Skip to content

The Extra Pass: Breaking down the race for Sixth Man of the Year

Mar 26, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT

Spurs' Ginobili goes to the basket past Miami's Wade during Game 5 of the NBA Finals in San Antonio Reuters

The Sixth Man of the Year award usually isn’t that close of a race, and often times one player rises above the rest to the point where his winning it in a given season is a foregone conclusion.

J.R. Smith won by a wide margin last year, thanks to being every bit as important to the Knicks as Carmelo Anthony in helping lead them to the second best record in the Eastern Conference. And the season before, James Harden was even more dominant in helping propel the Thunder to an NBA Finals appearance.

It’s a little tighter than usual this year, but one player would still appear to be the runaway favorite — if only he can manage to qualify.

There’s a field of five players that can try to stake a legitimate claim to having earned the honor of the most super sub: Jamal Crawford, Manu Ginobili, Markieff Morris, Reggie Jackson and Taj Gibson, and we’ll look at some of the advanced numbers for each. But Crawford of the Clippers stands out above all others, as long as he doesn’t finish the season starting too many of his team’s games.

In order to be eligible, a player has to come off the bench in more games than he’s started. This may prove problematic for Crawford, who already has 23 starts under his belt, though he has come off the bench in his last two games as he returned to the lineup after battling a calf injury. But should he remain in a reserve role for the bulk of the rest of the season, the numbers would seem to say that the award should be his.

Crawford is by far the highest scoring bench player with his average of 18.4 points per game, and his usage rate is highest among the other true candidates for the award, as well. His team’s net rating when he’s on the floor — the difference between points scored and points allowed per 100 possessions — is third among the players we’ve mentioned, but more than respectable at a +6.9.

If Crawford should start too many games to finish the season, Manu Ginobili — who’s a close second due to his role in the Spurs continued success — would be a more than capable replacement.

Ginobili has played the fewest minutes of anyone on this list, due to being sidelined by injury as well as his coach’s propensity to give his veterans some rest. But his impact has been the greatest in his time on the floor, with lineups he’s appeared in having a net rating of +14.1, the biggest margin by far of any of the other candidates.

Morris has been a part of the surprising success the Suns have seen this season, but while he’s simply pedestrian in his affect on net rating, he dominates the other candidates in both win shares (5.5) and win shares per 48 minutes (.144), using the calculations of Basketball-Reference.

Simply put, win shares is a metric that estimates the number of wins a player produces for his team, though the calculations that go into it are quite complex. It’s just another way to measure impact, and Morris has been the key reserve for Phoenix all year long, even taking home a Conference Player of the Week honor back near the beginning of the season.

The final two candidates on our list will likely get some votes, but neither has a great case to pass one of the three we’ve already mentioned.

Reggie Jackson has been capable off the bench for the Thunder, stepping in to provide some consistent scoring and defense after the team lost Kevin Martin in free agency. Like Crawford, the amount of games Jackson has started (33) may disqualify him before the season is finished. But even if it doesn’t, while his 13.3 points per game have been appreciated and the net rating when he’s on the floor is a legit +9.3, his win share numbers are below average and it’s tough to argue that his impact has been anywhere near as great as the others in the conversation.

Taj Gibson of the Bulls has surged in this category recently, thanks to remarks made by his head coach, Tom Thibodeau. And, averages of 13.4 points and 6.8 rebounds while playing more minutes than anyone on this list certainly deserves consideration. But the lineup data isn’t on his side as strongly as it is with the others, and the teams with better showings in the standings are likely to get a longer look than are the over-achieving Bulls, who currently sit in fourth in the East.

The award, in all likelihood, is Crawford’s to lose. But it wouldn’t at all be a surprise for Ginobili to sneak in there and steal it given both his level of contribution, as well as the Spurs’ season-long dominance. Morris is the clear-cut choice for third if the voters are paying attention, with Gibson and Jackson in some order the most likely to round out the top five.


  1. jerdogthompson - Mar 26, 2014 at 10:16 AM

    That should be Jamal crossovers award hands down, I’m certain he will have the prerequisite games off the bench.


    • apkyletexas - Mar 26, 2014 at 10:36 AM

      To win the 6th man award, shouldn’t you be the 6th man in the rotation? Manu is usually 7th or 8th, and his minutes per game average is seventh on the team. Marco Belinelli and Boris Diaw are usually the first men off the bench for the Spurs, and both get more minutes.

  2. azarkhan - Mar 26, 2014 at 10:58 AM


  3. jadaruler - Mar 26, 2014 at 11:41 AM

    Need some Vince Carter love on this list. He’s been big for the Mavs off the bench.

  4. savvybynature - Mar 26, 2014 at 12:22 PM

    Manu then Gibson then everyone else.
    Crawford’s numbers are inflated because he started a bunch of games and has gotten a lot of minutes, plus he is a chucker who puts up a lot of points though not with efficiency. Without looking it up, I’d bet his FG% is the lowest of anyone on the list.
    Also, JR Smith was as important to the Knicks as Carmelo Anthony last season? Were you getting high with JR Smith when you wrote this article or something? Anthony averaged more than 10 more points per game, had more board, more assists… on what planet does JR Smith provide even close to the same impact as Anthony?

