It’s time to evaluate the top candidates for the Sixth Man of the Year Award. Having depth in the NBA is imperative, as players are needed to keep their team afloat while the starters are out. Bench units are capable of extending leads and taking over games for their respective team.
These five bench players have been crucial rotational pieces for their teams in the regular season, and they are all deserving of collecting votes for the Sixth Man of the Year Award.
Honorable mentions for this list include Serge Ibaka, Jordan Clarkson, and Davis Bertans.
No. 5 | Goran Dragic, Miami Heat
While Goran Dragic was a starter throughout most of his career, the Miami Heat decided it would be best for him to play off the bench. With the signing of Jimmy Butler and the emergence of Kendrick Nunn, the Heat didn’t have enough room for Dragic in the starting lineup. The former All-Star has transitioned effectively towards his new role, as the Heat’s second unit has had success throughout the season.
This season, Dragic is averaging 16.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 5.1 assists. He’s been able to improve his numbers to closely resemble his stats from when he was named an All-Star during the 2017-2018 season. Dragic’s 16.1 points is the third-highest scoring mark on the team this year, as he and Tyler Herro combine to form one of the league’s best bench backcourts in the league.
The Heat will need Dragic to continue his prolific play off the bench if they are to have any chance of advancing deep in the playoffs.
No. 4 | Derrick Rose, Detroit Pistons
In a season where the Detroit Pistons traded Andre Drummond at the trade deadline and Blake Griffin played under 20 games due to injuries, Derrick Rose has been the one positive for the Pistons all season long. For the second straight season, Rose has excelled in a bench role. Rose has been able to prove his worth after having many serious injuries throughout his career.
Coming off the bench for the Pistons, Rose has averaged 18.1 points and 5.6 assists. Both of these numbers are team highs for the Pistons this year. Along with his production, Rose had the most efficient season of his career, as he is shooting 49 percent from the field. Despite his three-point percentage going down, Rose was able to increase his percentage at the free-throw line.
Rose is still highly regarded in the league, and it is expected his stellar play will lead to trade interest during the off-season. If Rose can continue to stay healthy next season, he will have a real shot at being in contention for, and possibly even winning, this award next season.
No. 3 | Lou Williams, Los Angeles Clippers
Seeing Lou Williams competing for this award should be a surprise to no one. This is because Williams has already won this award three times, which includes taking home the Sixth Man of the Year Award the past two seasons. To add to his incredible resume, Williams has scored the most bench points in NBA history.
Despite acquiring Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in the off-season, Williams has still proven to be vital to the team’s success. Even though his scoring has slightly decreased this season, Williams is still averaging 18.7 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 5.7 assists. Williams has shot worse from the field this season, but he has made up for it by making more three-pointers per game and moderately improving his three-point percentage.
Lou Williams may earn his third consecutive Sixth Man of the Year Award for his impressive play this season. However, it feels as if voter fatigue, other strong candidates, and a small dip in production will ultimately prevent Williams from capturing his fourth award.
No. 2 | Montrezl Harrell, Los Angeles Clippers
It’s easy to see why the Los Angeles Clippers arguably have the best bench in the league, as two of their bench players are among the favorites to win the Sixth Man of the Year Award.
Similar to last season, both Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell should finish in the top three in the voting for the Sixth Man of the Year Award. After finishing third last season, Harrell is likely going to finish top two in voting, and he has a real chance of taking home this award.
As Harrell is leading the Clippers’ second unit alongside Williams, Harrell has averaged 18.6 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks this season. Harrell’s field goal percentage has dropped this season, but he is still shooting an efficient 58 percent from the field. This season, Harrell has managed to get to the free-throw line more often and has converted a higher percentage of his attempts.
With injuries being plentiful for the Clippers this season, they have been able to rely on Harrell, since he’s only missed one game all season. His infectious energy led the way, as Harrell put himself in position to obtain his first Sixth Man of the Year Award.
No. 1 | Dennis Schroder, Oklahoma City Thunder
Since being traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder, Dennis Schroder has had to adjust to a new role. After being a starter for the Atlanta Hawks for two seasons, the Thunder utilize Schroder as their sixth man to lead their bench unit. While experiencing some success in year one, Schroder has thrived in Year 2.
In his first season as the Thunder’s sixth man, Schroder’s points per game and shooting percentage took a hit. Now, in his second season with the Thunder, Schroder is averaging 19 points. As Schroder increased his scoring, he’s been able to set career highs for his field goal and three-point percentages. While not a career-high, Schroder’s free throw percentage has also increased compared to last season. To add to his 19 points, Schroder recorded 3.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists this season.
On a Thunder team where no player averages 20 points per game, Schroder’s contribution of 19 points per game is even more valuable. Schroder is one of three Thunder players that are scoring approximately 19 points per game. While Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander start for the Thunder, Schroder ensures that the team doesn’t miss a beat when he comes into the game.
Schroder’s been essential to the Thunder’s overachieving this season, which has allowed them to reach the fifth seed in the West. The part Schroder has played in the Thunder’s winning this season has enabled him to become the front runner in receiving the Sixth Man of the Year Award.