The NBA’s Sixth Man of The Year race is the most captivating it has been in years.
This award is generally a formality to decide if Jamal Crawford or Lou Williams would just trade off wins, but this season has been different. The competition is steep.
It is not often when you can point to a pool of 8-10 players that could legitimately be the Sixth Man of the Year.
January is the perfect time to start tracking award races. The season is approaching the halfway mark and there are plenty of strong statistical trends to depend on and storylines to follow as the race to the playoffs begins in earnest.
We narrowed the field down to five names to begin monitoring for who might be crowned in Sixth Man of the Year in 2019.
1. Derrick Rose
Season stats: 18.9 points, 4.8 assists, 2.8 rebounds, .7 steals
Derrick Rose’s reawakening has been one of the best stories of the 2018-2019 NBA campaign.
After years of ups and downs following his MVP win in 2012, Rose is playing at his highest level since he left his hometown Bulls.
Early All-Star fan voting has him the third leading vote-getter in the West among all positions.
His comeback story amidst an injury-riddled career is providing plenty of steam for such an eager return from the fans but there has been a real improvement in his game as well. He’s simply shooting better.
— Basketball Society (@BBallSociety_) January 2, 2019
Rose is shooting 46% from the three-point line this year while taking a respectable 3.3 shots a game from behind the arc.
This kind of production is jaw-dropping after a now decade-long career where he never produced over 34% from three.
The NBA three-point revolution is not only affecting young players. Older guys are clearly getting in the gym and improving their mechanics. Hard work has clearly paid off for Rose who is hitting jump shots at an increased clip from all over the floor.
The Minnesota Timberwolves are currently the 11th seed but only three wins separate them from the eighth-seeded Lakers. If Derrick Rose can stay healthy and hot the season is far from over.
2. Lou Williams
Lou Williams been doing this forever.
— Basketball Society (@BBallSociety_) November 16, 2018
Season Stats: 18.3 points, 4.8 assists, 2.7 rebounds, .6 steals
There should never be a Sixth Man of the Year award list that does not include Lou Williams or Jamal Crawford and this list is no different. Lou Will has been getting it done this year the way he’s always done it: getting buckets. Just last week he absolutely torched the Lakers in the Los Angeles showdown post-Christmas.
Williams is the embodiment of “microwavable just add water” offense that translates with any team and system. Time has done nothing to his ability to use his crafty ball handling to get any type of shot he wants one-on-one.
He is just one of those guys for who coaches can consistently rely on his ability to manufacture points under any circumstance.
The grit and fearlessness that has embodied his career reflect in the identity of this current Los Angeles Clippers team.
These guys knew they were underdogs entering the season and are no longer surprising anyone as they hold the fourth seed in the West.
Williams has been a key cog in the wheel for Los Angeles this season. The fact that this roster can add two max free agents next year should be absolutely terrifying to the rest of the Western Conference.
3. Spencer Dinwiddie
Season Stats: 17.1 points, 5.1 assists, 2.5 rebounds, .7 steals
Brooklyn knows what they have and that’s why Spencer Dinwiddie was signed to a contract extension in December.
Dinwiddie has quickly become a force off the bench for a Brooklyn team that has a bright future with their assets back intact and a ton of money to spend in the summer of 2019.
And again: Dinwiddie is making 70% of his shots at the rim which places him in the 94th percentile among all guards per @cleantheglass . He and DLo could be a serious back court force if Brooklyn keeps them together.
— Basketball Society (@BBallSociety_) December 16, 2018
Dinwiddie has been one of the main factors of the Nets’ promising outlook on the future. He was previously waived twice by the Chicago Bulls and went through a stint in the NBA G-League before breaking out last season.
He finished third in the Most Improved Player award voting last year and has established himself as a nightly scoring threat in 2018. He possesses great length and uses it to attack slower bigs and smaller guards.
With D’Angelo Russell and Caris Levert running alongside Dinwiddie, the Nets are one of the underrated players going into free agency 2019.
Success in New York with a superior support group can sway the decisions of a few big names in the years to come. Even without a superstar the Nets are eighth in the Eastern Conference and are not the pushover on the schedule that many imagined they would be.
The stellar play of Dinwiddie off the bench and his trustworthiness in the clutch may land the Nets in the playoffs.
4. Domantas Sabonis
Season Stats: 14.9 Points, 9.6 Rebounds, 2.7 Assists, 62% FG
Domantas Sabonis is in his third season and of course, he came over in the trade for superstar Paul George.
A lot of people thought that the Pacers were really going to struggle without a superstar and man were we wrong. I know a lot of people that would actually say that the Pacers had ended up winning the trade with the way Victor Oladipo and Sabonis have played the last two years.
Domantas Sabonis has 16 double-doubles coming off the bench this season. The only bench player with more double-doubles prior to the All-Star Game in the last 35 seasons is David Lee with 20 in 2006-07. pic.twitter.com/lEpLj6NK5O
— Justin Kubatko (@jkubatko) January 5, 2019
Sabonis is anchoring this Pacers team off the bench.
Playing 25 minutes a night and playing down the stretch in crucial moments has really shaped this young player into being a needed piece for a championship team.
Not only is an efficient and smart offensive player, he can also protect the ball, grab offensive rebounds and protect the rim while also being able to stretch to the wings and guard the more versatile big men in this league.
He currently comes in fourth in our ladder this week and definitely has potential to continue to climb throughout the season.
5. Terrence Ross
Season Stats: 13.1 Points, 83% FT, 2.1 3PTs, 3.1 Rebounds
Terrence Ross in his eighth season in the league an is enjoying his best thus far.
Although he is on the Magic, he has brought a boost off the bench this year including hitting the game-winner earlier in the year against the Philadelphia 76ers.
It is almost like the Magic go as Ross goes.
Averaging 26 minutes per game, he has been at least a +3 in every single one of the Magic’s wins and has been at least a -2 in every single loss this season.
It is clear the better he plays, and the more he takes care of the ball, the better the Magic can be.
It is time the 27-year-old gets some attention and he comes in fifth for our Sixth Man of the Year Ladder.
Check back in a few weeks for an update on our Sixth Man of the Year ladder.
This post was completed by Ryan Calpin and Justin Kirkland.