Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Throughout the history of the NBA, successful teams that rack up the “Ws” in the win column, and also win championships, have not only thrived through the efforts of their superstar players but also through the efforts of the role players behind them. Among the role players are leaders, leaders that help steer their fellow role players towards the direction of success; these leaders are called 6th men. Every season, there is one 6th man that has both thrived himself and helped his team thrive more than others.

Doing this rewards him with the prestigious 6th Man of The Year award at the end of the season. Even though the 2016-2017 season is not over yet, here are 5 6th men who are among the best of them and have a chance to win the 6th Man of The Year award at the end of this season.

Honorable Mentions

Jamal Crawford – 12.4 points, 1.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists

Enes Kanter – 14.3 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.1 assists

Tobias Harris – 16.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.7 assists

Top 5 Candidates For NBA Sixth Man Of The Year Award In 2016-17

The Underdog – Andre Iguodala

Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

The addition of superstar Kevin Durant to the Warriors roster this past summer definitely solidified them as the favorites to win this season’s NBA Finals for many fans. However, since Durant’s recent MCL sprain on February 28, the Warriors have struggled to pull out wins. Particularly because of the absence of bench production they once had prior to the signing of Durant. Despite the loss of Harrison Barnes to Dallas, Mo Speights to LA, and Leandro Barbosa to Phoenix, the Warriors had managed to keep an excellent 6th man and 2015 Finals MVP, Andre Iguodala.

Keeping Iguodala has helped the new Warriors bench keep stability in their production. With Iguodala’s versatility, he is able to be effective on the floor in more ways than just one, even with reduced minutes. This is shown in his season averages of 6.7 points, 4 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game while playing 26 minutes a night. Even though not one of his averages really stands out from the others, the fact that he does multiple things “well” definitely elevates his value to his team. What also elevates his value is the fact that Golden State no longer has the best bench in the league. This makes him one of the only above average role players besides guard Shaun Livingston. However, in spite of these pros that helps his case for being this season’s 6th Man of The Year, there is one con that dramatically lowers his chances of taking the award, and that is that his averages aren’t up to par with the others on this list.

5. Greg Monroe

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Originally, the former Piston was brought into Milwaukee as the starting power forward, however, before the start of this season, coach Jason Kidd stated on Monday, September 27, 2016 that Monroe would be coming off the bench to start the season. Ever since his insert into the bench unit, he has thrived as the 6th man.

Currently, Monroe is the Bucks’ 4th leading scorer and 2nd leading rebounder. He is averaging 11.6 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 2.3 assists a game. He also has a career-high PER rating of 22, helping the Bucks to be more efficient overall. These averages not only elevate his own value as a player but also elevates the value of the Bucks roster, showing that Milwaukee have taken one more step towards becoming a playoff team. However, despite these numbers, the Bucks currently have a 29-33 record and are 9th in the East, simply meaning they aren’t a winning basketball team. Benching Monroe was a good move, but not good enough to greatly impact the team’s amount of “Ws”.

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4. Patty Mills

This Spurs point guard has been a backup for starting point guard Tony Parker ever since he arrived in San Antonio at the beginning of the 2011-2012 season. After his arrival, former 6th Man of The Year, Manu Ginobili, has been the leader of the bench unit. As of now, Ginobili is 39 years of age, meaning he will most likely retire this upcoming summer or if not then, the summer of 2018. In addition, Ginobili’s production has taken a significant decline. From once averaging 19.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 4.5 assists in the 2007-2008 season to now averaging 7.6 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 2 assists. Because of this, a role player from the Spurs bench must ascend to his level of play, and so far, that player has been Patty Mills.

Mills so far is the team’s 5th leading scorer behind Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, and Tony Parker, all of which are in the starting lineup. His averages of 9.5 points, 1.8 rebounds, and 3.3 assists aren’t “spectacular”, however, he is shooting 41.2% from beyond the arc, which is helping San Antonio maintain their ranking of 1st in the league regarding team 3-point percentage. On top of that, they are the second seed in the West with a 50-13 record. Despite these good reasons to make Mills the 6th Man of The Year, the one major reason that prevents him from winning the award is that his averages are sub-par compared to other candidates on this list.

3. Zach Randolph

Credit: Getty Images

Grizzlies’ power forward, Zach “Z-Bo” Randolph, for a long time, was paired with fellow big man Marc Gasol in the starting lineup. During this time, this pair was the core of the Grizzlies’ grit-and-grind image. However, newly hired coach, David Fizdale, moved Randolph to the 6th man position at the start of this season. Ever since then, Z-Bo has excelled in that spot.

Randolph so far, has averages of 14.3 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game while also leading his entire team in rebounding. His current numbers, in only 24 minutes of playing time, is 6th Man of The Year-caliber numbers, however, the reason he falls to the runner-up on this list is because the number one candidate has scoring numbers that exceed his and the number one candidate is on a team of a higher seed than the Grizzlies.

2. Eric Gordon

Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

After facing continuous injuries throughout his NBA career on teams including the LA Clippers and New Orleans Pelicans, shooting guard Eric Gordon was signed to the Houston Rockets in the summer of 2016. Since his signing, the Rockets have exceeded everyone’s expectations. They currently are the 3rd seed in the West with a 44-21 record after coming out of the 2015-2016 season with a 41-41 record and a first-round exit in the playoffs.

As the team’s 6th man, Gordon is averaging a whopping 16.9 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game while shooting 38% from 3-point range. The everyday NBA fan would look at both his numbers and the team’s record and would immediately conclude that he is the leading 6th Man of The Year candidate, however, there are a couple more reasons that substantiate that claim even more. Along with his great numbers coming off the bench and the team’s winning record, the Rockets are also 2nd overall in team points per game, and 1st in team 3-pointers made per game. Houston wouldn’t be close to these high rankings without help from Gordon’s 16.9 points per game, making him the team’s 2nd leading scorer, and without his 38% 3-point shooting percentage. Overall, Eric Gordon’s value to the Rockets off the bench is far greater than any other bench player’s value to their team, making him the number two candidate for the 6th Man of The Year Award.

1. Lou Williams

Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Lou Williams has an amazing year. First, while the Lakers are struggling this year, Lou Williams has been a bright spot. He is the leading bench scorer in the League averaging 18.2 points, 3 rebounds and 2.2 assists. Not only is he leading the NBA in bench scoring, he’s the Lakers leading scorer (not Russell, Randle, Ingram, or Clarkson). This season alone, he has had scoring outbursts of 35 (against Phoenix), 38 (against Utah) and 40 (against Memphis) points off the bench.

After his trade to Houston Rockets, he had two amazing games, scoring 27 points against New Orleans and 28 against Indiana Pacers.

Lou Williams is the first candidate for the 6th Man Of The Year Award, averaging 18.2 points with 23.22 PER. He already won the award 2015, and after two years, we predict he will be winner once again.

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