Sixth Man Rankings: Best Bench Players Igniting Surprise Teams

Growing up, fans are taught several “facts” about team sports.

It’s a fact that teamwork is better than selfish play. It’s usually a fact that a good defense beats a good offense. It’s a fact in baseball that last licks is more advantageous than leading off.

Perhaps no “fact” is more emphasized, however, than the notion that the best players in every sport always start.

In the NBA in 2013, that “fact” is fiction. It couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s no secret that coaches have found tangible advantages and have made concerted efforts to keep star players on the bench in an attempt to maximize energy boosts and insurance for when the starters’ fatigue sets in. Rest assured: hardly any sixth man is his team’s sixth-best player.

This leads me to the inaugural Sixth Man of the Year award rankings for the 2013-2014 season. Let me preface these rankings with some explanation of the criteria.

First and foremost, I place extreme importance on the success of the team when making these rankings. This is why Utah’s Alec Burks, who’s having a career year, is all but eliminated from candidacy.

Secondly, teams like Orlando (with Victor Oladipo and Andrew Nicholson) and Milwaukee (with Gary Neal and John Henson) are actually hurt in this ranking because (a) they’re not very good at the moment and (b) it’s unclear who is the actual sixth man.

Lastly, I’d like to clarify that any player who has started more games on the court than on the bench is automatically eliminated from candidacy – even if they were just filling in for an injured starter. And that’s not just my guideline. The NBA uses it, too.

On to the rankings. 

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