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6th Man of the Year
- Isaiah Thomas, Boston Celtics – Picking Thomas as the Sixth Man winner seems to be an unpopular opinion, but I can’t seem to figure out why that is the viewpoint. The 5-foot-9 guard was traded to Boston to midseason, but all that Thomas has done in both stops (Phoenix, previously) is produce in a big way. For the season, Thomas is averaging 23.1 points per 36 minutes with a PER of 20.7, and his teams are more than 5 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the floor. It hasn’t been a lights-out season in terms of this race, but Thomas does everything that a “traditional” sixth man is supposed to do, functioning as a high-end scorer who can get others involved and do so efficiently. In the absence of a more qualified candidate, he’s the choice.
- Lou Williams, Toronto Raptors – At age 28, Lou Williams just produced the best season of his career. Williams is the definition of a shoot-first guard, but those shots have been productive this season, to the tune of a career-best 22.2 points per 36 minutes on the year. Many will sleep on Williams due to a 40.7% clip from the field, but his 56.6% true shooting is more than acceptable thanks in large part to 4.9 free throw attempts per game. Beyond that, Williams has evolved into Toronto’s main crunch-time option, consistently generating quality looks at the end of both the shot clock and game clock. The smoking gun of his candidacy is that Toronto transforms from the equivalent of a .500 team (-0.7 points per 100) without him to an elite level team (+7.2 points per 100) when he plays. His numbers aren’t quite as eye-popping as that of Thomas, and Williams is a sieve defensively, but it wouldn’t be egregious if “Lou Will” took home the hardware.
- Jamal Crawford, Los Angeles Clippers – Because of an injury that cost him several games near the end of the season, the Jamal Crawford bandwagon is nearly empty, but this is a season-long award and Crawford remains the modern prototype for a sixth man. The veteran guard shot just 39.7% from the field this season, but he posted a respectable 53.3% true shooting on the strength of lights-out free throw shooting and an ability to knock down threes, and Crawford averages 21.5 points per 36 minutes to show for it. He is given an impossible task as the primary creator on a wretched second unit in Los Angeles, and while it is fair to knock Crawford based on his one-dimensional play, it is a very solid dimension. Other fringe candidates like Tristan Thompson and Andre Iguodala deserve consideration, but I’ll go with Crawford to complete my ballot.
Next: Defensive Player of the Year