Ever taken a look at the bench during an NBA game and saw that guy sitting there in his warm-up gear, cheering on his team? If so, then you’ve noticed the twelfth man on an NBA roster. The twelfth man is the unofficial term for the last man on the depth chart of an NBA team. Teams have to dress twelve players for a game. However, typical teams only play eight or nine men in an average game. Sometimes a team will play ten players in the event that there is an injury or other issue with a starter. The last man on a team’s roster will often only play with a few minutes left in the game when his team has a considerable lead or is totally out of the game.
It’s pretty uncommon to see a twelfth man enter an NBA game but people love when it actually happens. Don’t let yourself feel too sorry for these benchwarmers, though. While they hardly get to see any game action and are often mocked for being cheerleaders of sorts, they are still paid handsomely compared to the average Joe.
The NBA’s minimum salary is $490,000 a year for rookies and $1 million for players who have been in the league for at least five years. Some of the NBA’s twelfth men are rookies who are just getting their feet wet, but others are experienced veterans who provide mentorship and guidance for younger, more capable players on the team. Here’s a look at the NBA’s highest-paid benchwarmers for the 2013 season.
10. Tornike Shengelia – Brooklyn Nets – $780,000
Tornike Shengelia is a native of Georgia who played nineteen games for the Brooklyn Nets last year, averaging around 4.9 minutes per game. The 22-year-old scored thirty points during those nineteen games, eleven of which came in his league debut against the Boston Celtics. Shengelia has had multiple assignments this season with the Springfield Armor, the Nets’ NBA Development League affiliate. His $780,000 salary is a $300,000 increase over what he earned in his rookie year.
9. Cole Aldrich – New York Knicks – $916,000
Cole Aldrich was one of the top players at the University of Kansas and was drafted eleventh overall by the New Orleans Hornets in 2010. He averaged 1.9 points per game in his first three years in the NBA, a major drop from the 9.4 he had in three years with the U of K Jayhawks. Aldrich had a $2.4 million salary last year with the Sacramento Kings but took a considerable pay cut upon signing with the Knicks this season. Hopefully Aldrich can take advantage of this low-pressure situation to jumpstart his career.
8. Cory Joseph – San Antonio Spurs – $1.1 Million
Cory Joseph was a first round pick for the San Antonio Spurs in 2011 out of the University of Texas. Although he started in nine games for the Spurs in 2012-13, he only averaged 4-5 minutes of playing time. He sits behind Danny Green and Manu Ginobili in the shooting guard position for the Spurs this season but could see more playing time if San Antonio continues to dominate as they have done so far.
7. Ronnie Brewer – Houston Rockets – $1.15 Million
Ronnie Brewer has played for six NBA teams since 2006 with most of his success coming early in his career with the Utah Jazz. Brewer has not been the most prominent figure on the Huston Rockets roster since joining the team this year. Houston has focused on a guard-heavy offense that often leaves the small forward on the sidelines. Dwight Howard‘s arrival to the Rockets and Jeremy Lin‘s improvement have also kept Brewer glued to the bench. Still, Brewer is a millionaire this year with a long NBA career ahead of him.
6. Jared Cunningham – Atlanta Hawks – $1.2 Million
Jared Cunningham was the Cleveland Cavaliers’ first round draft pick in 2012. He had a strong year in 2012-13 with the NBA D-League’s Texas Legends getting 15.3 points per game and was able to penetrate the Dallas Mavericks lineup late in the year. However, Cunningham hasn’t experienced much game time since being traded to the Atlanta Hawks. That being said, he’s still making $1.2 million this year and being so young still has ample time to make an impression on the league.
5. Victor Claver – Portland Trail Blazers – $1.35 Million
Hailing from Valencia, Spain, Victor Claver was drafted in the first round by the Portland Trailblazers in 2009 and gets $1.35 million per year. Nicolas Batum has taken the majority of the small forward playing time for the Blazers in the last few years while Claver has essentially been relegated to coming in at the end of lopsided games. He has spent a considerable amount of time in the D-League’s Idaho Stampede but is still in the middle of a three-year deal with the Blazers that will see him through to 2015.
4. Mike James – Chicago Bulls – $1.4 Million
Mike James was never actually drafted by an NBA team, but opted to play in Europe before being signed as a free agent by the Miami Heat in 2001. Since his entry into the league, James has played for eleven different NBA teams. While he was a regular starter for the 2006-07 Minnesota Timberwolves, James has become somewhat of a benchwarmer for the Chicago Bulls this season. At 38, James is the oldest player on the Bulls’ roster this season and third oldest in the league behind only Derek Fisher and Steve Nash.
3. Jannero Pargo – Charlotte Bobcats – $1.4 Million
Since 2002, Jannero Pargo has played for seven teams in the NBA and has also spent some time in professional leagues in Greece and Russia. In spite of averaging eight points per game with the Charlotte Bobcats last year, the team’s recent acquisition of Ramon Sessions and the potential for Ben Gordon to make a comeback has made Pargo an all but inessential part of the Bobcats’ regular lineup.
2. Joel Anthony – Miami Heat – $3.8 Million
Joel Anthony was signed by the Miami Heat in 2007 and has earned at least $3 million per year since 2010. He has since fallen to the lowest spot on the Heat’s totem pole. As a center, Anthony averages 2.4 points per game and finds himself behind Chris Bosh and Chris Andersen on Miami’s depth chart. The recent signing of forward Michael Beasley will only make it harder for Anthony to get floor time this season.
1. Keith Bogans – Boston Celtics – $5 Million
Keith Bogans was one of the many players from the Brooklyn Nets that came to Boston after a trade involving Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry in June, 2013. While Bogans was a McDonald’s and Parade All-American in 1999, he has had a challenging career in the NBA, made worse by a torn deltoid ligament in 2012. The Celtics are Bogan’s eighth NBA team. His $5 million deal was carried over from the Nets even though he now falls behind Courtney Lee and Jordan Crawford on the Celtics’ depth chart.