Who will win the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award?

Dallas Mavericks guard Jason Terry reacts after hitting a three point shot against the Philadelphia 76ers during second half NBA basketball action in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, March 1, 2011. REUTERS/Tim Shaffer (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

It’s award season in the NBA and today I’ll take a look at the top Sixth Man of the Year candidates. Not only will I try to predict who will win the award, I’ll also discuss who should win win the award. Those are two separate questions and they may have two separate answers.

First, to narrow down the candidates, I took a look at the winners from the past 10 seasons:

Yr Player TM G GS GS% MPG PPG RPG APG TOT WINS
2001 Aaron McKie PHI 76 33 43% 31.5 11.6 4.1 5.0 20.7 56
2002 Corliss Williamson DET 78 7 9% 21.8 13.6 4.1 1.2 18.9 50
2003 Bobby Jackson SAC 59 26 44% 28.4 15.2 3.7 3.1 22.0 59
2004 Antawn Jamison DAL 82 2 2% 29.0 14.8 6.3 0.9 22.0 52
2005 Ben Gordon CHI 82 3 4% 24.4 15.1 2.6 2.0 19.7 47
2006 Mike Miller MEM 74 9 12% 30.6 13.7 5.4 2.7 21.8 49
2007 Leandro Barbosa PHO 80 18 23% 32.7 18.1 2.7 4.0 24.8 61
2008 Manu Ginobili SAS 74 23 31% 31.1 19.5 4.8 4.5 28.8 56
2009 Jason Terry DAL 74 11 15% 33.7 19.6 2.4 3.4 25.4 50
2010 Jamal Crawford ATL 79 0 0% 31.1 18.0 2.5 3.0 23.5 53

Notice that all 10 winners had the following in common:

— They started fewer than 45% of their teams games.
— They averaged at least 11.6 points per game.
— They averaged at least 18.9 total points, rebounds and assists.
— They were all on teams that won at least 47 games. Eight of 10 winners were on teams that won 50+ games.

Using this criteria to narrow down the legitimate candidates for the 2011 Sixth Man award, we’re left with this list of 11 candidates. To give us a little leeway, they all started less than half of their teams games, they averaged at least 17.3 total points, rebounds and assists, and they play on teams that have at least 38 wins on the season.

I also included Efficiency Per Minute to see how productive each player is in the minutes he gets. Bigs tend to do better in this statistic because it’s easier to post rebounds than it is to register assists and big men tend to shoot at a higher percentage because they play close to the basket (so they have fewer misses, which weight efficiency down).

Player Tm G GS GS% MPG PPG RPG APG TOT EPM WINS
Lamar Odom LAL 80 34 43% 32.0 14.2 8.7 3.0 25.9 0.608 55
Marcin Gortat PHO 53 10 19% 29.5 12.8 9.3 1.0 23.1 0.640 38
Jason Terry DAL 80 10 13% 31.3 15.7 1.9 4.1 21.7 0.425 55
Shawn Marion DAL 78 25 32% 28.0 12.4 6.9 1.3 20.6 0.537 55
Thaddeus Young PHI 80 1 1% 26.1 12.8 5.3 1.0 19.1 0.536 41
Jamal Crawford ATL 74 0 0% 30.4 14.2 1.7 3.2 19.1 0.361 44
Louis Williams PHI 75 0 0% 23.3 13.7 2.0 3.4 19.0 0.489 41
Ty Lawson DEN 78 29 37% 26.3 11.7 2.6 4.7 19.0 0.507 49
J.R. Smith DEN 77 6 8% 24.7 12.1 4.1 2.2 18.4 0.499 49
Glen Davis BOS 76 11 14% 29.4 11.6 5.4 1.1 18.1 0.404 55
James Harden OKC 80 5 6% 26.8 12.2 3.0 2.1 17.3 0.452 54

A simple search on the internet seems to reveal two major candidates for the award — Jason Terry and Lamar Odom. I included Marcin Gortat just to illustrate how good he’s been in Phoenix, but the bottom line is that the Suns don’t have enough wins to justify a place for Gortat on the short list. Plus, he took over the starting job recently, so he’s not really a sixth man anymore.

Interestingly, Terry’s teammate, Shawn Marion, deserves mention but isn’t getting much love. He has a higher EPM and averages almost as many points, rebounds and assists as Terry.

So who deserves to win?

If I had a vote (which I don’t), I’d cast if for Lamar Odom, who has been outstanding for the Lakers this season, averaging 14-9-3 coming off the bench in 57% of his team’s games.

But there’s a good chance that Jason Terry wins the award since he’s the highest scoring player of any of the guys on the list. As John Schuhmann of NBA.com notes, of the last nine winners, seven have gone to the player who had the highest scoring average. One other point in his favor is that he is more of a sixth man than Odom, since he only started 13% of his team’s games.

But I’d go with Odom, and I think he’ll win it. What about you?

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

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