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NBA PM: Who Wins Sixth Man of the Year?
Posted By Alex Kennedy On March 28, 2013 @ 5:00 pm In NBA | No Comments
James Harden’s emergence as a starter and number one option with the Houston Rockets ensures that there will be a new Sixth Man of the Year this season. Harden won the award last year with the Oklahoma City Thunder, but now he has a team of his own and an All-Star appearance under his belt.
With Harden no longer eligible, who are the top candidates to win the 2012-13 Sixth Man of the Year award?
Jamal Crawford and J.R. Smith seem to be the frontrunners for the award at this point. Crawford and Smith have been outstanding this season and both players received All-Star consideration as reserves, which is a testament to how well they’ve been playing.
The Sixth Man of the Year race will likely come down to Crawford and Smith, but there are others who deserve some recognition as well.
Here are the top 10 candidates for Sixth Man of the Year:
Jamal Crawford, Los Angeles Clippers – Crawford has been one of the Clippers’ most important players this season, even though he hasn’t started a single game. The 33-year-old has led one of the best second units in the league, averaging 16.7 points, 2.5 assists and 1.1 steals in 29.5 minutes. For much of the season, Crawford was the Clippers’ leading scorer. Now, he ranks third in points per game behind Blake Griffin and Chris Paul. Crawford is shooting 43.9 percent from the field, 37.4 percent from three-point range and 85.6 percent from the free-throw line. Last year, L.A. struggled when Paul and Griffin would go to the bench, but that hasn’t been the case this season. Crawford was an excellent offseason addition for the Clippers and he’s been a big reason for their 2012-13 success. If Crawford does win Sixth Man of the Year, it would be the second time he has received the honor after winning it in 2010 as a member of the Atlanta Hawks. Only three other players in NBA history – Kevin McHale, Ricky Pierce and Detlef Schrempf – have won the Sixth Man of the Year award more than once.
J.R. Smith, New York Knicks – Smith is having the best year of his career after cutting down on his partying and becoming a professional. The 27-year-old is the Knicks’ second-leading scorer, averaging 17.4 points as well as 5.1 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.3 steals in 33.5 minutes. Smith is shooting 41.1 percent from the field, 34.9 percent from three-point range and 77.9 percent from the free-throw line. He has hit a number of clutch shots for New York this season and has been one of the team’s top contributors, despite coming off of the bench in every game. Sometimes, Smith is out of control and inefficient. Sometimes, Smith is the best player on the court. There’s a direct correlation between Smith’s shooting and New York’s success. When he’s knocking down shots, the Knicks are very tough to beat. Since signing Smith last season, the Knicks are 25-4 in games in which Smith shoots 50 percent or better from the floor. Smith has never won the Sixth Man of the Year award, although he has received a handful of votes nearly every season.
Kevin Martin, Oklahoma City Thunder – Harden is no longer in Oklahoma City, but the Thunder still has a candidate for Sixth Man of the Year in Martin. The 30-year-old shooting guard had been a starter every year of his career aside from his rookie season, but he has thrived in the sixth man role for the Thunder. Oklahoma City really could’ve taken a step back after losing a player like Harden, but the Thunder is 53-19 and remains the second-best team in the Western Conference. Martin’s strong play is a big reason why Oklahoma City didn’t regress. He has averaged 14.3 points in 28.1 minutes and he has been incredibly efficient, shooting 45.1 percent from the field, 43 percent from three-point range and 88.8 percent from the free-throw line. Some players would’ve struggled with the transition from number one option to sixth man, but Martin has accepted the bench role with open arms and succeeded as the Thunder’s number three option behind Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
J.J. Redick, Milwaukee Bucks – This has been a breakout year for Redick. Prior to this season, Redick was viewed as a solid role player, but now he’s considered one of the top sixth men in the league. He was the Orlando Magic’s best player earlier in the season and he has continued to be very productive with the Milwaukee Bucks. This season, the 28-year-old has averaged 14.4 points, 4.0 assists and 2.2 rebounds in 30.7 minutes. He’s shooting 44.2 percent from the field, 37.4 percent from three-point range and 89.3 percent from the free-throw line. There’s a reason why half of the teams in the league were pursuing Redick at the trade deadline last month. He has had a great season, and he’ll be highly coveted when he hits the free market this July as well.
Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs – Ginobili is one of those players who’s in the running for Sixth Man of the Year every season. Even at 35 years old, he has continued to be very effective for the Spurs. He has been limited by some injuries, but he has still managed to play 58 games and average 23.8 minutes. This season, Ginobili is averaging 12.1 points, 4.7 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 1.4 steals. Ginobili is shooting 42.7 percent from the field, 35.6 percent from three-point range and 79.4 percent from the free-throw line. He won’t win the award this year, but he deserves a Sixth Man Lifetime Achievement award.
