How important have bench players been this season and how vital will they become playoff time? The role of the bench has been magnified in this shortened season and likes of James Harden, Jason Terry and Andre Miller will play integral parts in their teams playoff run. We've seen J.J. Redick move into a starting role as has Ramon Sessions since his move to the L.A. Lakers. The 76ers have one of the best benches with Thaddeus Young and Louis Williams, while the Knicks pickup of J.R. Smith adds to their depth. The San Antonio Spurs use their bench players more that any other averaging 21.3 minutes per game and sits number 1 on the list of the most efficient teams. This season coach Popovich has managed his aging stars well in the regular season keeping them fresh for playoff action. The other night against the Golden State Warriors every active player got at least 11 minutes. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili all played under 15 minutes, allowing the bench players vital on court time - so if called upon in the playoffs the likes of Patty Mills and Stephen Jackson will be ready. [caption id="" align="alignright" width="191" caption="Coach Popovich's roster management has been the key to the Spurs' success this year"][/caption] Last season the Dallas Mavericks won the NBA Championship, their bench playing pivotal roles in particular Jason Terry and J.J.Barea. Against the Miami Heat in the Finals 08/09, Sixth Man of the Year Terry was amazing averaging 18 points per game and Barea was uplifting with almost 9 points per game and 3.2 assists in his 21 minutes on the floor. Who's bench is going to be a factor in this years playoffs? The top two teams in the East,the Chicago Bulls and the Miami Heat I would have to lean towards the Bulls bench players. Ronnie Brewer,C.J. Watson have been regular starters in the absence of Rose and Hamilton. Chicago almost have a starting 5 of bench players with Taj Gibson, Kyle Korver and Omer Asik joining Brewer and Watson. In the West the top two teams the Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs I think the Spurs have the better bench. Stats and their depth say it all. OKC have arguably the best sixth man in the league this season. James Harden is averaging 16.4 points per game and getting his fair share of assists and rebounds, and the acquisition of Derek Fisher with his wealth of experience have the Thunder in the top ten of the most efficient teams.