The NBA Sixth Man of the Year race is always difficult to succinctly analyze. The award tends to go to high-scoring guards — that is just the way it has always been — but there are plenty of high-scoring bench guards, especially in today's league, with its inflated scoring totals and hyper-efficient offenses.
On the other hand, there are less traditional options who deserve equal credit and recognition. The great bench bigs, the elite defenders. Box score goes a long way in Sixth Man of the Year voting, but impact should matter more than volume.
It's a crowded race this season, with a true variety of candidates on the table. Let's dive into the frontrunners.
NBA Sixth Man of the Year power rankings: Week 5
Honorable mentions: Naz Reid, Al Horford, Austin Reaves, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Malik Monk
It's a bit strange to see a rookie in the running for this award, but Jaime Jaquez has been absolutely essential to the Miami Heat of late. With Tyler Herro sidelined, Miami has leaned heavily on the No. 18 overall pick, and to great avail.
Jaquez is averaging 12.0 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 2.5 assists on .529/.390/.875 splits in 26.6 minutes. He's doing a little bit of everything. There was concern about his 3-point shot out of UCLA, but those concerns look ill-founded at the moment. He's not a primary creator, but he's a savvy connector who occasionally pops as a post-up and mid-range scorer.
Miami is placing Jaquez at different spots on the floor offensively and benefitting immensely. He can space the floor, he can operate as an in-between scorer, he can run the occasional pick-and-roll — all while playing remarkably sound team defense for a rookie.
He's the prime example of why contenders gravitate toward older, experienced prospects. Jaquez was an absolute star across four years at UCLA. There was concern about his unique play style translating to the NBA, plus he was an older prospect with limited athleticism. But, oftentimes in the NBA, feel and skill win out. Jaquez has tons of tools in his toolkit, and he has a tremendous understanding of how to play the game. He doesn't get sped up. He plays like a vet, and he should be in the conversation for Sixth Man of the Year.