NBA Sixth Man of the Year: Tristan Thompson, Enes Kanter, Andre Iguodala – who should win?

Jonathan Raymond and Kevin Jeffers debate who should be rewarded with the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year award.

Golden State Warriors forward Andre Iguodala, right, passes around Kawhi Leonard during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, April 10, 2016, in San Antonio. Golden State won 92-86. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)
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With the NBA play-offs just about here, The National’s resident American sports bros Kevin Jeffers and Jonathan Raymond talk about who they think should win the NBA’s biggest awards.

Today, who should be the Sixth Man of the Year?


The Sixth Man of the Year Award. The honour given annually to the best basketball player in the league who is not among the best basketball players on his own team.

Okay, yes, that’s an unfair way to frame it. But still, it’s a funny award. I think what we generally understand it to mean is “most overqualified bench dude”. Your Andre Iguodalas, your Jamal Crawfords.

So who was the most overqualified bench dude in the NBA this year?


Like Coach of the Year — which we talked about yesterday — there's no clear favourite for Sixth Man. So let's haphazardly throw out some random names and pick one among them.

Iguodala and Crawford will be in the discussion just because they’re bigger names. Will Barton has had a nice breakout year in Denver, and might be the favourite. He’ll also get some Most Improved Player votes. Victor Oladipo started the year off the bench and thrived, but has since found his way to 52 starts. Dennis Schroder does things for the Hawks when Jeff Teague needs a rest, but doesn’t have eye-popping numbers. Jeremy Lin, Evan Turner, anyone from the Spurs’ deep bench ... there are a lot of candidates, which makes me think they’ll give it to someone obvious like Crawford or Iguodala. Neither of those guys would be an inspiring pick to me. Would the voters go out of the box to vote for Schroeder, or am I just being a Hawks homer?


I like Schroder a lot, in terms of the continuity he brings to that team and the role he actually plays for the Hawks.

But are we considering that in the Sixth Man? Does it matter what kind of role you played on a team – Shaun Livingston or Patty Mills would have serious arguments by that standard – or is this award for best points-scorin’ bench dude?

That’s traditionally what this award has been about – Lou Williams last year, Crawford, JR Smith, James Harden, Jamal Crawford, Jason Terry, Manu Ginobili, Mike Miller, Ben Gordon, Antawn Jamison – points-scoring swing men who fill it up off the bench for decent-ish teams.

By that standard, your candidates are Crawford, Barton, Lin, Terrible Defensive Player Enes Kanter. Those types.

Here are some good players who came off the bench and played important, productive roles on good teams but did not score lots of points: Livingston, Mills, Thabo Sefolosha, Kelly Olynyk, Bismack Biyombo, Mo Harkless, Trevor Booker.

Here’s a dude: Tristan Thompson. What about Tristan Thompson? I vote Tristan Thompson.


Thompson is a great shout. And I’m a big Booker fan. But now I’m fascinated with Kanter.

The former No. 3 overall pick has found his perfect role as a dominant big man off the bench in Oklahoma City. He's one of the best rebounders in the world, and he's putting up 12.7 points per game, all with only one start off the bench. The knock has always been his defence, but his .230 win shares per 48 minutes (per shows he's still a plus player, and his defence doesn't hurt as bad against teams' second units.

Say we eliminate Crawford because of his decline, and Iguodala because of the number of games missed, and Schroeder because the overall numbers just aren’t there, and it’s down to the two big men from Cleveland and OKC. Why Thompson over Kanter?


BBref’s win shares is more generous to Kanter’s defence than box plus-minus (-3.2), VORP (which rates him just 0.2 points per 100 possessions better than replacement level), on/off figures (OKC are 7.3 points/100 better with him off the court, the widest discrepancy of their heavy-minutes players, and that includes Dion Waiters) ESPN real plus-minus (which rates him -1.03) and my eyes.

Enes Kanter is a no-good, terrible, very bad defender.

Thompson on the other hand, he’s a really good defender. His offensive game is still iffy, but he finishes well enough around the rim, and he’s a pretty good offensive rebounder. He has also often played a critical role as Cleveland’s literal first guy off the bench, subbing out the at-times-disastrous Timofey Mozgov and keeping the core four rolling. In fact, the Cavs’ five-man line-up with him, Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, Kevin Love and JR Smith is their most heavily-used this season (445 minutes).

He is basically the most important centre on the East’s best team, and he happens to be coming off the bench.


Fine, you’ve talked me into it. Thompson should be Sixth Man of the Year, and it’d be an inspiring choice to reward overall game-changing over just the highest-scoring guy. It’s really amazing Mozgov even starts over Thompson at this point, but I reckon they’ll change that in the play-offs.

That all said, I wouldn’t be mad if Kanter or Barton won.

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