According to Marc Stein of ESPN.com, Jamal Crawford of the Los Angeles Clippers will win the NBA's Sixth Man Award this season. Crawford will become the fourth player in NBA history to win the award more than once, the first to do so with two different teams, and the oldest ever Sixth Man winner.
If you have felt like there's been a bit of a lull in NBA awards season, Stein suggests there's a reason for that. The NBA wanted to give Jamal his trophy during Game 5 in Los Angeles, but recent events have overshadowed Clippers basketball so they postponed the announcement.
No word yet on how close the vote was, but as I've pointed out several times, this has been Crawford's award essentially all season. Right or wrong, voters tend to be seduced by scoring, for the Sixth Man award more so than for any other. There's a logic to that -- the traditional sixth man role in the NBA has been instant offense off the bench (think Vinny "Microwave" Johnson on the Detroit Bad Boy teams). So while Taj Gibson would have a perfectly sound case for having been the most effective and complete NBA reserve this season given his combination of skills and in particular his terrific defense, there was never much chance that a 13 point per game scorer was going to win the award over an 18 point per game scorer.
For Crawford, winning the award this season may make up for the fact that he missed out on it last season when he deserved it. If it's any consolation to Gibson and others who may feel that Crawford is just a one-dimensional gunner, at least they didn't lose out to J.R. Smith, who makes Crawford seem downright demure in his shot selection.
Crawford has been nothing short of terrific since arriving in Los Angeles. No on in the NBA embraces the sixth man role more enthusiastically and frankly no one does it better. Sorry to bring up a painful memory, but for about two-thirds of the season, the Clippers bench featured the likes of Byron Mullens and Antawn Jamison -- between a complete lack of front court depth and constant injuries in the backcourt, there were weeks and weeks during the regular season when Crawford WAS the Clippers bench for all intents and purposes. While Chris Paul was hurt and Darren Collison was starting, Crawford had sole responsibility for scoring for the second unit: they didn't get a shot if he didn't create it.
Not to mention that Crawford also started 24 games this season while J.J. Redick was injured. But it's an illustration of just how valuable Crawford is in a reserve role that eventually Doc Rivers opted for the undersized Collison as the starter at shooting guard so that Crawford could return to being the sixth man.
Crawford's shot selection is not always the best, and his .416 shooting percentage may look problematic. But you would almost never hear Doc Rivers tell him to shoot less. Rivers knows who Crawford is and what he does -- he's out there to shoot, and he's one of the great tough shot makers in the history of the NBA. And when you add in the number of three pointers he makes (for the second season in a row he set a single season franchise record in three pointers made, 161 this year), his ability to get to the line, and his .866 shooting once he gets there, his true shooting percentage shoots up to .556, well above the league average. The simple fact is that despite his reputation, Crawford has been a very efficient scorer since arriving in Los Angeles.
The fact that he's also one of the nicest and most soft spoken guys in the NBA just makes it that much nicer that he's being honored. Congratulations to Jamal on winning NBA Sixth Man of the Year.