Against North Carolina in Chapel Hill, Georgia Tech led with five minutes remaining and were still in the game until about two minutes left in the game. The Jackets scored 78 points, higher than in any of their last eight games, but that was in spite of their bench, not because of it. The bench accounted for only 9 points in the game, shooting just 3/15 from the field. That would not be awful if the Jackets played with a short bench, but they do not. Four bench players played over ten minutes and Tadric Jackson played 8. A basket here or there from the bench would have made a huge difference in the game and possibly led to the upset. Instead the Jackets start conference play 0-1 with three tough games next. If the Jackets are going to score an upset soon, they are going to need the bench to start producing offensively.
Travis Jorgenson started the season by nearly splitting the minutes with starting point guard Josh Heath, but now finds himself with dwindling time on the court. In the last five games, he has only made it to 20 minutes once, against Colgate. Josh Heath is a superior defender and passer than Jorgenson, but Travis was supposed to provide a scoring threat from the point guard position that Heath did not. Unfortunately, that has not happened. He is averaging only 3 points per game. He has not had a single game where he scored 10 or more points, and has scored zero four times, including the Jacket's last two major games, against UNC and Georgia. He shoots from three most of the time, but has not been very good at that, shooting only 25% from deep on mostly wide open attempts. He has provided even less help inside the arc. He has so far averaged one shot from inside the arc per game and as a consequence, almost never gets to the free throw line, shooting only four free throws all year.
If Travis Jorgenson starting hitting some shots and started getting aggressive to the basket, that would make a larger difference than any other bench player. With him producing, Georgia Tech could play a lineup with five offensive threats, something they have not been able to do all year. Even if it means hitting 33% from three instead of 25%, any improvement from Jorgenson would be huge.
Jackson is the most frustrating player to watch on this team. He has the ability to take over a game for short period, as he showed against Georgia, but is shooting just 31% on the year. Since his 14 point performance against Georgia, he has scored only 7 points in the last four games on 3/13 shooting. His problem seems to be one of overconfidence. He will make a fantastic play or two, but then chuck up an ill-advised three. He will often make a drive to the hoop but then get caught under the hoop. He then seems to lose confidence or get taken out of the game.
Tadric has the most offensive potential of anybody on the bench. He can create a little bit, he can shoot a little bit when he makes good decisions on his shots. He needs to get out of his own head sometimes, but I think he has a chance to make a big difference and win us a game.
I was pretty down on Stephens coming into the year, but he has played alright this year. He has been okay on defense, and while he does not provide much on offense, he is a good shooter on a team that needs more shooters. He has been much better than last year at picking his shots to shoot, and as a result is shooting 40% from deep compared to less than 30% last year. I think it's doubtful that Stephens takes a huge step forward offensively, but he could get hot in a game, like he did against Georgia last year, and make a difference.
For me, James White has been the best defensive player on the bench. He can rebound and protect the rim, but he has been disappointing offensively. He averaged 11.9 points per game last year for UALR, but this year he's down to 4.5 points per game. He has looked frustrated after missing shots and hasn't gotten anything going. He has had some good games, he was strong against SE Lousisana, but has yet to turn that into more than one game.
I really think White has the best chance to make a difference for the rest of the season. I really feel like he's one big game from figuring it out. Part of the problem may be Gregory's insistence on using White as a back to the basket player. He looks uncomfortable when he gets the ball and is unable to bring it right to the hoop. He often ends up taking off balance shots with little chance of going in. I'm a little surprised that Gregory has not tried getting the ball to White more on the perimeter and facing the basket. He really looks more comfortable when he is taking the ball to the basket instead of working around it. If he improves on being able to get to the hoop from the post, he could bring the offensive production that the Jackets need from the bench.
Lammers has been decent offensively recently. He has the best jumper of any of the big men, although he is sometimes too trigger happy on the long jumpers. He is starting to do some work on the inside, but he is best on putbacks and other scramble situations. Lammers to me is similar to Stephens in that he is already doing alright, Lammers is shooting 64%, but that I don't think he is particularly likely to improve a lot over the course of the rest of the season. He just does not have the ability right now to take his efficiency and keep it while increasing his role in the offense.
Georgia Tech does not need any of these players to become a star, but the bench does need to provide some offensive production. Now that every game is a competitive one, the starters figure to play more minutes, but the bench still has an opportunity to make a mark on this season. The Yellow Jacket's first four opponents in ACC play are top ten in the country on offense, so the Jackets will need to score a lot of points. The bench does not need to go off, but they need to score more than 9 points to help take the load off of the starters.