Sixth Man Award Update

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

As the season winds down, coaches start lobbying for their players to win awards. Will Jamal Crawford of the Clippers win the Sixth Man Award for the second time? He will if history is any guide.

Every NBA season there's a certain amount of lobbying by organizations for their guys to win awards. That lobbying is getting started for the Sixth Man Award, as coach Tom Thibodeau of the Chicago Bulls recently made the case for his guy, Taj Gibson. Doc Rivers of the Los Angeles Clippers came back with a comment endorsing his guy, Jamal Crawford.

(Coincidentally, Thibodeau was an assistant under Rivers in Boston and the two are close friends.)

A little over a month ago I made the case for Crawford, saying that the only real obstacle between him and the award was the eligibility requirement concerning starting fewer than half of the games in which he appears. At the time Crawford was healthy and in the starting lineup for the injured J.J. Redick, but Jamal has dealt with his own injury issues since and has come off the bench when he has played, and several weeks ago he assured his eligibility. The bigger issue now might simply be the injury itself -- will missing so much time, particularly at the end of the season when awards are on the minds of voters, hurt his chances?

In trying to be as objective and thorough as possible, I decided to go through all of the reasonable candidates for the award this season. Beginning with the assumption that a Sixth Man Award winner would have to at least get on the floor a lot, I began with all of the the eligible players (i.e. they have started fewer than half of the games in which they have appeared) who have played at least 1,000 minutes this season. That gave me a list of 95 players.

Next I eliminated all of the players from teams with losing records; as I explained last time, no Sixth Man Award winner has ever come from a team with a losing record, and the emphasis on team success is certainly not a trend that is abating. Narrowing the search to just the reserves on teams with winning records yields 43 candidates.

What next? If you look at the history of the Sixth Man Award, there's one statistic that stands out as being the most important: scoring. Nine of the last 12 Sixth Man winners were the top scoring reserves in the league the year they won. All 12 of them were among the top three in scoring, and within a point or two of the leader's average. So in most cases, you don't have to look beyond simple points per game. In fact, J.R. Smith won the award last season despite being far less efficient as a scorer than Crawford while also scoring fewer points per minute. In real estate it's location, location and location. In Sixth Man voting, it's scoring, scoring and scoring. Or at least it always has been.

