Bench Strength No. 2: Playoff Experience
Looking at the second unit, you immediately see both Portis and Connaughton as the two players who bring plenty of playoff experience to the table. But you also have Payne and Crowder who have played in big-time playoff games and even faced off against the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA Finals.
Payne and Crowder know what it’s like to be on the losing end of the Finals, and Portis and Connaughton have that opposite feeling. Oddly enough, those opposing experiences can help balance the team out, by showing them what to avoid and what to reinforce in order to repeat a deep playoff run and win a championship. Not only has Crowder tasted defeat against the Milwaukee Bucks, but he was also on the losing end of the 2020 NBA Finals in the NBA Bubble to the Los Angeles Lakers when he was with the Miami Heat.
Both Crowder and Payne have played exceptionally well in the playoffs. During the 2021 NBA Finals, Jae Crowder put up double digits in five of the six games and had two double-doubles during the series. He averaged 14.5 points per game over the final four games of the series, and at times was seen as the defensive enforcer for the Phoenix Suns.
Payne didn’t necessarily put up those types of scoring numbers, but he was pivotal in spelling Chris Paul for breaks and handling the offense. He put together a two-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio, with 10 assists and five turnovers during the Finals. Payne also put together a 29-point performance in the Western Conference Finals against the LA Clippers this past season, showing his ability to score when needed.
When you add the strong performances that Bobby Portis and Pat Connaughton had in those similar Finals, you have four legitimate players who have seen major minutes in important Finals games. Connaughton had a very strong showing in the Finals, with a 9.2 points per game average, despite having zero points in Game 6 in 23 minutes of play.
Having that solidified group of reserves who – in one way shape or form – have experience in the NBA Finals, and know what it takes to get there. Having their experience will also rub off on Beauchamp, giving him an understanding of the deep season run, and what it takes to go on a tear during the late stages of the season.