The Sixth Man of the Year award in the NBA always made me chuckle a bit, just because the people who decide what awards to give out in the NBA figured it would be nicer to say “sixth man” than “bench player”. Plus, most times, the best bench player is better than the fourth and fifth starters. Anyway, since the honor given out rewards the best “sixth man”, I’ll proceed with using “sixth man”.
Local CSN broadcasts have supported Lou Williams as a candidate for the award in recent broadcasts, which in my mind is a mistake. I’ve already detailed the Sixers best candidate, Thad Young. But both are worthy compared to the rest of the league. Where do our best players rank, then? Since the Sixers have one of the best benches in the NBA, and individuals generally get credit for this part of the game, we’ll stack both Thad and Lou up against the competition.
NBA Sixth man rules are pretty simple: you have to come off the bench in more games than you start. Not too difficult. So everyone on this list should meet that requirement now, although I’ll make a few exceptions for players who appear to be on pace to qualify for the award (Lamar Odom, I’m looking at you).
- Thaddeus Young
- Lou Williams
- Glen “Big Baby” Davis
- Jason Terry
- Shawn Marion
- Jamal Crawford
- Lamar Odom
- George Hill
- Ty Lawson
- Jared Dudley
- Corey Maggette
- C.J. Miles
- J.J. Redick
- J.R. Smith
- Ben Gordon
- Ramon Sessions
OK, that list is way too big, but I didn’t want to eliminate anyone right away. But it should be pretty easy to narrow down the “deserving” and the “actual” winners. I’m not using actual guidelines, but historical data about voting to figure out the actual winners, while I’m using stats to break down the deserving winner. First, my predicted actual winner:
1. Not on a playoff team = no winning the award
Sorry Ben Gordon, Ramon Sessions, and Corey Maggette, you have been eliminated. The last guy to win the Sixth Man award on a losing team: Dell Curry, in 1993-94. Winning is valued highly (maybe too much) by voters, so you are all gone.
2. Less than 10 PPG = bye-bye
Only 3 times has a winner had less than 10 PPG: Bobby Jones (the inaugural winner), the great Bill Walton for the Celts, and Anthony Mason for the Knicks (he averaged 9.9). So on the list, only Jared Dudley is eliminated.
3. No winner in the last 9 years has averaged 13 points or less.
Well, that’s a bigger number. Voters (and fans) typically overvalue scoring relative to other parts of the game, so it’s no surprise that scoring is considered important. Extending this, Aaron McKie is the only guy to average under 13 point per game in the last 15 years. So important that all but, by my count, only 4 players are remaining: Lou Williams, Lamar Odom, Jason Terry, and Jamal Crawford.
4. There has not been a repeat winner of the award since 1990-91 and 1991-92.
That repeat winner was Detlef Schrempf, who has an awesome name. Anyway, Jason Terry and Jamal Crawford are former winners, which eliminates them.
That leaves Lou and Lamar Odom. And for this we’ll break it down to:
5. Who’s the better player left?
Well, in reserve:
- Lou: 13.5 PPG, 40% FG, 34% 3FG, 3.4 AST
- Odom (off the bench): 13.3 PPG, 52% FG, 41% 3FG, 7.8 REB, 2.5 AST
I guess that settles it: Lamar Odom is the leading candidate for the 6th man of the year, voter-wise. Yeah, it’s all contingent on him playing more games off the bench than in the starting five (dubious, with Bynum as the center), but for now he’s the guy to beat. Where do our Sixers stack? Well, my guess would be behind Terry and Crawford (UPDATE: And also behind Big Baby Davis), with Lou unfortunately getting more credit than Thaddeus. Well, unfortunately only because Thad will not get the credit he deserves, as a leading candidate for the award (with Terry and Odom).
*Photo from John Bazemore of the AP and lehighvalleylive.com