With the NBA finally set to return in July (barring catastrophe), teams are opening up practice facilities in order to start their preparations for the playoff push. While championships are built on star power, there are always a few other guys every postseason who punch above their weight and catch fire at the perfect time. With that in mind, here are five bench players for Eastern Conference teams set to make a splash once the season restarts.
5. 76ers G Shake Milton
Shake Milton was able to step up and play big minutes for the Sixers while stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons missed time because of injury. In every game Milton played in the month of March before the league’s hiatus, he put up double figures -- and even scored 39 points against the title-contending Clippers. With the stars hopefully coming back healthy at the restart, Milton will transition back into playing a spark plug role off the bench.
4. Nets C DeAndre Jordan
Jordan has never been a big-time scorer during his long career in the NBA, but he sure knows his role. His eight points and 10 rebounds per game off the bench is critical for Brooklyn’s success. When Jarrett Allen either needs a rest or gets into foul trouble, DJ can step up and be a veteran presence on the court for the Nets. Expect him to continue to be an important player for the Kings County boys.
3. Heat G Tyler Herro
Rookie sensations Ja Morant and Zion Williamson have stolen all the headlines in the West, but Miami's Tyler Herro has also splashed on the scene in year one of his NBA career. The former Kentucky Wildcat missed some time with a foot and ankle injury, but was prepared to make his return right as the season was put on hold. If he can revert to his early-season form of being a dangerous, efficient shooter off the bench, then Herro will help the Heat take the next step and perhaps pull a shocker or two in the East.
2. Celtics G Marcus Smart
As long as Boston’s backcourt of Kemba Walker and Jaylen Brown stays healthy, then Smart is going to lead the charge for the second unit for the C’s. His career-high scoring numbers haven't come at the greatest efficiency, but the sturdy Smart needs to take his shots off the bench to keep opponents honest. Combined with his always stout defense, Smart will definitely make an impact in Boston’s playoff run.
1. Raptors G Norman Powell
Powell has stepped up and played well in Toronto’s backcourt whenever Kyle Lowry or Fred VanVleet had to miss time. If the starters remain healthy, then Powell can go back to his bench role where he truly flourishes. With Powell averaging a career high in scoring with more than 16 points per game on close to 40% shooting from deep, he is once again going to be the kind of spark plug Toronto needs to surprise all the critics on the way to a big run.