NBA 2012-13: The Year of the Sixth Man (Top 10 Candidates)
NBA 2012-13: The Year of the Sixth Man (Top 10 Candidates)
The 2012-13 NBA Season is becoming the Year of the Sixth Man. It seems as though teams can’t take that step from good to elite without having a stud coming off of the bench.
James Harden, the winner of the last year’s award, was traded from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Houston Rockets, where he is now starting at SG. Harden’s departure from the Thunder, and the bench, has left the race wide open for potential Sixth Man of the Year Candidates.
The New York Knicks are the only undefeated team in the NBA (3-0), and that is due largely to their depth. In my countdown, I have included two Knickerbockers that could be in line for the award at the end of the season.
Six of my Top 10 Candidates are on a new team this year than they were last year. This is why the off season is so important in the NBA- teams get better not only with signings like the Miami Heat netting LeBron James three years ago, but also with acquisitions like the Heat signing Ray Allen this past off season.
Another trend that I noticed among my picks is that they each have a specific role on their respective teams. 3PT shooter, scorer, distributor, defensive stopper, etc; every player is different and has a unique responsibility to their team, which makes it hard to choose one top candidate. However, I am happy with my list, and I’d love to have every one of these guys on my team.
10. Steve Novak - New York Knicks
If you didn’t know, I am a New York Knicks fan. But that isn’t the reason why I have selected two members of the Knicks as candidates for Sixth Man of the Year (spoiler alert: my other, more likely, pick is J.R. Smith).
Steve Novak is the best 3PT shooter in the NBA. He led the league in 3PT% last season with a staggering 47.2%. He went from no-name player to folk hero, as he ignited fan craziness in Madison Square Garden with his trademark “Discount Triple Check” title belt celebration after hitting big shots. He only averaged 8.8 PPG last season, but that was with Carmelo Anthony acting as PG for half of the year, and Jeremy Lin taking the point for the second half of the season.
Will Novak win the award? Probably not. The reason that I include him is because he is such a valuable asset to the Knicks offense. Smith is a great spark off the bench, but he can also shoot his team out of the game and turn the ball over. Novak is a sure bet to hit a couple threes each game, and with Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd dishing him the ball this season, I don’t see a reason why his scoring can't climb between 12-14 PPG.
9. Thaddeus Young - Philadelphia 76ers
Thaddeus Young is a physical specimen. The 24 year-old Georgia Tech native is a beast, and fears no one on the court. He will play a big part in whether the Philadelphia 76ers climb up the Eastern Conference this season.
The appealing aspect of Young as far as winning the Sixth Man of the Year award is the fact that he can sub in for either Forward position, whether it be Evan Turner at SF or Spencer Hawes at PF. Young is an efficient scorer (averaging 14.3 PPG on 7-12 shooting in 2012-13), solid rebounder (21 through 3 games), and a fearless defender (played the best defense of any 76er against the red-hot Carmelo Anthony in back to back losses to the New York Knicks).
Young is a scrapper, and brings it every night. He won’t light up the box score, but he will give it his all each game, and could make a case for the Sixth Man of the Year.
8. Ryan Anderson - New Orleans Hornets
Ryan Anderson has been starting for the New Orleans Hornets this season, but that has been due to injuries. Once everyone returns to full health, the Forward spots will be locked up by Anthony Davis and Al-Farouq Aminu, and the Center spot will be filled by Robin Lopez. That leaves Anderson as the top threat coming off the bench for a young, revived New Orleans team.
Last season, before signing with New Orleans in the off season, Anderson was named the Most Improved Player of the Year for the Orlando Magic. While Dwight Howard attracted double teams on nearly every possession, Anderson took full advantage and knocked down 39% of his 3PTA and dropped 16.1 PPG.
Anderson will definitely have to shoot his way into the top ranks of sixth men in the NBA, but with a young team of Anthony Davis, Austin Rivers, and Eric Gordon commanding defense’s attention, he should get plenty of looks.
Anderson could go from Most Improved Player in 2011-12 to Sixth Man of the Year in 2012-13. If the trend keeps up, he could be MVP of 2013-14 (Just kidding!).
7. Manu Ginobili - San Antonio Spurs
It seems that the Sixth Man of the Year award is associated with Manu Ginobili. Why is that? Well, for starters, he won the award in 2007 as a member of the San Antonio Spurs, and he encompasses what the prototypical sixth man should be.
Ginobili is a wily scorer, passer, defender, and always seems to leave defenders with a confused look on their face. He won’t hesitate to take a shot that makes fans scratch their heads, but usually those shots go in. Bringing his European (he is from Argentina) game to America, Ginobili is very difficult for opposing coaches to prepare against. His nightly offensive bursts include 3PTers, slashes to the basket, and his ability to get the call from referees. He is renowned as one of the biggest “floppers” in the NBA.
Ginobili’s injuries could hamper his chances at reclaiming the award that he made famous in 2007-08. He was held out of the Spurs’ last two games with a back injury, and missed nearly half of the 2011-12 season due to a broken hand and an oblique strain. If Ginobili is healthy, however, he is one of the deadliest and most efficient players coming off the bench in the league.
6. Jason Terry - Boston Celtics
With Ray Allen leaving town, Jason Terry will settle nicely into what was supposed to be Allen’s role for the Boston Celtics. He will come off the bench, backing up Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley/Courtney Lee at the PG or SG spot.
