In the Los Angeles Clippers history, there isn’t much lifting trophies and hanging banners.
In fact, there’s none.
Even after half a decade, three different cities, the Clippers have still yet to make a mark on the NBA’s history book. But what they did do is produce the greatest line of off-the-bench scorers. The players that take over and entirely shift the momentum game. The players that check in on the court, inciting a level of fear to the opponents.
Carrying the torch that basketball magicians Jamal Crawford and Lou Williams once brandished is the Clippers’ newest epitome of a sixth-man, Norman Powell.
The last few times a Clipper has fully embraced the beauty of the sixth-man role, they won the prestigious 6MOTY award: former Clippers Jamal Crawdord, Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell have all won it in the last decade.
And this time’s no different: Powell, as it stands, should be the next recipient of the award.
The UCLA product is averaging 17 points and shooting an impressive 41.7 percent from deep: he leads the league in PPG from the bench. Led by Powell — and of course, the other surplus of talent on the team’s bench — the Clippers are leading the league in total points scored by the bench with 2,563 points.
Most PPG all-time off the bench by a Clipper (minimum 30 games):— StatMuse (@statmuse) February 15, 2023
18.4 — 6th man of the year winner
18.1 — Norman Powell
15.3 — 6th man of the year winner
14.8 — 6th man of the year winner
14.7 — 6th man of the year winner pic.twitter.com/1Ce4dNCDHV
After an underwhelming start to the season, the second-year Clipper has gained traction again in November; since then, he’s only getting better. He is enjoying himself a prolific month of February in which he’s logging 21.3 points, 4 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per contest.
Alongside superstars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, Powell has been the key to the team’s success in a star-stacked Western Conference. His elite long-range shooting helps improve the spacing of the team in a way that benefits players like Ivica Zubac and Terance Mann who love taking it to the rim. He uses his speed to blow by defenders and adeptly finishes with either hand, from anywhere in the paint. And much like Leonard, he does it devoid of expression.
As his brand name — ‘Understand the Grind’ — insinuates, Powell has always been someone who’s willing to put in the work to get better each game, each season. Or in the case of the season, each month: he has managed to improve his PPG each month of the season. Just as notable, his point averages of February have almost doubled from those of October.
Statistics don’t do a complete job of illustrating what the San Diego native brings to the table. Above all, he’s a calm scorer that can get a bucket when he needs to — regardless of the defender and time left on the clock. There’s also no arguing that he’s been a leader on the floor and one of the best players on a championship-contending team.
Needless to say, if Powell continues to produce at this level, he should be the rightful heir to the legacy of recepients of the 6MOTY award.
But I’m sure his eyes are set on a bigger, more important piece of hardware: the Larry O’Brien trophy. With Leonard by his side, he’s done it once in Toronto. Who’s to say they can’t do it again?