Now that James Harden is no longer coming off the bench for the Oklahoma City Thunder, the race for NBA Sixth Man of the Year is wide open. So, who will be his successor as the NBA’s best bench player?
Having a quality sixth man is a must for a contender, which is why so many discounted Oklahoma City after they traded away Harden just before the regular season began.
The criteria for a quality sixth man are simple. He must provide productivity and energy off the bench. Often times, this is done by scoring, but it could also be done through defensive intensity, toughness or even simply attitude.
5. Jarrett Jack, Golden State Warriors
Credit Photo: AP Photo
2012-13 NBA Stats: 13.7 points, 5.8 assists, 3.2 rebounds
Jarrett Jack’s play as the Warriors’ second-string point guard is a big part of the reason that the team will be in the playoffs in 2013. The 29-year-old Georgia Tech product is playing great off the bench, leading the league in assists off the bench per game.
He is also shooting a career-high from behind the three-point line at 42.5 percent. Clearly, Jack has bought into what Warriors’ coach Mark Jackson is selling, and it is paying off big for Golden State.
4. J.R. Smith, New York Knicks
Photo Credit: Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE
2012-13 NBA Stats: 16.1 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.7 assists
For his entire NBA career, J.R Smith has been a player who could put up points very quickly. As a streaky shooter, Smith has never been afraid to shoot the rock.
He is not the most consistent player, however. He is only shooting 35.4 from three-point range, and he really cannot be counted on to do much more than shoot. Smith is a valuable piece to have, but the lack of diversity in his game hurts him in comparison with some of the NBA’s other sixth men.
3. Kevin Martin, Oklahoma City Thunder
2012-13 NBA Stats: 14.6 points, 2.3 rebounds, 43.4 percent from three
Kevin Martin was always a starter until this season, when he was traded from the Houston Rockets to Oklahoma City. Since then, Martin has filled that first man off the bench role that James Harden perfected as well as anyone could expect him to.
The funny thing about Martin is that he is scoring his points without getting all that many shots. Of the players on this list, he is shooting the ball the fewest times per game. Being able to score with that kind of efficiency off the bench is extremely valuable, especially on a team like the Thunder, where there are only so many shots to go around.
2. Ryan Anderson, New Orleans Hornets
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2012-13 NBA Stats: 16.7 points, 6.5 rebounds, 44.1 percent field goal shooting
In my opinion, it is much harder to be a good sixth man as a big man. You do not have the ball in your hands as much as the guards do, and it can be harder to get into a decent rhythm, but Anderson has become the perfect weapon to bring off the bench.
In just his fifth season, he has already improved leaps and bounds. At age 24, he is the youngest player on this list and has the most room to grow. He is shooting 39.4 percent from three, providing a valuable skill in stretching the floor and providing space for players like Anthony Davis and Greivis Vasquez.
1. Jamal Crawford, Los Angeles Clippers
Photo Credit: AP Photo
2012-13 NBA Stats: 17.0 points, 2.5 assists, 43.7 percent field goal shooting
Jamal Crawford is the oldest player on this list. He is also the only player you will find here who has won the Sixth Man of the Year award before, which counts for something in this conversation.
Crawford’s energy and offense off the bench has played a large factor for the Clippers this season in their quest to be a true contender in the Western Conference. Crawford is not playing as well this season as he did in 2010, when he first won the award as a member of the Atlanta Hawks. However, he is leading the league in scoring off the bench, and the Clippers have improved significantly since he joined the squad.