Per 36

Per Game

Player

Tm

G

GS

MP

FG

FGA

3P

3PA

FT

FTA

ORB

DRB

TRB

AST

STL

BLK

TOV

PTS

FG%

2P%

3P%

FT%

TS%

PTS

MP

PER

Jamal Crawford

LAC

66

23

2003

7.3

17.4

2.8

7.7

4.7

5.5

0.6

2.1

2.7

3.8

1.0

0.2

2.3

22.1

0.42

0.46

0.36

0.86

0.56

18.6

30.3

17.4

Markieff Morris

PHO

76

0

2009

6.8

14.0

0.6

1.9

4.5

5.6

2.4

5.8

8.2

2.4

1.2

0.8

2.5

18.7

0.49

0.51

0.32

0.79

0.57

13.7

26.4

18.5

Reggie Jackson

OKC

74

34

2137

6.4

14.6

1.3

3.8

2.5

2.8

0.7

4.3

5.0

5.2

1.4

0.1

2.7

16.6

0.44

0.48

0.33

0.90

0.53

13.3

28.9

15.3

Taj Gibson

CHI

77

8

2216

6.6

13.7

0.0

0.1

3.2

4.3

3.1

5.6

8.6

1.4

0.6

1.7

2.2

16.5

0.48

0.49

0.00

0.75

0.53

13.2

28.8

16.4

D.J. Augustin

TOT

67

9

1815

5.4

13.1

2.4

6.0

3.7

4.1

0.3

2.1

2.4

6.0

1.0

0.1

2.2

17.0

0.42

0.42

0.41

0.89

0.57

12.8

27.1

16.4

Jeremy Lin

HOU

66

30

1930

5.1

11.5

1.3

4.0

3.8

4.7

0.6

2.7

3.2

5.2

1.1

0.5

3.1

15.4

0.44

0.50

0.34

0.82

0.57

12.5

29.2

14.1

Manu Ginobili

SAS

64

3

1462

6.9

14.6

2.1

6.0

3.9

4.5

0.7

4.0

4.8

6.8

1.6

0.4

3.2

19.7

0.47

0.56

0.35

0.85

0.60

12.5

22.8

20.6

Vince Carter

DAL

77

0

1876

6.0

14.8

2.7

6.8

3.1

3.7

1.3

3.9

5.2

3.9

1.1

0.7

2.0

17.8

0.41

0.42

0.40

0.83

0.54

12.1

24.4

16.3

Marco Belinelli

SAS

76

24

1909

6.1

12.4

2.3

5.2

1.9

2.2

0.3

3.8

4.1

3.3

0.9

0.1

1.7

16.4

0.49

0.53

0.44

0.85

0.61

11.5

25.1

15.4

Darren Collison

LAC

76

34

1956

5.7

12.1

1.3

3.3

3.3

3.9

0.8

2.4

3.1

5.1

1.7

0.3

2.3

16.0

0.47

0.50

0.39

0.85

0.58

11.4

25.7

16.4

Andray Blatche

BRK

70

6

1553

7.2

15.0

0.3

1.1

3.7

5.0

2.7

5.9

8.6

2.5

1.6

0.9

2.3

18.3

0.48

0.49

0.27

0.74

0.53

11.3

22.2

19.0

Jordan Crawford

TOT

76

35

1773

6.1

14.9

1.7

5.4

2.8

3.3

0.5

3.0

3.5

5.6

0.9

0.1

2.6

16.8

0.41

0.46

0.32

0.86

0.51

10.9

23.3

14.2

Patrick Mills

SAS

77

1

1428

7.3

15.6

3.2

7.5

1.7

2.0

0.9

3.2

4.1

3.5

1.7

0.2

1.5

19.5

0.47

0.52

0.42

0.89

0.59

10.1

18.5

19.1

Martell Webster

WAS

73

13

2054

4.3

9.9

2.5

6.2

1.7

2.0

0.6

3.0

3.7

1.6

0.7

0.3

1.0

12.8

0.44

0.51

0.40

0.85

0.60

10.0

28.1

11.8

Marcus Morris

PHO

77

1

1695

5.8

13.0

2.0

5.3

2.4

3.2

1.7

4.8

6.5

1.8

1.4

0.4

1.9

16.1

0.45

0.49

0.38

0.77

0.56

9.8

22.0

15.2

Ray Allen

MIA

67

9

1792

4.5

10.2

2.1

5.7

2.0

2.1

0.4

3.4

3.9

2.7

1.0

0.1

1.6

13.1

0.44

0.53

0.37

0.92

0.59

9.7

26.7

12.8

Mo Williams

POR

72

0

1789

5.5

13.2

1.6

4.4

1.5

1.7

0.8

2.2

3.0

6.3

1.1

0.2

2.9

14.1

0.41

0.44

0.37

0.88

0.50

9.7

24.8

11.8

Harrison Barnes

GSW

73

21

2051

4.3

11.0

1.1

3.1

2.2

2.9

1.0

3.9

4.9

1.8

1.0

0.3

1.4

11.9

0.39

0.41

0.35

0.74

0.48

9.3

28.1

9.5

Boris Diaw

SAS

74

23

1856

