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NBA's Top 2013-14 Sixth man of the year candidates

New Orleans Hornets v Los Angeles Clippers

Every off season, most people focus on how good the starting line-up of a team is. Some, in fact, go so far as to predict a team’s chances based solely on it’s starters. However, more often than not, it’s the bench players who provide those few extra points each game which enables the team to snatch victories.

Classic example of bench players changing the course of the game: Miami’s veteran sixth man Ray Allen. One might go so far as to say that Miami wouldn’t have won the championship without Allen’s stellar clutch play.

Now, the free agent frenzy has died down, and most of the rosters are taking on a solid shape. This is the perfect time to predict who the top 5 sixth men will be in the 2013-14 season.

5. Jamal Crawford, Los Angeles Clippers

2012-13 Stats: 16.5 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 2.5 APG, 43.8 FG%, 37.6 3P%, 16.89 PER.

A perennial contender for the 6 MOY award, Jamal Crawford finished second in the voting last year behind the sixth man of 2013, J.R. Smith.

Crawford is a player who’s capable of running his own offence. At 6’5″, he’s perfect to play alongside Chris Paul and together, they would make a lethal pair.

Despite this, Crawford will remain a bench player mainly because of his liabilities on defence. His idea of defence often involves waving his arms wildly while defending on one-on-one situations, hoping that his arms will touch the ball. The Clippers have a better SG in J.J. Redick who’ll probably start this season.

However, make no mistake. Crawford is a veteran and will definitely play a significant role in the Clippers’ title defence this season. He’s excellent at running the pick and roll and is a good enough shooter. He put up decent stats and despite the possibility of him seeing a reduction in minutes this season, Crawford remains their premier sixth man.

4. J.R. Smith, New York Knicks

2012-13 Stats: 18.1 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 2.7 APG, 42.2 FG%, 35.6 3P%, 17.67 PER

Indiana Pacers v New York Knicks - Game Two

The league’s reigning sixth man of the year, J.R. Smith is one of the most mercurial, athletic and explosive scorers in the league. His ability to turn red hot in an instant makes him a dangerous player to have as an opponent.

While Smith had a season of a kind the last time around, the same cannot be said of his playoff performance. His shooting from the field dropped to 33.1% and he barely looked like his former, regular season self.

After the playoffs, Smith had to undergo a knee surgery which means he would miss a few initial games this season. Although this doesn’t mean his stats will drop, Smith would need some time to get back into his rhythm.

Another reason why the reigning 6 MOY is placed 4th in this list is the team he’s playing for. The Knicks acquired Andrea Bargnani at Power Forward. When you factor in Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire, the Knicks have one of the best offensive teams in the league. This would mean less importance offensively for Smith.

Despite that, Smith is one of the best sixth men in this league and is capable of putting up 30+ points on any given night. If he gets back into his rhythm quickly, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be able to show more of his last season’s performances.

3. Harrison Barnes, Golden State Warriors

2012-13 stats: 9.2 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 1.2 APG, 43.9 FG%, 35.9 3P%, 11.08 PER

Golden State Warriors v Denver Nuggets - Game Five

The 20-year-old is one of the best young up and comers in the league right now. He stands at 6’8″ and is capable of playing both the forward positions. With Andre Iguodala‘s addition to the squad, generally, Harrison should face a reduction in MPG but as they say, fortune favours the brave. The Warriors lost some firepower in their bench when they traded Carl Landry and Jarret Jack.

So, this would mean that the youngster will be expected to step up and lead the second unit offensively. Barnes showed in the playoffs that he’s a force to be reckoned with. He averaged 16.1 points and 6.4 rebounds in 38.4 minutes per night. While it’s irrational to think that he’ll receive a similar number of minutes this season now that Iguodala’s in the foray, Barnes’ versatility might make him the no. 3 forward in the team, after Iguodala and David Lee.

The sophomore has a few great things going for him at the moment. He’s just 20, which means he has a lot of potential and time to develop as a player. He’s good at both ends of the court and that sets him apart from the traditional sixth men, who are generally strictly one dimensional.

He’s fast. At 6’8″, and playing as both SF/PF, Barnes’ speed allows him to blow past the slower forwards in the league. Barnes is excellent in transition and is really good at finishing around the rim. While he might not win the sixth man of the year award this season, he’ll definitely give the others a tough time.

2. Tyreke Evans, New Orleans Pelicans

2012-13 stats: 15.2 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 3.5 APG, 47.8 FG%, 33.8 3P%, 18.16 PER

Sacramento Kings v Golden State Warriors

The former rookie of the year joined the Pelicans this season. While he’s more than talented enough to be a starter, it would be more sensible to bring him on as the no. 3 guard after Jrue Holiday and Eric Gordon. At 6’6″, Evans is big, athletic and is capable of both driving to the rim or setting up shots for others.

Due to his latter ability, Evans was cast as a Point Guard when he was playing with the Sacramento Kings. This was a huge mistake as Evans is a better scorer than a facilitator. But then again, there was nobody in the atrociously bad Kings squad to play the role of the PG. Despite Evans’ athleticism and long wingspan, he’s a poor defender. This is probably his only drawback.

He generally gambles for steals and hopes other players will make up for his deficiencies on defence. However, this might not pose much threat if he plays as a sixth man as his role would be to provide instant offence of the bench and not carry the team as he did with the Kings.

Evans is improving his outside shooting and this will be another plus point as both Holiday and Gordan like to have a high usage percentage. At $11 million, Evans is one of the most highly paid sixth men in NBA History, but is worth every penny, at least on paper. The Pelicans are bound to be hoping that he can deliver what he’s promised.

1. Jarrett Jack, Cleveland Cavaliers

2012-13 stats: 12.9 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 5.6 APG, 45.2 FG%, 40.4 3P%, 15.93 PER

Golden State Warriors v San Antonio Spurs - Game Five

The veteran guard is well known as a quality bench player. However, last season, he developed into something more. He emerged as the leader of the bench unit of the Golden State Warriors. Now, he plays for the Cavaliers, and he’ll start where he left off. Jack will be the 3rd guard with the Cavs, after Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters, two of the most of the promising young guards in the league.

However, Jack might play longer minutes this season, as the Cavs will do their utmost to make sure that Irving doesn’t get injured again. In an era dominated by Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose type of shoot first point guards, Jack brings a dash of traditional craftiness into the game.

He sees the court better than most of the guards, especially in transition and loves to set up big men. He is also extremely fond of the pick and roll and should fit in perfectly with the young bigs of Cleveland. He’s also a capable scorer and can score from any given spot at any given moment. He’s an excellent 3 point and mid range shooter. With big men like Andrew Bynum, Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson supporting him, his inability to score efficiently from under the rim won’t matter.

Jack’s also a veteran and in a team filled with young, developing players, he might be the experienced player they so desperately need. He’s a natural leader and this means he will get more on-the-ball time too. He will be expected to rejuvenate the Cavaliers team in much the same manner as he did with Golden State.

Overall, he’s one of the most interesting sixth men to look out for next season and might snatch the Sixth man of the Year award during the process.

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Edited by Staff Editor
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