Sixth Man Rankings: Championing Dallas’ second unit, Vince Carter is thriving

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As the Dallas Mavericks compete for one of the most competitive No. 8 seeds in NBA history, they’ve relied heavily on Vince Carter to provide veteran leadership and production to the team’s second lineup.

While he is the team’s sixth man by assignment, coach Rick Carlisle still considers him one of Dallas’ most important players. This is evident by Carter’s defined role in the final minutes of close games.

Carter is averaging nearly seven fourth-quarter minutes per game in 2013-2014, nearly two more minutes than he receives in any other quarter.

While his per game stats of 12.1 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists indicate that Carter’s a shell of the All-Star he used to be, it’s misleading to think that Carter is fading. When extended out to 36 minutes, Carter’s 17.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists show he’s still a versatile contributor.

Moreover, Carter’s playing like he embraces efficiency more than ever:

Over his last 20 games, Carter’s offensive rating has exceeded 110 points per 100 possessions.

This has done wonders for Dallas’ second unit. Reunited with former Nets teammate Devin Harris, the Mavericks’ bench has transformed from a weakness in recent years to a relative strength.

“As a whole, the five-man second unit of Devin Harris, Jae Crowder, Nowitzki, (Brandan) Wright, and Carter is scoring 117.4 points and allowing just 87.8 per 100 possessions this season, both elite marks. The unit’s 29.6 net rating — the difference between points scored and points allowed per 100 possessions — is 5th-best in the NBA since Jan. 18 among lineups with at least 50 minutes played. (Jan. 18 was Harris’s season debut.)” - Per Bobby Karalla of Mavs.com

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As you can see, Carter has found his comfort zones on the court. When Carlisle puts Carter alongside Dirk Nowitzki and Jose Calderon in the rotation, Dallas’ perimeter threats open up driving lanes for Monta Ellis.

On to the rankings.

RANK Player RUNDOWN RECENT
1 Phoenix Suns MARKIEFF MORRIS, F, PHOENIX: ”No player has logged more minutes as a reserve. Morris has averaged 16.7 points on a sterling .617 true shooting percentage since the break, all off the bench. Phoenix has outscored opponents with him on the floor in 16 of his last 23 outings.” – Bradford Doolittle 1
2 Taj Gibson headshot TAJ GIBSON, F, CHICAGO: Gibson has earned seven starts this season and looks poised to take over the role full time next season. In those seven games, Gibson has averaged 20.6 points and 9.7 rebounds. For this season, though, he still qualifies as a sixth man. 2
3 Oklahoma City Thunder REGGIE JACKSON, G, OKLAHOMA CITY: Took a few games off with a back injury but is still shooting better than 40% from deep on the month. 3
4 SAS_Ginobili_Manu MANU GINOBILI, G, SAN ANTONIO: San Antonio’s dominance has actually hurt Ginobili’s case. He’s averaging such few minutes over the team’s recent surge that his per game numbers now fail to tell the story of his on-court efficiency.  4
5 Dallas Mavericks Media Day 2013-2014 VINCE CARTER, G-F, DALLAS: He’s shooting 45% from deep since the All-Star Break, keeping the Mavericks in the fight for a spot in the playoffs.  
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DROPOUTS: Jamal Crawford (5).

FIVE TO WATCH: Alec Burks, G, Utah; Patty Mills, G, San Antonio; J.R. Smith, G, New York; D.J. Augustin, G, Chicago; Nick Young, G, LA Lakers.

OTHER RANKINGS: Rookie | Most Improved | MVP | Power

Jacob Eisenberg is a student at Emory University, spending the spring semester abroad in Brazil, and covers the NBA for SheridanHoops.com. Check out his website and click here to follow him on Twitter. 

Sixth Man Rankings: Taj Gibson pairing strong offense with elite defense

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question markLet’s play a quick game of “Name That Big Man”:

Since the All Star Break (nine games), Player A, an All-Star, has averaged 19.0 points on 51.6% shooting in 33 minutes per game.
Since the All Star Break (nine games), Player B, not an All-Star, has averaged 16.3 points on 51.3% shooting in 27 minutes per game.