5.6

10.4

0.8

2.1

1.3

1.7

1.3

4.5

5.8

3.9

0.8

0.6

2.2

13.2

0.53

0.57

0.39

0.73

0.59

9.2

25.1

14.3

Aaron Brooks

TOT

67

7

1373

5.6

13.6

2.4

5.9

1.9

2.2

1.0

2.2

3.3

5.3

1.2

0.3

2.7

15.4

0.41

0.42

0.40

0.86

0.53

8.8

20.5

13.3

Jeremy Lamb

OKC

75

0

1501

6.1

14.2

2.0

5.8

1.2

1.5

0.6

3.9

4.5

2.7

1.3

0.6

1.4

15.4

0.43

0.49

0.35

0.79

0.52

8.6

20.0

13.4

Jose Barea

MIN

75

1

1396

6.4

16.2

1.9

5.7

2.0

2.5

0.4

3.4

3.8

7.3

0.6

0.0

3.0

16.6

0.39

0.43

0.33

0.78

0.48

8.6

18.6

12.2

Mirza Teletovic

BRK

68

6

1292

5.7

13.5

3.4

8.9

1.0

1.5

1.5

5.3

6.9

1.5

0.7

0.6

1.4

15.8

0.42

0.49

0.38

0.70

0.56

8.3

19.0

14.1

Luis Scola

IND

78

0

1310

6.5

14.2

0.0

0.2

2.6

3.6

2.1

7.9

10.1

2.0

0.7

0.4

2.7

15.7

0.46

0.46

0.14

0.72

0.50

7.3

16.8

12.7

Alan Anderson

BRK

76

25

1719

3.9

9.9

1.7

5.1

1.9

2.3

0.8

2.7

3.5

1.7

1.0

0.2

1.2

11.5

0.40

0.46

0.34

0.81

0.52

7.2

22.6

9.5

Omri Casspi

HOU

66

0

1185

4.9

11.6

1.8

5.1

2.4

3.6

1.6

5.5

7.1

2.5

1.3

0.4

2.0

14.0

0.43

0.48

0.36

0.67

0.53

7.0

18.0

13.3

Mike Miller

MEM

77

4

1599

4.3

9.2

2.1

4.8

1.0

1.3

0.6

3.8

4.4

2.7

0.6

0.1

1.5

11.8

0.47

0.50

0.45

0.82

0.61

6.8

20.8

12.1

Chris Andersen

MIA

68

0

1334

4.7

7.1

0.1

0.3

3.1

4.4

3.4

6.3

9.7

0.5

0.9

2.5

1.3

12.5

0.66

0.68

0.25

0.71

0.69

6.8

19.6

19.0

Mason Plumlee

BRK

64

21

1114

5.3

8.3

0.0

0.1

3.5

5.5

2.7

5.8

8.6

1.4

1.4

1.6

2.2

14.2

0.64

0.65

0.00

0.63

0.66

6.8

17.4

17.9

Norris Cole

MIA

76

6

1871

3.8

9.0

1.1

3.2

1.0

1.3

0.3

2.6

2.9

4.3

1.3

0.1

2.3

9.7

0.42

0.45

0.35

0.78

0.50

6.6

24.6

8.9

Kosta Koufos

MEM

76

22

1315

6.1

12.2

0.0

0.0

1.5

2.4

4.2

7.0

11.2

1.0

0.9

1.9

1.8

13.7

0.50

0.50

0.63

0.52

6.6

17.3

16.5

DeJuan Blair

DAL

75

13

1178

6.2

11.7

0.0

0.1

2.2

3.5

4.0

6.8

10.8

2.1

1.8

0.6

2.3

14.7

0.53

0.54

0.00

0.63

0.56

6.4

15.7

17.0

C.J. Watson

IND

60

5

1132

4.3

10.0

1.4

4.3

2.0

2.5

0.6

2.4

3.1

3.3

1.7

0.3

1.7

12.0

0.43

0.49

0.34

0.79

0.54

6.3

18.9

12.5

Draymond Green

GSW

77

10

1678

3.7

9.3

1.0

3.3

1.7

2.6

1.7

6.4

8.2

3.0

2.0

1.5

1.8

10.1

0.40

0.45

0.31

0.66

0.49

6.1

21.8

12.5

Dante Cunningham

MIN

75

6

1502

5.1

11.0

0.0

0.1

0.7

1.2

2.5

4.8

7.3

1.8

1.3

1.3

1.0

10.9

0.46

0.47

0.00

0.56

0.47

6.1

20.0

12.2

Francisco Garcia

HOU

51

4

1004

4.0

9.8

2.4

6.7

0.4

0.7

0.7

3.4

4.1

2.1

1.0

1.1

1.0

10.8

0.41

0.51

0.37

0.53

0.54

5.9

19.7

10.1

Derek Fisher

OKC

75

0

1312

3.6

9.1

2.3

5.8

1.4

1.8

0.3

2.8

3.1

2.9

1.8

0.1

1.3

11.0

0.40

0.41

0.40

0.78

0.56

5.4

17.5

10.4

Nick Calathes

MEM

66

7

1103

4.4

9.7

0.6

1.9

1.2

2.1

0.7

3.6

4.2

6.4

2.0

0.3

3.1

10.7

