Let’s take a way-too-early look at the 2018 Sixth Man of the Year candidates.
Detroit Pistons, 14-9
Ish Smith is the best player never talked about and has made significant contributions to the recent Pistons’ success.
Smith is shooting a career best 50% from the field and is a nice change-of-pace player off the bench. Smith has played for 10 different teams, but it seems like Detroit will be his last and most meaningful stop.
Ish has always been lightning quick, but he’s recently developed a probing mentality with the ball in his hands. He has a knack for speeding up the tempo and getting defenders to commit to him to open up a lob, kick-out, or backdoor cut.
With his improved efficiency he is firmly in the Sixth Man of the Year 2018 conversation.
9.4 PPG, 4.0 AST, 2.2 RPG, 0.4 STL, 0.3 BLK, 49% FG, 21% 3FG
Philadelphia 76ers, 13-10
TJ Mcconnell is quickly winning the hearts and minds of Philly fans. Mcconnell went undrafted out of Arizona in 2015 and has a chip on his shoulder the size of the Everglades.
TJ possesses a silky spin move, solid midrange game, and uncanny ability to find open teammates. Mcconnell seems to make the right play the majority of the time and is perhaps the best facilitator off the bench in the league. His ludicrous 53% from the field and 56% from 3 might regress but it’s not just his shooting that has him on this list.
Mcconnell is a feisty defender and gritty gamer who provides the 76ers with quality minutes off the bench.
He’s recently been out because of shoulder soreness but if he continues his stellar play for the newly-capable 6ers he will undoubtedly be in the 6-man conversation.
7.1 PPG, 5.4 AST, 3.6 RPG, 1.2 STL, 0.2 BLK, 53% FG, 56% 3FG
San Antonio Spurs, 16-8
Playing for Popovich and the Spurs has revitalized Rudy Gay’s career. For the first time ever, 31-year-old Gay is coming of the bench and he’s been playing excellent basketball.
He has a career-best 18.4 PER, mostly because he’s taking better shots and feasting on second units. He is shooting a career-high 47% from the field and leading a once-again good San Antonio bench.
Gay has really helped San Antonio cope with an injured Kawhi Leonard. He will continue to be a large part of the Spur’s success as a second scorer and capable defender, placing him in contention…
12.0 PPG, 1.6 AST, 5.0 RPG, 1.0 STL, 0.6 BLK, 47% FG, 31% 3FG
Miami Heat, 11-12
Johnson, once-dubbed “Lebron from the neck down,” is finally living up to his potential.
Despite coming off the bench he could very well be the Heat’s most impactful player. His 4.1 assists and 5.2 rebounds per game make him one of the best playmaking forwards in the league. Also, he is having the most efficient campaign of his career shooting 50% from the field and 37% from 3.
Johnson doesn’t just make posters, he is an x-factor for a Heat team that desperately needs to make the playoffs after overspending in the offseason.
11.1 PPG, 4.1 AST, 5.2 RPG, 1.0 STL, 0.7 BLK, 49% FG, 34% 3FG
Indiana Pacers, 13-11
Who would have thought Sabonis would be a legitimate Sixth Man of the Year candidate after his ineffective stint last year with OKC?
Sabonis has been magnificent off the bench this year. His rebounding, finishing, and shooting is priceless for a Pacers team that doesn’t really have a true super star(Oladipo is damn good, though).
Sabonis has a knack for finishing around the rim with his crafty footwork and good motor. In the young 17/18 season he’s improved his rebounding and is red hot from 3, shooting 46%.
If Sabonis continues to get productive minutes off the pine, and the Pacers keep winning he will be in contention for the sixth man award.
12.5 PPG, 2.2 AST, 8.9 RPG, 0.3 STL, 0.3 BLK, 53% FG, 46% 3FG
Washington Wizards, 12-11
Kelly Oubre has been very good in 2017 and should claim serious money as a free agent in 2019.
Otto Porter and Markieff Morris crowd the Wizards wing depth but Kelly has found ways to contribute with the second unit as a scorer, defender, and shooter(hitting career best 38% from deep). Oubre believes he can guard anyone and with his size, athleticism, and high IQ I’m starting to believe him.
Kelly is more than a Wave Papi cult and if he continues to develop I think he has the tools to be a future all-star.
11.7 PPG, 1.0 AST, 5.5 RPG, 0.8 STL, 0.4 BLK, 41% FG, 38% 3FG
(on the trade block)
Los Angeles Lakers, 8-15
Clarkson is highly underrated.
The 25-year-old guard is an above average scorer at his position and can spread the floor with his shooting. Clarkson is a nice instant-offense spark off the bench, especially to a team with Lonzo Ball as their starter. Jordan clearly put a lot of time in over the summer to develop his game because he’s shooting a stellar 49% from the field and 36% from 3.
