In probably the least suspenseful announcement Awards season, James Harden of the Oklahoma City Thunder today received the Sixth Man Award.
Harden was a complete no brainer (though somehow four voters, with no brain apparently, managed to vote for someone else for the award, with Lou Williams of the 76ers receiving two first place votes and Taj Gibson of the Bulls getting one). Harden got 115 first place votes and three second place votes from the panel of sports journalists who select the award. He was the third best player on one of the best teams in the league -- and at times he was their best player. He led all bench players in scoring at 16.8 points per game, while scoring with ridiculously high efficiency. He was the right choice by pretty much any definition (which does make you wonder what those other three guys were thinking).
Lou Williams finished second in the voting, and Jason Terry, who won the award in 2009, finished third.
Mo Williams of the Clippers, initially targeted as the starting point guard but converted into a sixth man a week before the season started when the team traded for Chris Paul, finished eighth in the voting, which was more or less where he belonged. Mo started the season red hot, and you could have made a case for him in the top three after a couple of months. But he cooled considerably in the middle part of the season, and missed a couple weeks as well, to diminish his credentials.
There was some question heading into the season as to how committed Williams was to his new sixth man role, but I never saw anything but the utmost commitment from Mo. It remains to be seen however what his role might be with the team going forward. The roster features quite a few small guards (Chris Paul is a franchise cornerstone and Eric Bledsoe is one of the only inexpensive young assets they have left). Williams has an option with the team for $8.5M for next season. He probably can't sign for more per year than that, but he could still decide to opt out to look for a multi-year contract and a starting gig. It also might be better to look for a new contract this summer (at age 29) versus next summer (at age 30). That's a pretty important milestone, at least psychologically, for a lot of GMs.
Congratulations to James Harden. If a whole lot of things go perfectly over the next couple of weeks, maybe Williams and the Clippers will be squaring off against Harden and the Thunder in the Western Conference Finals.