I’ve only been writing about the Sixth Man award for six weeks, and like an NBA player coming off the bench, I feel like I’m just starting to find my rhythm, and coach is taking me out again. The season is just too short (said no one ever).
In the last edition of the Sixth Man Rankings, we reached our Sixth Man Sweet 16, which is actually only eight because we started with 32 and not 64. Math is fun-damental. Also, I’m not very bright. It only seems appropriate that this tournament should determine our Sixth Man champion, so let’s finish out this column right–and then completely lose momentum over the summer and start from square one next year! Like your team.
1. Will Barton defeats 4. Nikola Mirotic
True to his 1-seed, Barton locks down Mirotic on defense (he’s better on that end of the floor), and ends the high-scoring forward’s run. Kind of a metaphor for the Bulls’ season, huh?
10. Devin Booker defeats 6. Andre Iguodala
Booker has been on fire coming off the Suns’ bench (not even a pun), averaging 20 ppg over the last two months. We like Iguodala, and he’s been important to Golden State, but he just doesn’t have the numbers this season (7.2 ppg, 12.4 PER) to justify winning the award.
1. Jamal Crawford defeats 4. Tristan Thompson
J-Crossover (that’s his nickname, I guess) has been more consistent than Thompson, and how can you blame him when Thompson has to deal with LeBron’s mood swings every other day? Is he still following me? Did he intentionally ignore my Snapchat? What’s that hashtag mean? I mean, come on.
2. Enes Kanter defeats 11. Gerald Green
Imagine how good Kanter could be if he played defense.
Will Barton defeats Devin Booker
Booker’s been hot lately (again, not a Suns pun) (didn’t mean to make that rhyme either), but Barton has been delivering the goods all season for the Nuggs. He moves on, though look at Booker’s rookie ranking. Damn, Devin.
Jamal Crawford defeats Enes Kanter
Crawford gets the nod because he brings more to his team than Kanter, especially on D.
Will Barton defeats Jamal Crawford
In a battle of heavyweights, Barton prevails. We’ll explain below, in our final poll–er–rankings:
1. Will Barton, G, Denver Nuggets: We’re endorsing Barton, who also finished in the top five in our Most Improved Rankings, to win the award. He’s the candidate of the future, and he’s already having a better season than Crawford. His PER is higher (16.22 to 13.93), and he’s got better numbers across the board: 14.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 2.5 apg to 14.1, 1.8 and 2.3. Sure, the Clippers are going to benefit more from Crawford’s performance (they went 30-15 without Blake Griffin), but that’s because they’re a better team. Watch out for the Nuggs, though: they’ve earned trivia answer status as the only team in the league to beat both the Warriors and the Spurs this season. The Nuggets are still a little raw–but they’re getting warmer, and crispier–while baking in the 360-degree oven of the NBA. Mmmm.
2. Jamal Crawford, G, L.A. Clippers: J-Crossover has a chance to become the first player ever to win the Sixth Man three times, which, as we’ve mentioned before, would make him the Sixth Man OG. He’s got the numbers to win this award (14.1 ppg, 40% FG, 91.3% FT), and is undoubtedly one of the best bench players in the league. We wouldn’t be mad if he won this award, but we think the young guy on the worse team should get some love.
3. Zach LaVine, G, Minnesota Timberwolves: He’s more than just a dunker. LaVine has been terrific for the Wolves off the bench this season, averaging 13.9 points, 3.1 assists and 2.8 boards in 28 minutes per game. The kid just turned 21 a month ago, and if he continues to develop and improves his shot, LaVine is without a doubt one of the key pieces that may make Minnesota a contender in the not-too-distant future. We all saw what happened in Oakland on April 5, and if the Wolves make a playoff push next season, we’ll remember their 17-point comeback and overtime win over the Warriors as their coming-of-age moment. Sure, this team’s future success will depend on Andrew Wiggins, Karl Anthony-Towns and maybe Ricky Rubio, but LaVine is a terrific young piece, too.
4. Enes Kanter, F/C, Oklahoma City Thunder: The big man comes in fourth on our ballot after averaging 12.8 points and 8 boards in just 20 minutes per game. He’s definitely an offensive threat, but if he wants to play more (and start under Billy Donovan), he’s going to have to start playing some defense. He’ll probably never do enough to justify that four-year, $70 million contract, though. Unless, of course, Kevin Durant stays, and tearfully points him out in his re-introductory press conference, claiming Kanter was “The Real Sixth Man.”
5. Ryan Anderson, F, New Orleans Pelicans: He only made it to the second round of our tournament, but hey, upsets happen, right? Anderson is once again quietly having a terrific season, ranking second on the Pelicans in scoring at 17 points per game. He’s also putting up 6 boards in 30 minutes per. It’s been a disastrous season for the Pelicans, but you can’t blame Anderson for that.