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Sixth Man Rankings: Mike Scott of Hawks Has Become a Breakout Stretch Forward

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Mike ScottWhen forward Mike Scott came to Atlanta Hawks training camp in 2012, he was labeled by then-coach Larry Drew as “a solid pick-and-roll option.”

In other words, although Scott proved himself to be a legitimate offensive weapon in his five years at Virginia (medical redshirt in 2010), no one really expected him to develop into more than a decent midrange shooter at the next level.

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Sixth Man Rankings: People need to start paying attention to James Johnson

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James JohnsonI spoke with James Johnson at Atlanta Hawks media day back in October when he was just another former first-round pick trying to convince another team – his fourth, to be exact – that he was good enough for another shot.

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Sixth Man Rankings: Waiting on Russell Westbrook to determine the field

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JR SmithGood news, everyone: It’s too early to be a downer about the Sixth Man race.

While the candidates look admittedly boring today, we’re not even at the All-Star break yet. There are events coming in the not-so-distant future that will make this race exciting.

For now, the candidates just seem disappointing because we’re still spoiled from last year’s perfect storm.

In 2012-2013, we had J.R. Smith, Jamal Crawford and Jarrett Jack dueling it out for the top spot on a weekly basis. They were all indispensable sparkplug scorers for playoff-bound teams. They made the race fun by taking turns putting on memorable performances in the nationally televised regular season games. It became one of the most entertaining Sixth Man Award races in recent history because each candidate deserved so much consideration.

When 2013-2014 started, it looked like Smith, Crawford and Jack were going to have newfound competition from the likes of Tyreke Evans and Harrison Barnes.

Unfortunately, Evans has been nabbed by injuries all season and Barnes has simply failed to live up to his sophomore expectations.

Beyond the newcomers failing to meet their hype, the candidates we took for granted going into the season are currently off the radar this year.

Smith’s nightmare postseason from last year has flowed seamlessly into a nightmare regular season. While he’s slowly starting to turn it around (18.7 points over his last 10 games!), the hole he dug himself in the awards race (and with his own fans) appears too deep to overcome now.

Crawford was a promising candidate at the start of the year. He held control of the rankings for most of last season and looked poised to reclaim his spot atop the rankings for this season. However, in December he was inserted into the Clippers’ starting lineup to fill in for injuries. He has stayed in the starting lineup ever since.

Fortunately, Crawford figures to return to the bench soon as Chris Paul gets set to return to the court. Our award race will get instantly more compelling when Crawford gets more reps in from off the bench. But for at least one more week, he’s on the outside looking in.

Jack’s failure to recapture last year’s numbers has an obvious correlation to the team he’s currently playing for. Last year, with Golden State, he had an enviable role as the Warriors’ third guard. Surrounded by lethal shooters and playmakers, Jack thrived with newfound space and trust in the offense.

Now, playing in Cleveland, Jack’s team is horrendous and it’s affecting his abilities to contribute effectively. His scoring is down considerably (from 12.9 points to 8.9) and his distributing has been fallen off as well (from 5.6 assists to 3.7). While some projected him to be a favorite for the award entering the season, he now looks untradeable due to his enormous contract.

So as we stand here today, two weeks before the trade deadline, the fate of this year’s Sixth Man Award race hangs on the shoulders of Oklahoma City’s training staff.

When Russell Westbrook does return from injury, Reggie Jackson will instantaneously return to the top of rankings and serve as a worthy challenger to Markieff Morris (and hopefully Jamal Crawford).

Jackson has 26 starts on the season in comparison to only 25 games off the bench.

While Westbrook’s return date is undetermined, it looks like Jackson will return to his sixth man role sooner rather than later:

If this is true, we should expect to see a competitive and high quality race by early March. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Now, on to the rankings…

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