• Joe Keller

Candidates for Sixth Man of the Year

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*Photo via USA Today

The benches for NBA teams don’t get a lot of credit, but it is so important to have a deep bench to give your stars a rest and not have the level of play drop significantly. They aren’t the flashiest players, nor the most talented, but they are some of the hardest working players in the league. The players that have contributed the most this season in their limited roles are Isaiah Thomas of the Boston Celtics, Louis Williams of the Toronto Raptors and Tristan Thompson of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Thompson plays just under 27 minutes per game for the Cavs, and in his time on the court he averages over eight points per game while shooting 54 percent. He is one of the best rebounders in the league with the limited time he spends on the floor, averaging eight rebounds per game. Over three of those are offensive rebounds, which makes him tied for sixth in that category. His offensive game needs work since most of his points are from put-backs, but if you can rank in the top ten in any category as a bench player, you’re doing something right.

Williams’s ability to score and handle the ball at both guard positions has been huge with Toronto’s back-court injuries to DeMar DeRozen and Kyle Lowry. He is just out there to shoot, and he does often at 40 percent from the field and 34 percent from three. Williams generates points, though, averaging 15.5 per game in 25 minutes per night. His offensive production has been huge for the Raptors, as they have scored 111.7 points per 100 possessions with Williams on the floor versus 104.6 when he sits, according to NBA.com.

Thomas has been the most efficient scorer off the bench this season. Splitting time between Boston and the Phoenix Suns, he’s averaged 16.5 points per game on 42 percent shooting and 37 percent from three, while playing just under 26 minutes per game. It’s no coincidence Phoenix fell out of the playoff race after trading Thomas, and Boston has now clinched a playoff berth. The Suns are 10-17 since they traded him to Boston, while Boston has enjoyed an 18-11 post All-Star game record with Thomas playing in 20 of those games.

All the candidates have stepped their game up when their teams have needed them to give them a spark off the bench. Every player has exemplified what it means to be the Sixth Man of the Year, being the leader of the second unit. Only one will be given the award, but each of their teams know how valuable they are to winning games.

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