There was little doubt who would win the Kia NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award. The real battle was for second.
The Beard (aka James Harden) finished first in the voting, placed first on all but four of the 119 filed ballots. Finishing second was the Sixers’ own Lou Williams, who received three of the other four first place votes.
Lou led the Sixers in scoring, averaging 14.9 PPG.
The Sixth Man award is an odd one, mainly because most voters historically associate the best bench players with the top bench scorers. Obviously, Harden was so good this year that he could (should?) have been an all-star, so his vote was a no-brainer. Lou Williams and Jason Terry (who finished third) are a little defense. Both are all-offense, no-defense types who score a lot but don’t do too much else for their teams. If the award is a question of value (and I tend to think these are, otherwise it would have been the Kia Scorer Off The Bench Award), then I think the voters got the award wrong, like they have done a lot of times historically.
I offer as a counter two other players who are currently playing in the playoffs, and who happen to be heavily involved in the Bulls-Sixers series: Thaddeus Young and Taj Gibson. Young and Gibson provide very meaningful value on both ends of the court. Gibson doesn’t score much but is one of the best defensive bigs in the entire league. Young plays more than Lou and, during the regular season at least, was more effective than Williams on both ends of the floor. No rotation player swung performance more positively than Young – the Sixers were more than 8 points per 100 possessions better with him than without. Moreover, he shot a high percentage from the floor and was a more versatile, if sometimes overpowered, defender.
Unfortunately, when looking at Sixth Man candidates, voters have tended to look at scoring only. However, that does mean that as a result of leading the team, Lou gets a runner-up finish. Should be something nice to tout for him when he hits free agency this summer.
Voting results can be found here.
My vote, if I had one:
1. James Harden
2. Thaddeus Young
3. Taj Gibson
(with apologies to Manu Ginobili and Andre Miller, who I have just behind them)