Sixth Man Award Watch

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Jamal Crawford is leading all NBA reserves in scoring this season and should be well on his way to his second Sixth Man of the Year Award. That is unless he ends up starting too many games.

Jamal Crawford of the Los Angeles Clippers would seem to be well-positioned to win the second Sixth Man Award of his NBA career. Actually, well-positioned isn't strong enough -- he ought to be a lock.

No Sixth Man Award winner in NBA history has ever come from a team with a losing record. Dell Curry of the original Charlotte Hornets is the only one to come from a team that missed the playoffs 20 years ago, but the Hornets did manage a 41-41 record that season. So you can forget about reserves like Nick Young of the Lakers and Rodney Stuckey in Detroit.

Meanwhile, award voters in general, and Sixth Man Voters in particular, are somewhat obsessed with points. Since 1996, only one SMOY has averaged fewer than 13 points per game. Put another way, Crawford is averaging just shy of 19 points per game this season. In the history of the league, nine players before Jamal have averaged that much in a bench role. Six of them won the award and two more lost to someone else who scored more per game that year.

With that in mind, here's the list of sixth men from teams with winning records, sorted by points per game, as of today.

Name

Team

G

GS

MP

PER

PPG

Jamal Crawford

LAC

60

23

30.7

17.7

19.0

Reggie Jackson

OKC

61

30

28.5

14.9

13.4

Taj Gibson

CHI

60

8

29.1

16.2

13.3

Markieff Morris

PHO

59

0

25.8

18.2

13.2

Jeremy Lin

HOU

50

25

29.7

13.7

12.4

Manu Ginobili

SAS

49

2

23.3

19.8

12.1

Vince Carter

DAL

60

0

24.3

16.6

11.9

Andray Blatche

BRK

52

6

22.1

20.2

11.8

Marco Belinelli

SAS

59

22

25.3

15.5

11.6

D.J. Augustin

CHI

50

9

25.9

15.0

11.3

Martell Webster

WAS

57

13

28.9

12.3

10.6

Darren Collison

LAC

62

21

23.6

16.5

10.3

Courtney Lee

MEM

56

24

24.0

15.8

10.1

Marcus Morris

PHO

60

0

22.1

15.6

10.1

Harrison Barnes

GSW

57

16

28.5

10.4

10.1

Patrick Mills

SAS

60

1

18.5

18.8

10.0

Crawford is the best scoring sixth man in the league, and it's not even close. Among those on winning teams, Reggie Jackson is second in scoring at just 13.4 points per game.

Manu Ginobili of the Spurs, like Crawford a former SMOY winner and a specialist at the art of coming off the bench, has a higher PER than Crawford and will certainly get some votes, at least in part because, hey, he's Manu Ginobili. But it would be difficult to imagine a SMOY in 2014 at around 12 points per game -- it's been 13 years since a player won the award scoring so few points, and when Aaron McKie of the 76ers won the award in 2001 the highest scoring sixth man in the league was Steve Smith of Portland at 13.6 ppg. It's one thing to pass over a 13.6 per game scorer for an 11.6 scorer with a well-rounded game. To pass over a guy averaging 19 for someone averaging 12? Well, it's never happened before, but I suppose there's a first time for everything.

Taj Gibson of the Bulls will get some attention as well. Chicago has overachieved in the wake of Derrick Rose's injury and the trade of Luol Deng and Gibson is a great rebounder and defender who also happens to be among the better bench scorers. Still, it's difficult to imagine a 13.3 ppg scorer winning out over a 19 ppg scorer given the history of the award.

Reggie Jackson is the other name that will get attention, by virtue of his role on a good team and the way in which he filled in for an All Star this season. However, if the knock on Crawford is that he scores but he's not very efficient, it would be impossible to justify voting for Jackson, a less efficient, less prolific scorer. (I say it's impossible to justify, but plenty of voters will have Jackson ahead of Crawford on their ballot; this award votes can be truly bizarre at times.)

There is one thing that could keep Crawford from winning the SMOY award: Redick's bulging disc

So it certainly seems that based on historical precedent, Crawford is the clear choice this season. There is however one thing that could keep him from winning his second SMOY and becoming the first player ever to win it for two different teams: J.J. Redick's bulging disc. In order to qualify for the SMOY award, a player must come off the bench in more games than he starts -- that's the only requirement. If you play in all 82 of your team's games, and you start 41 of them, you're not eligible for the award. If you start 40, then you are eligible.

Crawford has come off the bench 37 times so far this season and missed the last two games, meaning that the maximum he could play in is 80. But he'll be back in the lineup sooner than Redick, and when he does return, he'll in all likelihood be the starter again. Doc Rivers would dearly love to move Crawford back to the bench and give his underpowered second unit a shot in the arm, but the experiment of starting Willie Green earlier in the season did not work out very well and the Clippers have been much better with either Redick or Crawford in the first five.

The Clippers are being very cautious with Redick's back issues. I still believe that he'll be available in the playoffs, but I can envision a scenario in which the team is playing well and they choose not to risk J.J.'s health in the regular season. If Redick sits the rest of the season and Crawford starts in his place, it will take him out of contention for the sixth man award.

Crawford needs to make four more appearances off the bench this season to ensure his eligibility for the award. If he misses another game completely (for instance if he sits out against the Lakers) then that magic number reduces to three bench appearances. (He'd have to miss seven more games to become eligible with his current 37 bench appearances, but obviously we all hope and expect that he'll be back before that.)

Would Rivers consider bring him off the bench specifically to qualify him for the award? If it came down to the final three games of the season, with Crawford having started 39 games and come off the bench in 37, would Rivers start Darren Collison and insert Crawford at the first dead ball? We don't know how important this award is to Crawford, but if it was something he cared about, I could see that happening.

Hopefully it won't come to that. The win-win scenario for all involved is that Redick returns in plenty of time to get some regular season games in, returning Crawford to his preferred bench role, which will then qualify him for the Sixth Man Award. As long as he's eligible, the award should be his.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Clips Nation

You must be a member of Clips Nation to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Clips Nation. You should read them.

Join Clips Nation

You must be a member of Clips Nation to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Clips Nation. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9347_tracker