A good starting five is nothing without a good backup from the bench, and every team needs that kind of veteran leadership out of some of their best players that don’t start not because they’re not good enough to do it, but because they fit their second unit better.
Sixth men in the NBA often play as many minutes as starters and even close out games, and their role can sometimes be even bigger and more important than some of the starters, having the responsibility to lead the team’s second unit to try and maintain and expand leads or get the team back into the game.
We’ve seen players like Manu Ginobili or Andre Iguodala handle some of the most difficult duties for their teams despite not starting, and even though they won’t be frontrunners to win the 6th Man of the Year accolade this season, several other players have quietly been acknowledging that kind of roles as well.
Today, we’re going to let you know about our top 6 candidates to take home the 6th Man of the Year award, considering how big their impact is going to be for their teams this season in their pursuit of success.
6. Jamal Crawford
Total no-brainer here, as if you think of a 6th man, you have to think of the guy that has won the award the most. Crawford has completely embraced his substitute role and is known to be a fierce scorer with a killer crossover, and he’s set to bring a lot of points for the Minnesota Timberwolves bench this season.
Crawford’s crafty moves and ability to create his own shot will definitely improve the young Wolves chances, a team that lacked a lot of experience over the last campaign to hold on to the big leads they constantly blew.
5. Jordan Clarkson
Jordan Clarkson has quietly emerged as one of the league’s best substitute combo guards, being able to push up-tempo, score from everywhere on the floor and being a very willing and capable facilitator well suited for the kind of system Luke Walton wants to run with his young Lakers squad.
Clarkson is set to backup Lonzo Ball or play off the ball alongside Tyler Ennis, and he’s one of the most experienced players dressed in purple and gold despite being still a youngster. Look out, as he may be on for a breakout season.
4. Dario Saric
Saric got off to a slow start during his rookie season but finished off the year really strong after the All-Star break, proving the waiting was really worth it with his huge impact on both ends of the court as a young veteran for the Philadelphia 76ers.
With Ben Simmons ready to go, he’s very likely to shift off to the bench, but that won’t stop him from making a case for 6th Man of the Year after almost winning the Rookie of the Year this past campaign, and his versatility and experience are going to be a huge factor for Philly and their playoff hopes this season.
3. Lou Williams
New team, same old “Sweet Lou”. You always know what you’re getting out of the veteran combo guard: instant offense from the bench, a lot of efficiencies, a lot of volumes and a lot of frustrated defenders with broken ankles and probably fouled out.
Lou Williams is set to play alongside Milos Teodosic for the Los Angeles Clippers in what may be one of the most explosive backcourts in the second unit of any single team, and it’s going to be a lot of fun to watch for Clippers fans. Williams is a complete nightmare for defenders due to his ability to finish through contact, and a constant frontrunner to win this accolade.
2. Eric Gordon
Eric Gordon’s game took a major step forward the prior campaign when he won not only the 3 point shooting contest but also the 6th Man of the Year award. Gordon’s stroke from distance was a major factor for the run and gun Houston Rockets, and he’s set to try and defend the throne as the best substitute in the Association.
After struggling to make an impact as a starter for most of his career, it seems like Eric Gordon has finally found and embraced his role, and with the Houston Rockets bound for a Championship run, he’s going to be one of the guys to watch to take home the silverware.
1. Rudy Gay
Rudy Gay is coming off a season-ending injury and seems locked down and focus to enter a new era of his career after deciding to join the San Antonio Spurs to try and help them off the bench in their pursuit to end Golden State’s supremacy in the Wild Western Conference.
Gay is a proven veteran that can light it up and also play very good defense, and even though he’s never going to reach the peak everybody hoped, his talent is just undeniable. As a matter of fact, the could be starting everywhere, but the fact that he’s decided to accept a 6th man role with the Spurs proves how mature he is at this stage of his career, and he’s an elite asset off the bench for Popovich.