    • Savoir-Faire - Mar 26, 2014 at 8:06 PM

      Sorry but you are flat out wrong Crawford had been the most dominant of anyone on the list .He hasn’t just been good for a sub his numbers compare great to anyone at his position. Again not good for a sub his numbers are good for a starter .Crawford doesnt play a lot of minutes he averages 30 mpg . Once you consider he is 3rd in 4th quarter scoring behind Durant and Harden is top ten in 3pters made

      Again Taj and Manu numbers are good for guys coming off the bench but jamal Crawford is giving the Clippers a level of play from a sg that maybe 5-10 teams in the league are getting right now.

      This whole Crawford doesn’t play any defense or does anything else line is ridiculous considering Manus def .rating is 100 and Crawford is 102 .

      • savvybynature - Mar 26, 2014 at 8:24 PM

        OK, I looked it up. Crawford is shooting 42% from the floor.
        Manu is at 47%. Taj at 48%. Morris 49%. Jackson 44%.
        Looks like I was flat-out right, actually. Thanks for playing.
        And btw, the LOWER your defensive rating the better, so you actually proved the point that Crawford’s D is suspect since he has a worse rating than a 36-year-old Ginobili. So Manu is a better defender, a much better passer, and a more efficient scorer.

    • Savoir-Faire - Apr 15, 2014 at 1:16 AM

      Crawford isnt out there as a high percentage sniper the Clippers have JJ Redick for that . Hes out here for production and hes done that better than any other 6th man perhaps in history.

      hes shooting 49% in the 4th quarter and 45% from three in the 4th quarter WINNING TIME

      As a starter Crawford is averaging 20 as a reserve he averages 18th his numbers aren’t inflated hes basically shown that besides Gibson hes the only one nominated that could actually play more minutes and produce.

      Crawford has a true shooting percentage of 55% which is more than adequate when you consider he is one of the top three point shooters in the league when you combine that with his ability to get to the line and make his fts . Your fg% arguments sound flat out silly .

      • savvybynature - Apr 19, 2014 at 10:22 PM

        Citing factual shooting percentages is “flat-out silly”?
        OK, dude, whatever helps you sleep better at night. Crawford’s defense was spectacular again tonight against the Warriors btw 😉

  5. sellahh - Mar 26, 2014 at 12:27 PM

    Seems like in order to win 6MOY you have to be a 15-20 ppg wing scorer with no concience, who cares what other things you bring aye?
    I’d be pretty damn mad if I was Taj tbh.

    • savvybynature - Mar 26, 2014 at 1:46 PM

      It’s just one writer on one blog. He also said he thinks JR Smith was as valuable as Carmelo Anthony last season, so I wouldn’t put much stock into what he has to say.
      I agree with you though, Crawford gets his points on a ton of shots, doesn’t shoot efficiently, plays little defense, and does not get many assists. I have Manu then Taj, both make their team better instead of just trying to get theirs.

      • Savoir-Faire - Mar 26, 2014 at 8:11 PM

        Yeah because when CP went down for a month Crawford and Blake Griffith didnt carry the Clipps until he got back ?

        When Blake won player of the month who else was nominated

        Other nominees for Kia NBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Month were Brooklyn’s Deron Williams, Charlotte’s Al Jefferson, Chicago’s Joakim Noah, Houston’s James Harden and Dwight Howard, Indiana’s Paul George and David West, Clippers’ Jamal Crawford, Minnesota’s Kevin Love, Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, Phoenix’s Goran Dragic, Portland’s Damian Lillard, San Antonio’s Patty Mills, Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan and Washington’s John Wall.

        is that jamal Crawfords name in there ? YES IT IS But there are Spurs and Bulls nominated too is it Manu or Gibson . No its PATTY MILLS from the Spurs and Noah from Bulls.

        its amazing that anyone who actually watches a clippers game knows what you are saying about Crawford is not true

      • savvybynature - Mar 26, 2014 at 8:25 PM

        You’ve convinced me. Blake Griffith for 6th Man of the Year!

  6. jazynaz - Mar 26, 2014 at 6:24 PM

    and to think that before the season, the Warriors were hoping that harrison barnes would be a possibility for 6th man of the year consideration. wow, that was a long hard time/season ago! now imo they should get rid of him before he hurts the team any more…no drive, no energy, no impact, no 6th man!

    • nickjackalson - Mar 27, 2014 at 8:00 AM

      Dude, if I cut your cohones and asked you to father would have a long hard time, too..
      this is on Mark Jackson and the GSW-front office..last years in the playoffs Barnes was a player (favored by the oppossing teams defensive schemes, but still)
      than you jerk the young man around, take away his starting spot, cut his minutes and expect the best..
      how come that didn´t work out, I´m wondering??

  7. ranfan12 - Mar 26, 2014 at 6:39 PM

    Nick Young would’ve probably had it sealed had he been able to play in more games

    • nickjackalson - Mar 27, 2014 at 8:04 AM

      this must be a joke, right?
      Nick Young would be a great player if he could turn his childish “Swaggy P” act into “hard working P, like with a purpose”

Leave Comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. L. James (2066)
  2. D. Rose (1962)
  3. K. Bryant (1720)
  4. J. Smith (1614)
  5. K. Irving (1569)
  1. T. Thompson (1464)
  2. A. Davis (1427)
  3. T. Wroten (1377)
  4. J. Embiid (1310)
  5. F. Saunders (1270)