When the season began, most people expected to see the Heat, Thunder, and (oops!) Lakers compete for a title. They expected to see the Bobcats struggle.
This season, most people expected to see Kevin Durant and LeBron James in the MVP race. They expected to see Anthony Davis, Bradley Beal and Damian Lillard compete for Rookie of the Year. They expected to see guys like Manu Ginobili, Lou Williams and Jamal Crawford compete for the Sixth Man Award.
People are smart.
Some of these expectations and predictions that come from players, fans and media can be looked at as common sense as well. In the case of the Sheridan Hoops Sixth Man Award Rankings, one might argue that outside of perhaps J.R. Smith, the names on this week’s installment are ones that many would have expected to see stuffing the statsheets when the season began.
That is by no means to take away from the race; it is closer than ever, and there are guys that currently lie outside the top 5 that warrant consideration as well.
Like any other NBA season, with the expected also comes the unexpected, i.e. the struggles of the Lakers and ascension of the Warriors. In terms of this list, Smith’s emergence isn’t a total shocker, but it’s certainly not what people expected when he signed with the Knicks.
Since his arrival in New York, he has gone from inconsistent chucker to steady, reliable scorer off the bench who is able to completely change the tempo of an offense with his impact alone. All this, and he was only at no. 3 a week ago.
Our no. 1 last week was Jamal Crawford, the second-leading scorer on the Clippers. In almost every year of the franchise’s existence, that would have hurt him a lot more than it would have helped him. Not this season. In December, the Clippers went undefeated and have won 20 of their last 22 contests. Their 28-8 record is best in the NBA, and Crawford leading the NBA’s best bench is a big reason why.
What might also surprise some people more than the success of the Clippers is that the Joe Johnson-less Hawks currently sit at 20-14, fourth in the Eastern Conference. Along with the continued emergence of Josh Smith and the return of a healthy Al Horford, Lou Williams has been able soften the blow of losing Johnson. His scoring spark off the bench may be exactly what the Hawks needed to continue competing on a nightly basis with the league’s best teams.
Despite a recent four-game slide, the Hawks still stand to give themselves a good seed in the playoffs. From there, it’s all about avoiding the Heat as long as possible. But the Hawks will be there, and that certainly wasn’t expected.
The rankings have shuffled a bit from last week, and a new face emerges from the crowd. So, onto the rankings we go.