The 6th man of the year award has always interested me. Players such as Jamal Crawford built their careers off of being elite bench players. Just last season Lou Williams nearly became an all-star coming off the bench. As the league has become more talented, good players have been forced into a bench role, but luckily many of them are thriving. This year’s 6th Man of the Year race may be as exciting as any other award besides MVP. Each player has a great story and has played terrific this year. Anyways, let’s get right into the 6th man of the year candidates.
Derrick Rose, Minnesota Timberwolves
Arguably the greatest comeback story of recent history, Derrick Rose has found a spot as an elite 6th man on the Timberwolves. So far this season he’s averaging 18.3 ppg, including a 50-point game and has shot a career-high 47.5% from three. His previous career-high from behind the arc was just 34%. The insane jump in his efficiency while being a critical piece to Minnesota’s success makes him more than worthy of a spot on the ballot.
If he wins the 6th man award this year, Rose will join James Harden and Bill Walton as the only winner of both an MVP and a 6th MOTY. After seeing his pre-injury potential it may seem disappointing for Rose to only be a 6th man, but, after everything he’s been through, becoming one of the best bench players in the NBA is nothing short of incredible. He has easily been one of the most valuable players to the Timberwolves, despite his bench role. This is highlighted by his 19.8 player efficiency rating, second-best on the team behind only Karl Anthony-Towns, as well as his team-high +/-, among players who have played over 400 minutes. Rose’s scoring ability and role in the Timberwolves’ success makes him a no-brainer as a 6th man candidate.
Julius Randle, New Orleans Pelicans
After the Lakers opted not to match the Pelicans 2-year $18 million offer to Julius Randle, Randle started the next chapter of his career. The former 8th-overall pick had struggled to find consistent success with the Lakers. Now, it seems as if he has finally figured it out. Every season Randle has managed to make some improvement to his game and this year has been no different. He currently holds career-high averages in points, field goal percentage, and 3-point percentage despite playing the second lowest minutes per game of his career. Not only has Randle became more effective and efficient in the post, but he is now a respectable shooter from behind the arc. Randle has quietly become one of the most talented big men in the NBA due to his all-around offensive game.
We all know Randle has always been a double-double machine (already 12 this season), but in his new role with the Pelicans, he’s been so much more. This season he has reached a new career-high in points in a game at 37 and has been great at pushing the pace for the Pelicans. His ability to rebound the ball and immediately push it up the court has been invaluable for the Pelicans. The developments he’s made as a player and the success he’s had in New Orleans makes him an obvious 6th Man of the Year candidate.
Lou Williams, Los Angeles Clippers
The 2-time 6th man of the year looks primed to make another run at the award. Following up a year in which he nearly made the all-star team despite coming off the bench the entire season, Williams has put up another impressive scoring season. He is currently the Clippers third-leading scorer at 17.6 points per game and has already hit a number of clutch shots this season. Although this year hasn’t been as impressive as the previous season, there was a reason I picked him to repeat as the 6th man of the year. He is undoubtedly the best closer on the team and the primary option when the game is on the line. Despite all of this, there are reasons he may not repeat.
The first reason is the rise of other elite bench players such as the other players mentioned in this article. Williams has been good this season, but there is a case the others, such as Derrick Rose, have been better. The next knock against Williams is his awful efficiency. In recent years, fans have paid much more attention to the value of efficient scoring. Williams may be scoring 17.6 points a game, but he is shooting under 40% from the field. Bench players face less scrutiny for lacking efficiency in their games, but when other players such as Randle are having career years in efficiency it’s hard to overlook. Williams definitely has a level of leadership no other bench player in the NBA offers, but he will face plenty of competition trying to repeat as 6th man of the year.
Dennis Schroder, Oklahoma City Thunder
Although Schroder was seen as an inefficient volume scorer on a bad team by some while he was with the Hawks, Schroder has been extremely valuable to the Thunder’s early success. He may not be an efficient player but has still been an effective scorer. Despite his low field goal percentage, Schroeder has offered valuable spacing, shooting 35.1% from behind the arc. Additionally, as the only shot creator on the Thunder bench, Schroeder has done a fantastic job, averaging 16.4 points per game and 5 assists per game. The 16-7 Thunder are a +7.5 when Schroeder is on the court, but the most impressive stat is his play with the bench.
His ability to lead a bench mob of Alex Abrines, Hamidou Diallo, Nerlens Noel, and Patrick Patterson to just -6.4 points per 100 possessions is incredible. Abrines is an above average shooter and Noel has been solid defensively, but OKC has one of the worst benches in the NBA if it weren’t for Schroder. Having a trustworthy ball handler when Paul George and Russell Westbrook are off the court has been a major improvement for the Thunder. His stats may not jump out at you, but Schroeder has been one of the best bench players in the league.
Who are your top picks for 6MOTY? Comment below or Contact Me!