March is filled with sneaker-squeaking, channel-flicking, mini-hoop jamming madness. It’s a time when we fill out brackets until the blood from our paper cuts advances to the Sweet 16. We place an inordinate amount of self-worth into our clicker skills and hear buzzers sounding in our sleep. During media timeouts, we chase down the leftover pizza in the fridge down like LeBron James on a fast break.
In the NBA, March is a time when teams push for playoff positioning, and the league for some reason decides to put its best regular-season matchup in history up against the NCAA Tournament. In this column space, we feel like the world’s greatest league misses out on all of the madness.
So, for the first time ever, we introduce to you the Sixth Man Rankings Tournament. (I’m a genius. I know.)
In an effort to save space (and sanity), we’re limiting the field to 32 players (one automatic bid from each team and two at-large picks). They will be ranked based on their performance this season and will advance in the coming weeks based on how they are playing. Because it all comes down to March.
There will be upsets, buzzer-beaters and everything else that makes March Madness great. Except, you know, the actual games.
So without further adieu, let’s get to it! On to the rankings (er…bracket):
ROY TARPLEY REGION
1. Will Barton, Denver Nuggets: He’s the No. 1 overall seed in this tourney, ranking second on the Nuggs in points (14.7 ppg) and third in rebounding in 28 minutes per. It’s championship or bust for Barton.
16. Sean Kilpatrick, Brooklyn Nets: Only played in 10 games, but averaging 12 ppg. He’s like a small-conference winner who doesn’t really belong in this tourney–the Nets are like the NEC of the NBA.
RESULT: A 16-seed has never beaten a 1 in this tournament (nobody’s ever beaten anybody–we just started it), and it’s not going to happen here. Thanks for playing, Sean. And congrats on cracking the league.
8. Kelly Olynyk, Boston Celtics: It feels a little strange to talk about people as tournament seeds, but Olynyk just feels like a classic 8-seed in this event. Averaging 10 ppg, 4.3 rpg for the Celts.
RESULT: Olynyk has been solid all season long, but Gordon is really coming on strong. He pulls off the slight upset and advances to the second round.
5. Dennis Schroder, Atlanta Hawks: One of the better backup point guards in the league, and maybe the reason why Atlanta was rumored to be shopping Jeff Teague. Averaging 11.2 points and 4.5 assists in only 18 minutes.
12. Omri Casspi, Sacramento Kings: Putting up good numbers for the dreadful Kings (11.9 ppg, 6 rpg), and might be a better fit for this group on a consistent basis than Rudy Gay. Oh well. He earned one of the last at-large bids in this field.
RESULT: Having spent the last six months with the Kings, Casspi forgets how to win anything (dude loses solitaire games against the computer) and falls to Schroder in the first round.
13. J.J. Barea, Dallas Mavericks: He never made the tournament while at Northeastern, so this is JJB’s shot at March Madness. Averaging 9.8 ppg.
RESULT: Sorry JJB, but Northeastern doesn’t have much March tradition. Jim Calhoun ain’t walking through that door anymore. Mirotic moves on.
3. Darren Collison, Sacramento Kings: He’s averaging 13.6 ppg, third on the Kings, who – once again – are as disappointing as having Jesse from Breaking Bad as your son.
14. Terrence Ross, Toronto Raptors: We’re still waiting on that second 50-point game, but Ross is putting up 9.3 ppg off the bench for the Raps.
RESULT: UPSET CITY! Ross jumps all over Collison, forcing boneheaded turnovers and technical fouls from DeMarcus Cousins, who is sitting in the stands and watching. For real though, did you really think the Kings were going to win something? LOLOLOLOLOL
11. Matt Barnes, Memphis Grizzlies: Averaging 9.6 points and 0.29 vague Derek Fisher threats per game for the Grizz.
RESULT: Yo…we wouldn’t want to see either of these guys in a dark alley. Talk about a tough matchup. Can you guys tell Matt Barnes he lost for me? I just–I gotta write this next matchup, you know? Cool, thanks.
7. Lou Williams, Los Angeles Lakers: The Lakers’ leading non-Kobe scorer at 15.6 ppg. He’s done a nice job playing alongside DeAngelo Russell, though he’d be a better fit on a winner that needs some backcourt punch off the bench.
10. Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns: Phoenix is awful, but this kid is going to be good. Averaging 12.4 points and 2.4 assists in 26 minutes per game and shooting 36% from three.
RESULT: Williams is a terrific pure scorer, but Booker is an up-and-coming kid who can really shoot it well. He’s averaging 30-plus minutes in his last 10 games. Booker pulls the upset.
2. Zach LaVine, Minnesota Timberwolves: It’s not just dunk contests with LaVine anymore; the ultra-athletic point guard is improving greatly with the Wolves and is now the team’s third-leading scorer at 13.9 ppg.
15. Derrick Williams, New York Knicks: Got the Knicks’ automatic bid, averaging 8.8 ppg. Still haven’t seen the D-Will we saw at Arizona, when he was an All-American.
RESULT: We love Derrick Williams, but he’s no Middle Tennessee. LaVine puts him away like a windmill from the free throw line.
DETLEF SCHREMPF REGION
16. Ramon Sessions, Washington Wizards: The fact that Sessions (9.8 ppg) was the Wizards’ best candidate says everything you need to know about this team. It’s not like he’s a bad player, it’s just … they have no depth on that squad.
RESULT: You really think a 16 is going to take down a blueblood? Get outta here. Crawford moves on.
8. C.J. Miles, Indiana Pacers: Maybe Miles is under-seeded here? Averaging 11.5 points in 23 minutes for Indy.
9. Trey Burke, Utah Jazz: He probably never thought he’d be a nice backup when he was the ninth overall pick in the 2013 draft. But Burke has been solid off the bench in a cluttered Utah backcourt, putting up 10.6 ppg.
5. Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs: One of the greatest Sixth Man(s) (Sixth Men?) of all time, GINOBILIIII!!!! probably should have won this award more than once (in 2008), but life isn’t fair. This season, he is averaging 9.7 points in 50 games off the bench for the Spurs.
12. Stanley Johnson, Detroit Pistons: Averaging 8.6 points in 23-plus minutes as a rookie for the much-improved Pistons.
RESULT: This one was easy. Manu moves on. And a 12 isn’t taking down a 5 in this tourney.
13. Terrence Jones, Houston Rockets: Somehow was Houston’s best candidate; averaging 8.8 points for the underachieving Rockets.
RESULT: Thompson advances to set up a terrific second-round matchup with Ginobili. Maybe CBS will televise that one.
6. Jeremy Lin, Charlotte Hornets: Selection committee (Kels) almost downgraded him to a 16-seed based on the little-known horrendous-hairstyle seeding procedure. The NCAA actually uses it as well (why do you think St. Joe’s always gets shafted? Just stop the fight, Phil Martelli). Averaging 11.4 ppg for surging Charlotte.
11. Gerald Green, Miami Heat: Plays solid defense and adds scoring punch off the bench at 9.1 ppg.
RESULT: Green locks up Lin, shutting down the precocious Harvard grad and sending raucous Linsanity fans (his mom, one of his sisters who was free that day) home unhappy.
14. Jerryd Bayless, Milwaukee Bucks: Averaging 10.8 ppg. He beat out O.J. Mayo for the Bucks’ automatic bid.
RESULT: Bayless is no Stephen F. Austin. As Dickie V would say, Anderson marches on.
7. Allen Crabbe, Portland Trail Blazers: A solid defensive player and energy guy who’s been excellent backing up Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum in the Blazers’ backcourt. Averaging 10.2 ppg.
10. Cory Joseph, Toronto Raptors: Earns an at-large bid for the surprising Raps, checking in at 8.5 points and 3.5 assists per.
RESULT: Crabbe’s tough defense is enough to move him on to the next round.
2. Enes Kanter, Oklahoma City Thunder: The $70 million man is doing a nice job with this second unit, averaging 12.4 points and 7.8 rebounds. He hasn’t started once this season as Donovan has opted for “Game of Thrones” extra Steven Adams.
15. Isaiah Canaan, Philadelphia 76ers: The former Murray State star is averaging 10.8 points with the Sixers, who probably have one dude (Jahlil Okafor) who could start on half the teams in the NBA.
RESULT: Canaan to the left of them! Canaan to the right of the — sorry, I just always wanted to do that. Kanter moves on.
That’s enough excitement for one column. The tournament resumes in two weeks.
ALSO FROM KELS DAYTON: MOST IMPROVED RANKINGS