There are a number of individual awards up for grabs come the end of each NBA regular season, including Most Valuable Player, Defensive Player of the Year and Most Improved Player.
However, for the NBA’s bench players the most coveted award is the Sixth Man of the Year, which is awarded to the league’s outstanding non-starter. In order to be eligible for the Sixth Man of the Year award, players must come off the bench in more games than they start over the course of the 82-game regular season.
There have been 30 players in history to win the Sixth Man of the Year award since its inception in the 1982/83 season and the number of minutes you average across the season is not taken into account. Utah Jazz combo guard Jordan Clarkson is the reigning holder of the award and it is one that has primarily been awarded to heat-check scorers and bucket getters over recent times, such as Clarkson.
In the last decade Lou Williams, Jamal Crawford, James Harden, JR Smith, Eric Gordon and Montrezl Harrell have all won the award for their offensive exploits. The current list of main contenders also leans itself towards another offensive-minded scorer winning Sixth Man of the Year once again.
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Below, we have featured the current top contenders to win the Sixth Man of the Year award.
1. Jordan Clarkson – 11/2
The current favourite to win this season’s Sixth Man of the Year award is last year’s winner in Jordan Clarkson. The Utah Jazz guard is certainly the obvious pick, particularly after the scoring jump he took last year in a more prominent role for the team.
Clarkson averaged a career-high 18.4 points per game during the regular season and has the M.O that every sixth man would want: score the ball. He is their offensive spark plug off the bench and leads the second unit whilst playing close to 27 minutes per game.
With Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell being the starting backcourt, Clarkson is now well established in his role after two seasons in Utah and this year will be the first of the four-year, $52 million contract he signed last November.
2. Joe Ingles – 12/1
It’s pretty rare to see the top two players in contention for the Sixth Man of the Year award come from the same team, but Joe Ingles has ensured that is the case. Ingles has flirted between being a starter and bench player over the last two seasons having come off the bench in 75 of his 139 games played, starting the other 64.
Last season he came off the bench 37 times in his 67 games played, which made him eligible to be voted for. There turned out to be plenty of support for the Australian forward too, as he came second behind his teammate Clarkson after receiving 34 first-place votes. Ingles had a great season that saw him average a career-high in points per game (12.1) and 3P% (.451%), as well as just under 5 assists per game.
3. Kevin Huerter – 14/1
Kevin Huerter announced himself to a whole new demographic of NBA fans during the Playoffs following the shooting guard’s impressive performances in the Playoffs. The 23-year-old had two 20+ point games in the Atlanta Hawks’ victory over the Philadelphia 76ers, including a 27 point game on 10/18 shooting from the field in their epic victory in Game 7 of the series.
That game really elevated Huerter’s reputation to the masses all the way to him now being the third favourite to win Sixth Man of the Year. He wouldn’t have been eligible to win the award last season after starting in 49 of his 69 games played, though he is expected to be a bench player this term.
The Hawks will likely field a starting five of Trae Young, Bogdan Bogdanovic, De’Andre Hunter, John Collins and Clint Capela when health permits, leaving Huerter likely in contention for the Sixth Man award.
4. Tyrese Haliburton – 14/1
It remains to be seen whether Tyrese Haliburton is a starter or bench player for Sacramento this season with the makeup of their lineup remaining unclear at the time of writing. Haliburton had an excellent rookie season with the Kings, finishing third in voting for Rookie of the Year, but is on a team that guards heavy with a disgruntled Buddy Hield, De’Aaron Fox and lottery pick Davion Mitchell.
That could resign Haliburton to a role coming off the bench, just as he did in 38 of his 58 games played last season. The Kings are also believed to be a contender in the Ben Simmons sweepstakes which could again throw Haliburton’s playing time into doubt. The high IQ former Iowa State point guard isn’t in the mould of the typical Sixth Man of the Year but is a hugely impactful NBA player that can be a star in his role.
5. Derrick Rose – 16/1
The Derrick Rose renaissance in New York is one of the more uplifting stories in the NBA and he could become just the third player in NBA history to win both the MVP and Sixth Man of the Year award.
Rose could join Bill Walton and James Harden in an exclusive club to win both awards and finished third in voting last year behind Clarkson and Ingles, picking up one first-place vote to his name.
The 32-year-old averaged just under 15 points per game after being traded to the Knicks from Detroit and that number climbed to 19.4 in the Playoffs where he then went on to start three games. The Knicks’ signing of Kemba Walker could see Rose’s minutes take a dip this season, but there is no doubt that he would be the romantic choice to win Sixth Man this year.