1996 Seattle Supersonics vs 2012 Oklahoma City Thunder: The Battle of the Benches

Andy Burt

Sam Perkins or Nick Collison? Nate McMillan or James Harden?

Edited by Tiffany Villigan

Throughout the past week, our writing team here at Sonics Rising and the team over at Welcome To Loud City have been breaking down the winners and losers of the potential match-ups between the starting five of the 1996 Seattle Supersonics and the 2012 Oklahoma City Thunder.

But it's the middle of the third quarter and Kevin Durant and Gary Payton are exhausted. It's time for the fresh legs to come in.

SEATTLE 1996

Many things go in to making an NBA Finals appearance. A star player or two is nice, a great coach is also key, but one of the things that a lot of teams miss out on is an interchangeable and cohesive set of bench players that buy in to their roles.

With the likes of Sam Perkins, Nate McMillan, Frank Brickowski and Vincent Askew, the Sonics had just that. Whenever Payton or Hersey Hawkins needed a breather, McMillan could sub in at either guard position, play off of either guy, handle the ball and defend both positions at a high level. Perkins and Brickowski could sub in at the four or the five, hit the boards and even provide decent spacing with solid shooting from mid-range and beyond.

While Askew didn't compile many stats in the series against the Bulls (he only played in four of the six games), he was known as a do-it-all wing who could be a defensive stopper on one end while being able to score from the post or perimeter on the other.  David Wingate was another wing defender who was good for about three points in eight minutes per game.

The biggest contributor off the bench for the Sonics was the veteran big man, Perkins. Perkins never started a game in the finals, but averaged starter's minutes and often closed games out on the floor playing next to Shawn Kemp. Perkins was still a decent rebounder and a solid scorer around the rim, but his biggest strength was spacing the floor with his ability to shoot from behind the arc. Perkins' placement on the floor often pulled rim protectors like Luc Longley and John Salley out to the perimeter and away from the basket, opening up driving lanes for the likes of Payton.

OKC 2012

While the Supersonics had a solid band of role players that could contribute solid minutes, the Thunder had one guy off the bench who stood above the rest: James Harden, 2012 Sixth Man of the Year.

Harden did so many different things for the Thunder, and when he, Durant and Russell Westbrook were on the court at the same time, it not only created mismatches for opposing defenses, but it also caused headaches and nightmares for opposing coaches trying to game plan against the 2012 OKC squad.

The stats will do the rest of the telling of what Harden really meant to the 2012 Thunder squad:

Season

Age

G

GS

MP

FG%

3PA

3P%

FT

FTA

FT%

ORB

DRB

TRB

AST

STL

BLK

TOV

PF

PTS

2011-12

22

62

2

31.4

.491

4.7

.390

5.0

6.0

.846

0.5

3.6

4.1

3.7

1.0

0.2

2.2

2.4

16.8

Though some often criticize Harden for his play in the 2012 Finals against the Miami Heat, he was still the Thunder's best player off the bench and third best scoring option, by far.

Sure, Derek Fisher was good for a handful of three-pointers and assists that series, and Nick Collison soaked up some fouls and grabbed boards, but Harden was the only guy OKC could count on to score in that series. Not to mention that Collison is the only one from that group who really played any defense.

THE STATS

1996 Sonics Bench Versus The Bulls

Totals

Shooting

Per Game

Player

Age

MP

FT

FTA

ORB

DRB

TRB

AST

STL

BLK

TOV

PF

PTS

FG%

3P%

FT%

MP

PTS

TRB

AST

STL

BLK

Sam Perkins

34

190

17

21

9

19

28

12

3

0

10

13

67

.377

.235

.810

31.7

11.2

4.7

2.0

0.5

0.0

David Wingate

32

48

4

4

1

1

2

0

0

0

3

13

15

.500

.500

1.000

8.0

2.5

0.3

0.0

0.0

0.0

Nate McMillan

31

51

2

2

0

11

11

6

2

0

3

6

11

.429

.600

1.000

12.8

2.8

2.8

1.5

0.5

0.0

Vincent Askew

29

62

2

2

0

10

10

2

2

0

8

10

7

.222

.200

1.000

15.5

1.8

2.5

0.5

0.5

0.0

Frank Brickowski

36

68

0

0

2

10

12

3

1

1

4

16

5

.222

.200

11.3

0.8

2.0

0.5

0.2

0.2

Steve Scheffler

28

8

0

0

1

1

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

.000

2.0

0.0

0.5

0.0

0.0

0.0

Eric Snow

22

9

0

0

0

2

2

1

0

0

1

2

0

.000

1.5

0.0

0.3

0.2

0.0

0.0

2012 Thunder Versus The Heat

Totals

Shooting

Per Game

Player

Age

MP

FT

FTA

ORB

DRB

TRB

AST

STL

BLK

TOV

PF

PTS

FG%

3P%

FT%

MP

PTS

TRB

AST

STL

BLK

James Harden

22

164

19

24

4

20

24

18

6

0

12

18

62

.375

.318

.792

32.8

12.4

4.8

3.6

1.2

0.0

Derek Fisher

37

128

1

1

1

7

8

4

5

0

0

10

28

.423

.357

1.000

25.6

5.6

1.6

0.8

1.0

0.0

Nick Collison

31

83

0

2

11

12

23

3

3

1

2

14

18

.600

.000

16.6

3.6

4.6

0.6

0.6

0.2

Royal Ivey

30

3

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

6

1.000

1.000

3.0

6.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

Cole Aldrich

23

5

0

0

0

1

1

0

0

0

0

0

2

1.000

4.7

2.0

1.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

Daequan Cook

24

11

0

2

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

1

2

.333

.000

.000

3.5

0.7

0.0

0.3

0.0

0.0

Lazar Hayward

25

5

0

0

0

2

2

0

0

0

0

1

2

.500

4.7

2.0

2.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

THE VERDICT

McMillan wasn't much of a scorer in this series since he was injured, but bets are on that a healthy McMillan (twice named to an All-Defensive team) would have been able to contain the 2012 version of Harden even better than Dwyane Wade, Mario Chalmers and Mike Miller did. Big Smooth would have shot over and around Collison and Kendrick Perkins the same way that he did against the Bulls, and the stats say that Brickowski, Askew and Wingate would out-play the likes of Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook and Royal Ivey.

In the battle of the benches, the Sonics win, and Derek Fisher will be irrelevant.

If you'd like to see what the guys at Welcome To Loud City think, click through.

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