0.46

0.50

0.31

0.60

0.51

5.0

16.7

12.5

Jae Crowder

DAL

74

8

1219

3.8

8.6

1.5

4.4

1.4

1.8

1.3

4.3

5.6

1.7

1.7

0.6

1.2

10.5

0.45

0.56

0.34

0.75

0.56

4.8

16.5

12.1

Tony Snell

CHI

71

12

1195

3.7

9.9

1.7

5.3

0.9

1.2

0.5

3.1

3.7

2.0

0.8

0.5

1.3

10.0

0.38

0.45

0.32

0.74

0.48

4.7

16.8

7.9

Nick Collison

OKC

75

0

1268

3.6

6.4

0.1

0.4

1.8

2.5

3.1

4.7

7.7

2.6

0.8

0.8

1.8

9.1

0.56

0.58

0.27

0.72

0.61

4.3

16.9

11.9

Ian Mahinmi

IND

74

0

1194

2.6

5.5

0.0

0.0

2.6

4.2

3.1

4.2

7.3

0.7

1.2

2.1

1.7

7.7

0.46

0.47

0.00

0.62

0.52

3.5

16.1

9.9

Steven Adams

OKC

75

20

1115

2.8

5.7

0.0

0.0

2.3

3.9

4.4

5.8

10.2

1.4

1.2

1.7

2.3

7.9

0.49

0.49

0.58

0.53

3.3

14.9

10.9

If the voters hold to form, Crawford will win in a landslide. He leads all reserves in scoring per game; he leads all reserves in scoring per 36 minutes. And when you consider just those eligible players on winning teams, it's not remotely close. Crawford is averaging 18.6 points per game; the next best scoring non-starter on a winning team is Markieff Morris of the Suns at 13.7, almost five full points fewer.

Gibson has been terrific for a surprising Bulls team this season. He's an excellent defender, as Thibodeau has pointed out. If Sixth Man voters suddenly decide that they care about defense, then there's a strong case to be made for Gibson, since Crawford's own defense leaves much to be desired. But guess what? Sixth Man voters aren't going to decide to care about defense this season.

Manu Ginobili is another great sixth man, but honestly, Patty Mills and Marco Belinelli have been almost as good -- the San Antonio system just seems to make everyone successful. Regardless, at 12.5 points per game, it's difficult to imagine many voters picking Ginobili over Crawford.

Markieff Morris has certainly been a major part of Phoenix's surprising success, and Reggie Jackson has put up some solid numbers in Oklahoma City, stepping into the starting lineup for Russell Westbrook while coming off the bench enough to remain eligible for the Sixth Man Award.

The more I look at the candidates, the more convinced I am that Crawford is going to win easily. Or let me put it another way: if he doesn't win, it will be unprecedented in the history of the award that such a prolific scorer would be overlooked. The one thing that is difficult to gauge would be the fact that if he does not play in the team's last four games, he will wind up missing 16 of their final 22, a factor that is difficult to evaluate.  However, even if he doesn't play another minute, he will still finish the season as one of a dozen or so candidates from winning teams with more than 2,000 minutes played on the season, so the idea of discounting his candidacy for a late injury would be an overreaction.

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