Clarkson will probably be moved from LA by the end of the year as trade talks have heated up with Charlotte among other teams. However, his 14.8 points off the bench is top 3 in the league and makes him a legitimate candidate for 6MOTY whether he’s with the Lakers or not.
14.8 PPG, 3.0 AST, 2.8 RPG, 0.7 STL, 0.0 BLK, 48% FG, 36% 3FG
Memphis Grizzlies, 8-15
Tyreke is playing stellar basketball. Following the firing of coach Fizdale it didn’t take long for J.B. Bickerstaff and Evans to get on the same page.
Evans seems to finally have found a home in Memphis, despite their losing ways. He’s torching the net to the tune of 48% from the field and 43% from 3.
Evans’ 4 assists and 5 boards per game are crucial for a team that already lacks depth, before Mike Conley got hurt that is…
Tyreke may become a full-time starter but in the event that he isn’t, and the Grizzlies turn it around, he would be a Sixth Man of the Year favorite.
17.8 PPG, 4.1 AST, 5.0 RPG, 1.0 STL, 0.4 BLK, 48% FG, 43% 3FG
Los Angeles Clippers, 8-14
Talk to Drake if you need any more convincing…
Sweet Lou is putting the ball in the hoop at record rates. At 31-years-old he is scoring a career-best 18.9 points per game on 45% from the floor and 39% from 3.
The Clippers have sputtered over the last month after starting the season 5-1. With Blake, Patrick Beverly, and Gallo all hurt the Clips have needed production from Lou Will and they’ve gotten it.
If he’s coming off the bench Williams is an auto-lock for the Sixth Man race…
18.9 PPG, 4.4 AST, 2.6 RPG, 1.0 STL, 0.2 BLK, 45% FG, 39% 3FG
Boston Celtics, 21-4
Don’t look at the box score.
Don’t bother with the paltry 10.5 PER.
Just watch the Boston Celtics, and tell me you don’t love Marcus Smart’s game.
The self-proclaimed “junkyard dog” has been terrific for the overachieving Celtics. Smart is willing to sacrifice his body. He can switch onto a post player and hold his own. He is a damn good rebounder and is one of the best passers off the bench with 5.4 assists per game.
I call Smart “Baby Draymond” because reminds me of the Warriors’ Draymond Green. He’s found ways of being effective playing off Kyrie and if the Celtics get a top 3 record in the league he will have a convincing case for Sixth Man of the Year.
9.7 PPG, 5.4 AST, 4.2 RPG, 1.2 STL, 0.5 BLK, 32% FG, 30% 3FG
Houston Rockets, 18-4
It didn’t take long for Gordon to get back to his stellar sixth man play.
Now that Chris Paul is back in the starting lineup, EG can switch back to the role he knows best which is getting buckets off the bench.
In the young year, Gordon’s efficiency is down but his scoring is up to 19.4 points per game. Additionally, he’s been getting to the line 4.8 times per game and is shooting 83% from the stripe which is a valuable asset off the bench.
Assuming Paul and Harden stay healthy, the Rockets will continue to soar and 6man Eric Gordon will continue to score. The defending Sixth Man of the Year and 3-point champion will look to retain his two individual awards in the new year.
19.4 PPG, 2.6 AST, 2.1 RPG, 0.7 STL, 0.4 BLK, 40% FG, 31% 3FG
Cleveland Cavaliers, 17-7
No, he’s not just this high because Lebron James said so…
After an abysmal start, Wade has been extremely impressive off the bench for the Cavs for the past month. D-Wade is second on the Cavs in +_ and blocks, cementing himself as perhaps the best shot-blocking guard ever. His 24 minutes a game are a career low but his 36% shooting from deep is a career high.
He is the second playmaker on the Cavaliers and his near 4 rebounds and 4 assists a game are priceless especially when Lebron is off the floor.
If the Cavs keep winning Wade could easily snag the 2018 Sixth Man of the Year award adding to his already impressive, Hall of Fame-worthy accolades.
11.9 PPG, 3.9 AST, 3.8 RPG, 1.0 STL, 0.9 BLK, 46% FG, 36% 3FG
Denver Nuggets, 13-10
Barton just single-handedly beat the Bulls to build on his career year for the 4th-seeded Nuggets.
With Paul Millsap out for significant time and Jokic out with a sprained ankle the young Nuggets have been desperate for scoring. Right now Barton is a crucial element to their success and his energy and playmaking off the bench has been vital to their solid start.
Barton, a streaky shooter, can either lift or sink the Nuggets with his shot making and taking. This year he is building on his improved 3-point stroke, shooting a career high 43% from 3. Additionally, Barton is a near elite slasher and can finish around the rim on either side.
If the Nuggets finish as a top 4 seed in the West, there’s a good chance Barton takes home the trophy.
15.8 PPG, 3.0 AST, 5.2 RPG, 1.0 STL, 0.5 BLK, 47% FG, 43% 3FG