By Daron Grandberry on August 8, 2014
These players could start for most NBA teams, but instead they come off the bench to give their teams a much-needed spark. With the NBA season right around the corner, it's time to take a look at the league's top 10 sixth men.
Despite missing 17 games last season with a shoulder injury, Anderson Varejao played an important role off the bench for the Cleveland Cavaliers. In 65 games Varejao averaged 8.4 PPG, 9.7 RPG and 2.2 APG. With a new head coach and LeBron James returning to Cleveland, don't be surprised to see the rebounding forward step his production up next season.
Like Varejao, John Henson was plagued by a lingering ankle injury last season. In his second NBA season, Henson averaged 11.1 PPG, 7.1 RPG and 1.7 BPG for the Milwaukee Bucks. With the additions of Jabari Parker and Jason Kidd, Henson's mobility and ability to run the floor should allow the forward to see more time on the floor this season.
Although Vince Carter is not the same rim-rocking, high-flying basketball player we all remember him to be, the 16-year veteran continues to contribute in his new sixth man role. Last season Carter averaged 11.9 points and 3.5 rebounds per game while shooting 39 percent from behind the three-point line. Carter's new deal with the Memphis Grizzlies is reportedly for three years; will Carter play in his 40s?
In his first season as a member of the New Orleans Pelicans, Tyreke Evans had an up-and-down year that was hampered by injuries and a shooting slump that lasted longer than Evans would've liked. Despite a lackluster season, Evans averaged 14.5 PPG, 4.7 RPG and five assists. Expect Evans' numbers to improve in his second year in New Orleans.
For five seasons Taj Gibson has been the Bulls' best defender and offensive threat off the bench. Backing up Carlos Boozer has improved Gibson's offensive game, and he will continue to learn behind veteran forward Pau Gasol. For the first time since his rookie season, Gibson played in all 82 games and averaged a career-best 13 PPG to go along with 6.8 RPG. Gibson's production off the bench will be needed if the Bulls want to contend for a title.
During the absence of Kobe Bryant it was Nick Young who stepped up and took care of some of the scoring load for the struggling Los Angeles Lakers. In his first season back home in Los Angeles, Young averaged a career-best 17.9 PPG and 2.6 RPG. With Kobe expected to return this season, Young will have to average more than 1.5 assists per game. If both Kobe and Young can share the ball, the Lakers will surprise a lot of people this season.
In his third year, forward Markieff Morris had the best season of his young NBA career under first-year head coach Jeff Hornacek. Morris averaged 13.8 points and six rebounds per game in 26 minutes off the bench. If Morris can continue to improved his perimeter shooting and rebounding it will only be a matter of time before the 6-foot-10 forward is inserted into the starting lineup.
Last season Reggie Jackson emerged as a premier defender and scoring option for the Oklahoma City Thunder. After backing up Russell Westbrook and Thabo Sefolosha for the beginning of his career, Jackson emerged during the 2012-13 playoffs in Westbrook's absence. Last season Jackson averaged 13.1 PPG, 4.1 APG and 3.9 RPG. Don't be surprised to see Jackson starting alongside Westbrook this season.
A former Sixth Man of the Year and five-time NBA champion, Manu Ginobili has been an important piece to the San Antonio Spurs' championship success. During his 12-year NBA career, Ginobili has averaged 14.9 points, four assists and 3.8 rebounds per game. His pesky defense and clutch shooting has made him a fan favorite in San Antonio.
A two-time Sixth Man of the Year and one of the best bench players in NBA history, Jamal Crawford's ability to play both guard positions and put up a lot of points have easily made him one of Doc Rivers' favorite bench players. Despite coming off the bench Crawford averaged 18.6 PPG and 3.2 APG in 30 MPG. With players like Reggie Jackson and Markieff Morris expecting to start next season, Crawford is the early favorite to win 6th-Man of the Year.
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