Early Season Sixth Man Conversation
We will begin with Jamal Crawford. After a down year last season in Portland, the Clippers took a gamble on Crawford and signed him to a four-year deal at age 32 to help boost the bench scoring after they shipped Mo Williams to Utah. A former Sixth Man with Atlanta in 2010, Crawford has fully embraced a bench role for a contending team because he knows he can contribute at a high level facing opponents' second units.
He is averaging 16.6 points, 2.5 assists while shooting 37% from beyond the arc. He leads all bench players in PPG and has scored 20+ points 17 times in the 44 games he has played. Many considered Crawford an All-star, but even thought he wasn't named to the team, he is still considered a top candidate for Sixth Man.
Jarrett Jack is the only player in basketball averaging 10+ point and 5+ assists off the bench. He plays backup to Stephen Curry, however, they often end up playing together for crucial parts of the game. Jack is dangerous from the field in general, shooting 47%, but just as hot from three-point range, firing at 39%. Averaging 12.5 points, 5.6 assists and 3.4 rebounds in only 29 minutes per game is not only impressive, but integral to the success of the Golden State Warriors who are enjoying one of their best seasons in over a decade. Jack is as important to team as anyone as he leads the second unit and plays the majority of the fourth quarter.
Finally, we land on Kevin Martin, the third and final candidate for Sixth Man of the Year. After being dealt to the Thunder in a blockbuster deal that sent last seasons' Sixth Man, James Harden, to the Rockets, Martin has seamlessly filled that scoring bench role, which has allowed the Thunder to jump out to the best record in the NBA through half the season.
Always a deadly shooter, Martin has continued that trend in OKC, shooting a blistering 43% from three-point range and 45% overall. Martin has become the beneficiary from playing alongside Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook who draw so much attention when they penetrate the defense, Martin is usually left open on the perimeter and he makes opponents pay.
There is no clear cut winner of the award just yet, but if I had to cast my vote today, I'd take Jarrett Jack. Without him manning the point with the second unit and in the fourth quarter of crucial games, the Warriors would not be where they are now.