Jacob Eisenberg breaks down the early season contenders for Sixth Man of the Year in the NBA…
Growing up, fans are taught several “facts” about team sports.
It’s a fact that teamwork is better than selfish play. It’s usually a fact that a good defense beats a good offense. It’s a fact in baseball that last licks is more advantageous than leading off.
Perhaps no “fact” is more emphasized, however, than the notion that the best players in every sport always start.
In the NBA in 2013, that “fact” is fiction. It couldn’t be further from the truth.
It’s no secret that coaches have found tangible advantages and have made concerted efforts to keep star players on the bench in an attempt to maximize energy boosts and insurance for when the starters’ fatigue sets in. Rest assured: hardly any sixth man is his team’s sixth-best player.
This leads me to the inaugural Sixth Man of the Year award rankings for the 2013-2014 season. Let me preface these rankings with some explanation of the criteria.
First and foremost, I place extreme importance on the success of the team when making these rankings. This is why Utah’s Alec Burks, who’s having a career year, is all but eliminated from candidacy.
Secondly, teams like Orlando (with Victor Oladipo and Andrew Nicholson) and Milwaukee (with Gary Neal and John Henson) are actually hurt in this ranking because (a) they’re not very good at the moment and (b) it’s unclear who is the actual sixth man.
Lastly, I’d like to clarify that any player who has started more games on the court than on the bench is automatically eliminated from candidacy – even if they were just filling in for an injured starter. And that’s not just my guideline. The NBA uses it, too.
On to the rankings…
|1||MARKIEFF MORRIS, F, PHOENIX: The Suns looked to be “Riggin’ for Wiggins.” Now they’ve become the West’s early season darling. Morris has been a monster, ranking in the top five with 15.9 points and 6.4 rebounds. His effective shooting (60%) helps space the floor for Eric Bledsoe’s drives. That’s why he leads our Most Improved Rankings, too.||–|
|2||JAMAL CRAWFORD, G, LA CLIPPERS: Held control of these rankings for much of last season until J..R Smith’s late-season surge. Yes, his defense is atrocious. But the Clippers know his value lies on offense. In six wins, he is averaging 18.3 points. In three losses, it’s 14.3. It’s fair to say Crawford could be the X-factor in a deep playoff run.||–|
|3||JEREMY LIN, G, HOUSTON: With Patrick Beverley’s return Thursday, Lin scored 21 off the bench vs. his former team. While his assists regress from 6.4 as a starter to 3.0 off the bench, Houston has been better with Lin looking to score first. In six wins, Lin averages 2.8 assists. In four losses, he’s at 7.5. Go figure.||–|
|4||ISAIAH THOMAS, G, SACRAMENTO: Deserves some credit. Leads in bench scoring (18.1 points) and is second in assists (4.8 assists). Even more impressive is he has racked up those numbers without a start. If Kings weren’t 2-5, he would get more consideration for top spot. Also, this play was ridiculous.||–|
|5||TONY WROTEN, G, PHILADELPHIA: Made history Wednesday as first player in merger era with a triple-double in his first career start. The Sixers are 5-4 after being pegged with an over/under of 17 wins for the season, and it’s only mid-November. If Philly pounces on Evan Turner’s all-time high trade value, Wroten could slide into a starter’s role.||–|
FIVE TO WATCH: Ray Allen, G, Miami; Jodie Meeks, G, LA Lakers; Ramon Sessions, G, Charlotte; C.J. Miles, G-F, Cleveland; Manu Ginobili, G, San Antonio.