The NBA today announced that Lou Williams of the Toronto Raptors won the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year award. Isaiah Thomas of the Boston Celtics and Phoenix Suns was second in the voting while Jamal Crawford of the Los Angeles Clippers was third.
Early in the season, it seemed that Crawford had a great opportunity to win the award for an unprecedented third time, but his numbers tailed off all season, and then he missed a month with an injured calf. The simple fact is that prior to Game 1 of the playoffs, Jamal had not had a Jamal game since February -- and you don't win April awards based on February performances.
Two years ago when J.R. Smith won the award over Crawford, I had a big problem with it. This time, there's no way I would have voted for Jamal. In fact Thomas might have been my choice, but there really was not a clear-cut pick this year. Thomas probably lost some votes for the simple fact that he played on two different teams with losing records, though it should be noted that both of those teams were much better with him than without him.
Even more so than other NBA honors like All NBA and MVP and Most Improved, Sixth Man is an offense only award -- defensive specialists (or practitioners for that matter) need not apply. Nor does efficiency much matter -- it's points, points, points. Take the league's non-starters, sort them by points per game, and you have the top three in the voting -- the only three players in the league to average over 15 points per game off the bench this season. It's pretty much that simple. Never mind that Williams shot barely better than 40% from the field and Crawford was actually under 40% -- yay, points.
Then again, that is a prominent bench role in the modern NBA. Team's want a bench scorer, and it is often on that player to carry the offense while the starters are out of the game. As such, and this is certainly the case with Crawford, the sixth man winds up taking a lot of tough shots and shooting a low percentage as a result.
At any rate, congratulations to Lou Williams, who came back from a ligament tear a couple of seasons ago. Crawford will happily trade the award for a little playoff success, to which he made a major contribution last night.