Russell Westbrook, point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers, was removed from the starting line up for the second time this season.
The NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award is perpetually controversial in regard to the criteria that it takes to earn the award. The past five winners include: Tyler Herro, Jordan Clarkson, Montrezl Harrell, and Lou Williams, who has won twice. Those winners share a common theme as they are all primary scorers and lousy defensive players. Though unfair, that trend has to be accounted for when trying to predict the next player to hold the title. Sadly, that immediately eliminates deserving players like Bobby Portis, Grant Williams, and Bruce Brown who are capable scorers but express most of their value on the defensive side of the ball. Taking into account the trend of criteria and the player’s performance this season, there are a few players taht can potentially win the award.
The odds for the award currently favor Russell Westbrook from the Los Angeles Lakers. Westbrook has a perfect storyline going for him. He is an aging star who has finally learned to embrace the bench role given to him, but his stats and impact don’t paint the same picture. He provides a solid scoring punch off the bench averaging 15 points per game. He holds the third-worst true shooting percentage –– a metric to capture the scoring efficiency of players –– of all players that have played at least 30 games this season. He is essentially a traffic cone on defense with no added value while constantly being exposed off the ball. He provides no spacing on offense; thus, he makes shot creation extremely difficult for other Lakers’ initiators. Despite his favorable odds, Russell Westbrook is not the best candidate for the Sixth Man of the Year.
Before getting into why Norman Powell is the deserving Sixth Man of the Year, it is important to highlight some honorable mentions. Malcolm Brogdon has been a consistent presence off the Boston Celtics’ bench and plays excellently as the lead guard for a championship contender. Benedict Mathurin has captured the attention of many NBA fans with his flair and ability to sufficiently score off the bench for the Indiana Pacers. The list for honorable is ongoing, but Norman Powell is the deserving winner of Sixth Man of the Year for many reasons. First, he fits the aforementioned criteria. He is scoring 14 points per game off the bench for the Los Angeles Clippers, who are second in the league in bench scoring. He scores those 14 points extremely efficiently with a diet of threes and shots inside the paint. In addition, he does not need the ball in his hands to cause damage, so he has the ability to fit in almost any lineup the Clippers have to offer. He is far from an exceptional defender, but he is a neutral presence and that is enough for the Clippers’ star-studded roster.