Feb 26, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili (20) passes the ball under the basket during the first half against the Detroit Pistons at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
There are usually a handful of legitimate picks for Sixth Man of the Year. Last year’s J.R. Smith clearly deserved it, but he certainly doesn’t this year. Here’s a look at my top choices for Sixth Man. (All stats courtesy of NBA.com/stats)
1. Manu Ginobili
Manu Ginobili has been doing this sixth man business his entire career.
His stats, while impressive, are not completely eye opening. He is producing almost the same stats and minutes as last year except at a decently higher shooting percentage and free throw percentage.
His case comes most from what he does with the second unit, or whatever unit he is playing with on the floor. The man isn’t ranked fourth in PER (19.46) among the shooting guards for no reason.
The ball movement when he is on the court reaches a whole new level, and the San Antonio Spurs bench is leading the league in points at 44.4 and assists at 10.3. What Manu does in 23 minutes—some players struggle to do in 33 minutes (everyone is pointing at you, J.R. Smith.)
Feb 26, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls power forward Taj Gibson (22) dunks against the Golden State Warriors during the second half at the United Center. The Bulls beat the Warriors 103-83. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports
2. Taj Gibson
Taj Mahal! Okay, maybe not quite, but this guy is standing big and tall this year.
Taj Gibson is having a break out year with 13 points per game and almost seven rebounds. That is big production from a power forward coming off the bench. When everyone is arguing to start a man over an overpaid, but very solid Carlos Boozer, you know that Taj must be pretty good.
He is one of the reasons that the Bulls are still relevant even with their chain of injuries and recent departure of Luol Deng.
When you talk about a sixth man, everyone starts looking at offense, but Taj Gibson plays hard on both ends. With 1.4 blocks a game, combined with his athletic and strong build, he is a pain to go up against.
Feb 13, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Reggie Jackson (15) and Los Angeles Lakers guard Steve Blake (5) battle for the loose ball during the second quarter at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
3. Reggie Jackson
I would have given this spot to Jamal Crawford, but with J.J. Reddick injuries, I’m not sure he will qualify by the end of the year.
The same thing would have happened with Reggie Jackson, but Russell Westbrook is back and very eager to get going again this season.
He is yet another player having a break out year, and is potentially another Most Improved Player candidate, who will have to fill the shoes that James Harden and Kevin Martin left behind on the team.
His 13.5 points, 4.2 assists, and 3.7 rebounds per game aren’t anything to scoff at, but we can also throw a steal in there.
This man is in charge of the second unit, and if the Thunder come out first seed in the West (or even the best record in the NBA), then he will definitely be a top candidate for the award.