NBA Awards Rankings: New No. 1 in Sixth Man of the Year race

The NBA Sixth Man of the Year race continues to evolve. Here's who is leading the pack after one month of basketball.

Cole Anthony, Orlando Magic
Cole Anthony, Orlando Magic / Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
5 of 5

1. . 1. Magic. 38. Cole Anthony. . Guard. Cole Anthony. player

The Orlando Magic are the season's biggest surprise — 14-5 with the NBA's No. 3-ranked defense and No. 12-ranked offense. The obvious standouts have been Franz Wagner and Paolo Banchero, but Orlando's primary awards candidate resides with the second unit. Cole Anthony has fully embraced his sixth man trappings, and for now, he has claimed the No. 1 spot in these rankings.

This was always the path for Anthony. He's a 6-foot-3 guard built to score in bunches off the bench. He was never going to succeed as a full-time starter, at least not as Orlando's go-to playmaker. As a second-unit microwave, however, he's arguably the best in the NBA. He infuses Orlando's offense with invaluable bursts of self-creation and 3-point volume. His defense, while not great, is energetic.

Anthony is a versatile offensive weapon for the Magic, capable of bombing spot-up 3s, attacking off the catch, or initiating the offense with a seasoned mid-range pull-up and enough quickness to get all the way to the rim. Anthony has never been the most efficient finisher inside the arc, but his progress since his debut in 2020 has been significant. He gets bonus points, of course, for the Magic's impressive record, but it's difficult to find a sixth man more essential to his team's offensive success than Anthony. The Magic need his skill set.

For the season, Anthony is averaging 14.9 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 3.7 assists on .439/.375/.846 splits in 25.5 minutes. We will see how Anthony's production holds up once Markelle Fultz gets healthy, but the former has averaged 19.0 points and 4.0 assists on .492/.438/.839 splits over the last five contests. Anthony is riding a hot streak, as are the Magic, who are winners of nine straight.

dark. NBA AWARDS RANKINGS. Nikola Jokic still leads pack in hotly contested MVP race. Nikola Jokic still leads pack in hotly contested MVP race