Originally posted on Fox Sports Wisconsin  |  Last updated 4/1/12
MILWAUKEE Mike Dunleavy for NBA Sixth Man of the Year. That is what Milwaukee Bucks coach Scott Skiles believes should be in strong consideration for the sharp-shooting Dunleavy this season. "The way he's playing, he should be in the sixth man voting," Skiles said on Saturday. "Mike knows how to play. He's a true professional. He shows up every day. He's totally reliable, totally low maintenance. Let alone that, he's a good player. He can shoot the ball, pass it, move well without the ball -- one of the best in the league at that." Skiles acknowledged reserve players such as Oklahoma City's James Harden, Philadelphia's Lou Williams and Dallas' Jason Terry, but, at the very least, thinks that Dunleavy has been just as good as, if not better, than that elite group of sixth men. Though injuries have given plenty of opportunities this season for Skiles to insert Dunleavy into the starting lineup, both sides agreed that it was best to keep him coming off the bench. "It's nice to have that sixth or seventh starter that you're bringing into the game who can play so well," Skiles said. "As a coach, you begin to get a real comfort level. I had it in Chicago with Ben Gordon his rookie year coming off the bench. "So when people get hurt, you don't even want to put him in the lineup. You want to keep him over there. Mike and I have talked about it. He's totally comfortable with it." Dunleavy, who started 44 games for the Indiana Pacers last season, didn't want to change either. "It's a role that we're both comfortable in," Dunleavy said. "I'm comfortable coming off the bench in that capacity. There's no reason to change that. Whatever we have to do to keep that going is nice. I've gotten into a really good rhythm all season long. It's been fun." Skiles compared that decision to keep Dunleavy as a reserve with former Bucks coach Don Nelson and the relationship that Nelson had with his sixth man, Ricky Pierce. "When Nellie was here with Ricky Pierce, he would say he felt naked when he didn't have Ricky there to go to," Skiles said. "When guys got injured, there were all kinds of guys starting ahead of Ricky. He just stayed in that role and was very, very good at it." Following a season in which the Bucks were last in the NBA in points scored, Dunleavy was brought in to provide offense for a team that sorely needed it. Dunleavy signed a two-year deal with Milwaukee and has delivered 12.7 points per game on 50-percent shooting from the field and 45-percent from 3-point range. "I'm not going to list the free agents around the league, but he has to be at the top of the list of offseason pickups, I would think," Skiles said. Dunleavy, now 31 years old in his ninth NBA season, has become a go-to shooter this season for the Bucks, especially in moments when the team struggles offensively. "I came here with high expectations for myself," Dunleavy said. "This is a team that wanted me from the get-go. I had a good feeling that this would work out. (Skiles) has given me a great opportunity. He's putting me in situations to succeed and when that happens, I feel like I can do stuff." Statistically, Dunleavy's best season came in 2007-08 when he started all 82 games and averaged 19.1 points per game. But, with his 3-point shooting at a career-high level, this may be Dunleavy's best overall season in the NBA. "In terms of production, especially on a permanent basis, I think this is one of the best seasons I've had," Dunleavy said. "It's really a result of being put in position to succeed and Coach does a real good job of that. It's been good." Follow Paul Imig on Twitter.
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