commenters. Although almost everything else has been crumbling around the team, Detroit has two Sixth Man of the Year candidates.

Some observers – ahem, Laser – have been quick to point out, with as much money as the Pistons are spending on their bench, it should be good.

So, let’s dig a little deeper and try to quantify the Pistons’ bench’s production compared to its cost – its value.


We’ve come a long way with advanced stats, but it seems bench impact is the last frontier. When discussing a bench, even the smartest NBA fans tend to jump right to bench points.

I wanted to go deeper than that. Unfortunately, publicly available resources are limited. The best available option is hoopstats.com’s Efficiency Recap Difference.

Efficiency Recap Difference = Efficiency Recap – Opponent’s Efficiency Recap

NBA Efficiency recap = ((Points + Rebounds + Assists + Steals + Blocks) – ((Field goals attempts – Field goals made) + (Free throws attempts – Free throws made) + Turnovers))

It’s not perfect, but I think the stat provides an accurate enough picture. It’s certainly better than bench points.

Bench salary is based on a starting lineup with everyone healthy. The idea is to see how teams are designed.

So, a player whose salary counts toward the bench might contribute statistics as a starter. For example,  Jason Maxiell’s and Austin Daye’s stats count for starters when they start in place of injured Jonas Jerebko, but Maxiell’s and Daye’s salaries count as bench salary. Jerebko counts toward starting salary, even though he hasn’t played this year.


The Pistons have the league’s second-highest-paid bench, behind the Pacers.

In terms of percentage of total team salary, the Pistons’ bench salary falls to fourth – behind the Pacers, Wizards and Timberwolves.

Playing time

The Pistons’ bench players see 42.83 percent of Detroit’s minutes, second only to Cleveland.

As much as Detroit pays its bench players, they play more than expected compared to other NBA teams’ bench players.


Again, as much as Detroit pays its bench players, they play better than expected compared to other NBA teams’ bench players. Unfortunately, the Pistons’ bench players’ minutes are better than their production (both relative to salary), but both are solid.


Detroit pays its bench players a lot of money, which makes sense. The Pistons are rebuilding, and spreading its payroll among more than five players increases their chances of finding solid pieces to build with.

Thankfully, while spending so much money on their bench, the Pistons are getting quality production from it.


  • [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Patrick Hayes and PistonPowered Feed, Detroit Pistons. Detroit Pistons said: TrueHoop.com – Pistons’ bench is costly, but it’s producing more than expected for its price: http://bit.ly/fpQD4F [...]

  • Dec 7, 201012:29 pm
    by Laser


    well, it’s advanced stats, so there’s the inherent problem that they’re too confusing to be all that useful. i feel like charts and visuals should help clarify things, but most of yours require a leap of faith that whatever formula you’re using is meaningful.
    to me there are a few important points: (1) the bench doesn’t perform up to the level of its minutes or salary, and let’s be realistic here, “solid” just can’t be the benchmark (pun intended? i dunno, i guess. whatever) when you’re paying and playing these guys as much as we are, and (2) this is no surprise, when most everyone agrees that our pieces are being misused. i’m also a firm believer that (3) bench stats are beyond irrelevant. they only mean a damn thing if you’re comparing teams whose starters are relatively even.
    i had a conversation this weekend with a friend of mine in LA who relies on me to keep him up on the pistons (yes, this means he’s probably somehow getting an even grimmer picture than people actually watching the games). as i was talking to him, i realized a few things. the guys who are being subjugated in our current system are for the most part the guys who are going to be here for a while. maybe i’d thought of it before, but explaining the refusal to make substantive changes to our rotations made this crystal clear.
    for whatever reason, ben gordon, charlie v and will bynum can’t get an expanded role, even when we’re losing 2 out of 3 games and should be willing to try whatever works. i think it’s that these guys are going to be around, even though the roster is necessarily in a state of transition. i mean, it’s not like dumars would ever come out and admit he f***ed up big time with his rebuilding effort, but he’s got to realize by now that the team he assembled is garbage and has a very low ceiling. he’s just got to. so even though max is not a starter in the league, he’s starting. perhaps to boost his profile and value? rip isn’t going to the bench unless/until joe realizes he’s just not getting moved period. and i do hope that joe’s at least still deciding what to do with stuckey. i mean, if rip’s here for the long haul and we’re not trading gordon either, he’s just got to see that these three are too big a part of the team to keep together and continue losing 66.6% of our games.
    i appreciate the effort here. still, i may never be crazy about advanced stats. i know you threw out a generous offer to help demystify them, and maybe as a strong detractor of them i can help you make an entry that boils things down a bit so simple, meat-and-potatoes folk like myself can see what all the fuss is about. and i still want to see one that specifically targets our biggest non-tayshaun contracts (gordon, rip, villa, maybe even max) to see how much money we’re wasting on all these guys. i’d be glad to help you write it.

