SECAUCUS, N.J., April 18 -- A good sixth man is to a team as a good change of clothes is to an awards show host. The same way that new digs can give the host a fresh look, a quality sixth man can breath new life into a team and bring a facet of play to the court that the squad doesn't have at the opening tip.

The last two winners, Mike Miller and Ben Gordon, were honored mainly because when they entered the game they immediately gave their teams an outside-scoring threat.

Corliss Williamson, in 2001-02 with Detroit, and Anthony Mason, in 1994-95 with New York, were awarded the distinction based on the toughness that they provided when inserted into the lineup.

Detlef Schrempf earned back-to-back awards in 1991 and '92 because of his overall contributions on both ends of the floor.

No matter what style of play you bring, the only rule you must follow in order to be eligible for the award is that you have to sub in the game more times than you start it.

Here are my top five candidates for the Sixth Man Award (stats through April 17):

1. Leandro Barbosa, Phoenix
  • 2006-07 stats: 18.0 PTS, 2.6 REB, 4.0 AST, 1.2 STL, .475 FG
    The defining play in Barbosa's season came on Jan. 2 with the Suns playing in Chicago and trailing by two in the closing seconds. Instead of going inside to All-Stars Amare Stoudemire or Shawn Marion to try to tie the game, or having back-to-back MVP Steve Nash try to create something outside, the ball went to Barbosa with 1.5 seconds left who nailed the three to lift Phoenix to victory. What does this little anecdote illustrate? That Barbosa is a superstar substitution. As I pointed out in my column last week, the fourth-year Brazilian guard had 31 20-plus point games this season ... and he had 13 in his first three seasons combined. Barbosa was a key contributor on a 60-plus win team and fit D'Antoni's system perfectly as his endless energy and uncomparable speed allowed the Suns to put it on their opponents for 48 minutes.

  • 2. Manu Ginobili, San Antonio
  • 2006-07 stats: 16.5 PTS, 4.4 REB, 3.5 AST, 1.4 STL, .464 FG
    Ginobili is averaging the most points he has for his five-year career while playing the least amount of minutes per game since he was a rookie. The fact that Ginobili was able to push his ego aside after being a full-time starter on the 2004-05 Spurs championship team and strive off the bench speaks to his maturity. Manu's unique blend of slashing and outside shooting make him one of the hardest players to guard in the league and his never-say-die intensity he brings to the defensive end routinely results in drawing a charge, nabbing a steal or making a stop for the Spurs. Across the board his numbers are similar to Barbosa's, but Manu already came into the season with the confidence of winning a ring, so performing off the bench wasn't as much of a psychological challenge for him as it was for a young, un-established pup like Barbosa.

  • 3. Jerry Stakhouse, Dallas
  • 2006-07 stats: 12.0 PTS, 2.2 REB, 2.8 AST, 0.8 STL, .427 FG
    Stackhouse averaged 29.8 points per game a few years back and now, in his 12th season, his role is that of a hired gun off the bench. Stack played a career-low 24.2 minutes per game, but increased his efficiency by a notable margin -- his .427 field-goal percentage was the highest he's shot since the '99-00 season in Detroit. Asides from his scoring, Stackhouse provides a veteran toughness (see his hard foul on Shaq in last year's Finals) that the Mavs need to make the next step.

  • 4. Corey Maggette, L.A. Clippers
  • 2006-07 stats: 16.8 PTS, 5.8 REB, 2.8 AST, 0.9 STL, .455 FG
    The Clippers began the season with defensive stopper Quentin Ross starting at small forward and Maggette coming off the bench, but that changed as L.A. made a playoff push down the stretch. Nevertheless, Maggette has subbed in 44 times as opposed to his 30 starts so he is eligible for the award and his numbers are impossible to ignore.

  • 5. Antonio McDyess, Detroit
  • 2006-07 stats: 8.1 PTS, 6.1 REB, 0.9 AST, 0.8 STL
    As the Pistons made their run toward the No. 1 seed in the East, McDyess came up big on several occasions. First there was the 20 points and 11 rebounds in a win vs. Denver on March 26, followed by 7-for-7 shooting in a five-point win over New Jersey on March 30, and who could forget his 18 points and 13 rebounds in a win over the East's other elite, Cleveland, on April 8. McDyess' season numbers might not be as impressive as the rest of the field, but he came up big when Detroit needed him most.
  • Others receiving consideration:

  • Kyle Korver, Philadelphia - The fourth-year gunner averaged a career-high 14.4 ppg and shot a personal-best .430 from deep.
  • Ben Gordon, Chicago - Gordon isn't eligible for the award as he ended up starting 50 games, but his play off the bench to start the season was stellar.
  • David Lee, Knicks - Lee fits the Mason/Williamson role of the defensive force off the bench, but a right leg injury shut his season, and his award chances, down.
  • Matt Harpring, Jazz - The ninth-year pro's pro kept up his role off the bench with Utah that he settled into last season to the tune of 11.7 points and 4.6 rebounds per game.

    Comment on your picks for Sixth Man in our Fan Voice Forum.