NBA Sixth Man of the Year: Top Five Early Candidates

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2013-14 NBA Sixth Man of the Year: Top 5 Early Candidates

2013-14 NBA Sixth Man of the Year: Top 5 Early Candidates
Brad Penner - USA Today Sports Images

J.R. Smith is the reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year after a year when he was arguably the second-most important player for the New York Knicks. Coming off of the bench in all 80 games that he played, Smith averaged 18.1 points and 5.3 boards per game while shooting a decent 42.2 percent overall and 35.6 percent from three.

Through the start of the 2013-14 season, though, Smith has looked about as far away from Sixth Man of the Year as he possibly could. After starting the season serving a suspension, Smith hasn’t had much success at all. In 19 games, he’s averaging just 10.5 points per game on only 33.6 percent shooting from the field. Moreover, the Knicks have even taken him out of his sixth man role lately to try and get Smith jump-started this year.

If Smith continues to play like this, he’s certainly not going to be the first back-to-back winner of the award since Detlef Schrempf from in the 1990-1991 and 1991-1992 seasons. As a result, the award is up for grabs this year.

Recent developments throughout the league have also made the award even more up for grabs. With Anthony Davis injured and out for a while, Ryan Anderson might not be eligible for the award as a player has to come off the bench in more games than he starts to qualify. Moreover, Greivis Vasquez being traded away from the Sacramento Kings has put Isaiah Thomas in the starting lineup, which will more than likely render him ineligible for the award, even though he’d likely be the favorite if he were still coming off of the bench.

Even with Anderson and Thomas, two guys who would undoubtedly be in contention to take home the honor, seemingly out of the race, there are plenty of candidates that have a solid case to make for being the league’s Sixth Man of the Year. Here are the top five candidates through the early going of this season.

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5. Alec Burks - Utah Jazz G

5. Alec Burks - Utah Jazz G
Russell Isabella - USA Today Sports Images

Because he’s putting up his production for the Utah Jazz, arguably the worst team in the league right now, many people haven’t noticed the high level that third-year guard Alec Burks has been playing at. In 27.1 minutes per game, the guard is averaging a solid 12.9 points, 2.6 assists and 2.8 rebounds per game with solid percentages of 43.1 from the floor and 34 from long-distance. While Burks may not be putting up the biggest stats, his play has been a bright spot for the Jazz in the abyss that has been the start to their season.

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4. Markieff Morris - Phoenix Suns F

4. Markieff Morris - Phoenix Suns F
Jennifer Stewart - USA Today Sports Images

While Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic are deservedly getting the headlines regarding the Phoenix Suns’ shocking start to the season, Markieff Morris has been a force off of the bench. Playing 25.8 minutes per night, Morris has averaged 12.5 points, six boards and 0.9 steals per game on solid 49.5 percent shooting and knocking down 33.3 percent of his rare three-point attempts. Morris has been a spark on the glass and offensively as sort of a stretch four with the Suns and, though they might still be better than expected, Phoenix wouldn’t be as good as they have been without Morris’ solid play.

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3. Manu Ginobili - San Antonio Spurs G

3. Manu Ginobili - San Antonio Spurs G
Soobum Im - USA Today Sports Images

I’ll be the first to admit that the 2013 NBA Playoffs had me writing off Manu Ginobili. However, he’s come out this season and looked rejuvenated for the San Antonio Spurs. Ginobili has affected the game all over the floor, putting up solid numbers offensively, on the glass and defensively this season. Perhaps time and age will catch up with Manu as the season rolls on, but he’s been great through the part of the year that’s been played out.

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2. Jamal Crawford - Los Angeles Clippers G

2. Jamal Crawford - Los Angeles Clippers G
Jayne Kamin-Oncea - USA Today Sports Images

Personally, Jamal Crawford would have gotten my vote for Sixth Man of the Year over Smith last season. I thought the way he played off of the bench as the Los Angeles Clippers’ only real consistent option off of the bench was phenomenal and that his consistency gave him the edge over Smith. Though he’s no longer the only option on the wings now, he’s still having a great year with the Clips, averaging 16 points, 2.5 assists and 2.4 rebounds per game this year. Even at 33 years old, Crawford is still getting it done and in contention for his second time being the Sixth Man of the Year.

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1. Reggie Jackson - Oklahoma City Thunder G

1. Reggie Jackson - Oklahoma City Thunder G
Daniel Shirey - USA Today Sports Images

Many people wondered who would step up off of the bench for the Oklahoma City Thunder after the departure of Kevin Martin this summer and Reggie Jackson has answered the call. Though Jeremy Lamb has been solid as well off of the bench, Jackson has been a force as a reserve, averaging 12 points, 3.5 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 0.9 steals in just 24.6 minutes per game while also shooting an impressive 47.3 percent from the floor. He’s exciting, young, and would get my vote as Sixth Man of the Year if the season ended today.

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