  • Dec 7, 201012:36 pm
    by nuetes


    whoa whoa whoa let’s take a look at this goodness of graphs before we say having a highly paid productive bench is a good thing.
    the 10 teams with the highest percentage of bench salary have a combined record of 76-119 (.389)
    the 10 teams with the lowest percentage of bench salary have a combined record of 135-73 (.649)
    so based on that it’s clearly not a wise decision to make a large investment in your bench. but let’s look at bench production instead of investment, which I’ll use the efficiency recap differential (I assume this shows what bench outperforms the opponents bench the most):
    the top 10 teams with the highest efficiency recap difference have a combined record of 112-92 (.549)
    the top 10 teams with the lowest efficiency recap difference are a combined 88-115 (.433)
    So what have we learned: Invest heavily in your bench = BAD. get production out of your bench = GOOD. So how do you weigh that?
    Basically you have to invest heavily in your starters, but that means having starters worth investing in, and simply put, if you don’t you aren’t going to be a very good basketball team. No amount of bench production is going to make up for a bad starting 5.

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  • Dec 7, 20105:44 pm
    by kagiso edwards


    Your column on bench production shows you did a lot of work … much more than most columnists .. but … how can you say anything so positive about the Pistons’ bench when the team is winning 33 percent of its games .. Does the team have good PFs, centers and PGs .. even 1 .. on its bench ? Obviously are record shouts out .. NO the bench is not very good despite its high salary .. and Max is a starter .. JJ isnt even in the equation .. he never played ..

  • [...] Feldman today put together an excellent post about just how much the Pistons are paying their bench players. His conclusion, that Detroit is second only to the Pacers, tells us a decent amount about the [...]

  • Dec 8, 20109:56 am
    by Dan Feldman



    I’m not a huge fan of the formula I used, but it was the best thing I could find that I could split between starters and bench players. Basically, if you do something right, you get a point (get a point, rebound, assists, steal or block). If you do something wrong (miss a shot, miss a free throw, turn the ball over), you lose a point. Your opponents are judged on the same scale. Your points minus their points is what you’re rated on here. It’s not an “advanced stat” as much as a way to combine traditional stats into one number for simplicity’s sake.

    Maybe I didn’t write this clearly, but my point was Detroit’s bench production was solid, relative to its salary (using other bench’s production/salary as comparison).

    “ i mean, it’s not like dumars would ever come out and admit he f***ed up big time with his rebuilding effort”

    No, he would never do anything like admitting he made a mistake by trading Darko, Mateen Cleaves and Rodney White during their rookie contracts.

  • Dec 8, 201010:38 am
    by Dan Feldman


    Nuetes, no, you definitely don’t want to invest to much in your bench when you’re ready to contend. But to get to that point, it makes sense to spend money on your bench. If you spread around your spending, you increase your odds of finding players to build with.

    I suspect if you looked at the 10 teams least invested in their benches now, they spent more on their benches a few years ago.

  • Dec 8, 201010:40 am
    by Dan Feldman


    Kagiso, because the Pistons have won only a third of their games, does that mean nothing about the team can be productive? That doesn’t make any sense.

    I could Jerebko’s salary for the starters because the design of the team has him a starter.

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