Ray Allen, Miami HEAT – Allen, like many players in Miami’s locker room, has accepted a diminished role this season and made sacrifices for the good of the team. He had been an every-night starter since being drafted in 1996, but he has filled the sixth man role for the HEAT and, if you haven’t heard, they’ve been playing pretty well. While Allen comes off of the bench, there are times when he plays alongside LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. He helps spread the floor for Miami, knocking down threes and creating space for others. This season, Allen is averaging 10.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists. He’s shooting 45 percent from the field, 42.4 percent from three-point range and 88.1 percent from the free-throw line. Allen’s stats don’t jump off of the page like some of the other players on this list, but his presence alone has made life easier for James, Wade and Bosh.
Jarrett Jack, Golden State Warriors – Jack was one of the most underrated acquisitions of last offseason. The 29-year-old point guard has played extremely well off of Golden State’s bench and has provided veteran leadership to the young team. This season, Jack is averaging 13.3 points, 5.5 assists and 3.0 rebounds in 29.6 minutes. He’s shooting 45.2 percent from the field, 40.6 percent from the field and 84.2 percent from the free-throw line. The Warriors traded for Jack because they wanted to have a starting-caliber point guard behind Stephen Curry just in case of injury. Fortunately, they haven’t needed Jack to start more than four games and he has been very productive as the team’s sixth man.
Ryan Anderson, New Orleans Hornets – Anderson took home the Most Improved Player award last year and he’ll definitely get some votes for Sixth Man of the Year this season. The 24-year-old has followed up his breakout season with the Orlando Magic with an even more productive season in New Orleans. Anderson has averaged 16.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.2 assists in 30.8 minutes. He has started in 19 games for the Hornets, but he has spent most of the season as a reserve. Anderson is shooting 43.3 percent from the field, 38.6 percent from three-point range and 84.7 percent from the free-throw line. He has knocked down 192 three-pointers, which ranks second in the league behind only Stephen Curry. He’s the only bench player in the top 10 in three-point field goals made.
Wilson Chandler, Denver Nuggets – The Nuggets are one of the deepest teams in the league and you could make the argument that Corey Brewer, Andre Miller and JaVale McGee deserve some recognition as well. That balanced attack, in the starting lineup and second unit, is what makes the Nuggets so good. However, Chandler lands on this list because he leads Denver’s bench in scoring with 11.9 points in 23.9 minutes. He also contributes 5.5 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1.1 steals per game. Chandler has been limited by injuries, but when he has been healthy he’s been one of the best reserves in the league.
Andray Blatche, Brooklyn Nets – Blatche is the most surprising player on this list. After being amnestied by the Washington Wizards over the offseason, he signed a non-guaranteed, veteran’s minimum contract with the Nets. He has been a pleasant surprise for Brooklyn, averaging 10.1 points and 5.1 rebounds in 18.7 minutes per game. Blatche has the highest efficiency rating of any player on this list; in fact, his 23.14 PER is ranked 11th in the NBA ahead of All-Stars like James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Kyrie Irving, Chris Bosh and Dwight Howard. Blatche won’t win this award, but he may take home Most Improved Player honors.
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Norris Cole Developing in Miami
Norris Cole dribbles up the court and surveys his options. He has LeBron James to his left, Dwyane Wade to his right, Chris Bosh in the post and Ray Allen in the corner. Cole knows this is a luxury that most point guards don’t have, and he doesn’t take it for granted.
The 24-year-old is in his sophomore season and he’s trying to learn as much as he can from his superstar teammates while also contributing off of Miami’s bench.
“It’s great, it’s like going to school every day,” Cole said. “I get to learn a lot from each and every one of them. I never have to force a play because I always have LeBron on the left, D-Wade on the right, Ray Allen on the wing, Chris Bosh down low and Mike Miller coming off of the bench. It’s great to have so many weapons like that. I just want to continue to get better and make the game easier for them.”
“It’s a learning experience,” Cole added. “It’s different. Most guys go to worse teams but they get to play a lot whereas I’m in a situation where I get to play some and learn a lot. I love winning, though. I’ll sacrifice not playing as many minutes to win and learn. One day, I’ll get the opportunity to play a bigger role, but right now having these guys makes the game so much easier for me. I have three or four potential Hall of Famers around me. It doesn’t get any better than that and I’m taking full advantage of it.”
Cole has been playing well lately. He had 15 points and six assists in 22 minutes against the Charlotte Bobcats. Two nights before, he had 10 points, four assists and four steals against the Detroit Pistons. Cole has earned the trust of his veteran teammates and shown that he can help Miami win games.
“The game is definitely slowing down a lot,” Cole said. “It just comes with repetition. It’s nothing that you really simulate. You can only really learn through experience. It’s easier, but it’s still a work in progress.
“I’ve just been taking my time, not forcing anything and taking what the game gives me. I’m an aggressive player, but sometimes, especially as a point guard, you have to let the game come to you and feel the game out. Lately, that’s what I’ve been trying to do. Just relax and let the game come to me.”
Miami’s coaches have been pleased with Cole’s progress, but they’re working with him to become more consistent.
“They just want to see the things I’ve been working on and practicing translate to the court, and they have been seeing it,” Cole said of the feedback he has received from his coaches. “They’ve been pleased with that. The next step is being more consistent with it. I’ve been playing well, but my focus is on getting ready for the playoffs. That’s been my total focus, preparing my body and preparing my game to go into the playoffs with a good rhythm.”
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