Terry was a vital part of the Dallas Mavericks championship run two seasons ago, and this year he is looking to help push Boston to the top of the Eastern Conference. Although he is currently averaging only 8 PPG and 2 APG, those numbers will go up as he builds chemistry with his new team, especially Rondo, who could be an early MVP Candidate for 2012-13.
Terry signed with Boston this off season because he is nearing the end of his career (35 years old), and he feels that his experience will help push the Celtics up the East, which is shaping up to be a stacked conference. He chose Boston over other teams because of something else, too. He wants to win. “My mission is to kill; whether it’s the Heat, whether it’s the Lakers. Hopefully both. That’s my mission, and that’s what I’m here to do,” he said.
With that mentality, don’t count Terry out of the running for Sixth Man of the Year.
5. Kevin Martin - Oklahoma City Thunder
Reigning Sixth Man of the Year James Harden was traded to the Houston Rockets before the start of the 2012-13 season. The Oklahoma City Thunder, in turn, received Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb, as well as future draft picks.
Imagine the Thunder having the Sixth Man of the Year two years in a row, but it not being the same player. That’s a cool thought, and it’s actually a strong possibility.
Kevin Martin can shoot the lights out of any gym, and he is a threat to score the moment he steps off the bus. The only thing is, that’s about all Martin does. For example, in the Thunder’s opening game, Martin hit 8-11 shots for 28 points, had 1 rebound, and no assists. That’s what you’re getting with Martin, and OKC knows that.
Martin’s offensive heavy game could put him in line for the award this season, especially if the Thunder claim the top spot in the Western Conference.
4. Ray Allen - Miami Heat
Ray Allen is the greatest 3PT shooter in NBA history. LeBron James is best basketball player on the planet, not only because of his scoring, but because of his ability to make his teammates better. Talk about a perfect match, right?
Well, it certainly would appear to be perfect. Over the off-season, Allen left the Boston Celtics and took less money to sign with the NBA Champion Miami Heat. He would have been coming off the bench for Boston, which was a role that he didn’t want. He figured that if he were to have to come in as a reserve, he might as well play for the best team possible in hopes of adding another championship to an already decorated career.
Allen is averaging 15.5 PPG and 3 APG, but those numbers will increase as he finds his spot in the offense.
With time running down in the 4th Quarter against the Denver Nuggets this season, the Heat inbounded with 14.1 seconds remaining, down 116-115. James took the ball from the top of the key and drove the lane as Allen floated to the corner. James was doubled and kicked it out to Allen, who buried a 3PT shot with a foul, and then hit the free throw to seal the game with 6 seconds left.
Don’t expect that to be the only time Allen drills a big shot this season for the Heat. The rich just get richer.
3. Lou Williams - Atlanta Hawks
Lou Williams, or “Sweet Lou” as Knicks announcer Walt Clyde Frazier called him, is one of my favorite players to watch in the NBA. The SG provides the Atlanta Hawks with instant offense, and often leads the team scoring. Last season, he led the Philadelphia 76ers in PPG with 14.9.
This season, Williams is averaging 20.5 PPG for Atlanta, where he has a similar role that he did in Philly. He was drafted out of high school, and although he has 7 years of league experience, he is only 26 years old. Williams stands at 6’1 and weighs 175 pounds, but doesn’t let his size get in the way of lighting it up every night.
If Williams continues to drop 20+ PPG, he will be right at the top of the discussion for Sixth Man of the Year. I just can’t help but root for Sweet Lou.
2. Jamal Crawford - Los Angeles Clippers
Jamal Crawford can light it up on any given night, in any arena, against any team. It’s just that simple.
Crawford signed with the Los Angeles Clippers this off-season, joining Chris Paul and Blake Griffin in red, blue, and white. After bouncing around from the New York Knicks to the Atlanta Hawks to the Portland Trailblazers in the past four seasons, Crawford signed with L.A., aiming to bring his offensive prowess off the bench for an already talented team.
This season, Crawford has posted ridiculous numbers. He dropped 27 points in a losing effort in the second game of the year, 21 in the third, and 29 in the last game against the Memphis Grizzlies. He is averaging 24.0 PPG, and with CP3 facilitating him, there is no reason for those numbers to drop.
Look for Crawford to continue lighting up the league for the rest of the season, be among the leaders of the debate for Sixth Man of the Year.
1. J.R. Smith - New York Knicks
J.R. Smith will be a consistent scorer this year for a New York Knicks team that is looking like one of the best squads in the young season.
The 27 year-old New Jersey native often takes shots that make you jump up and say, “Why J.R.!?” but then the shot goes in, and you swallow your pride and say, “Good shot, Smith.” His bold shot selection looks to be brought back down to Earth this season, due largely to the influence of his head coach. Mike Woodson loves Smith’s game, and has always supported him through thick and thin since he took over as coach last season. Because of this, Smith has bought into Woodson’s team concept this season.
The Knicks have had great ball distribution thanks to the crafty veteran, Jason Kidd, and the young stud, Raymond Felton. Smith no longer has to worry about satisfying his teammates by trying to be something he is not- a good passer. He can now look to score, but in each game NY has player so far, he has hit the open man (13 assists in 3 games).
Smith will play a huge role in a deep Knicks team that is shaping up to be one of the best New York has seen in a long time.
Follow Thomas Duffy on Twitter @TD_Knicks for articles, news, and all things NBA.