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Your top three candidates for the Kia NBA Sixth Man Award?
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Steve Aschburner: My ballot if cast today would read 1) Lou Williams, 2) Domantas Sabonis and 3) Montrezl Harrell. Harrell is so forceful off the Clippers bench, doing much of what you’d want a Sixth Man candidate to do -- except he does it as his team’s unofficial seventh man. Sabonis ranks third among Indiana’s scorers and assists leaders while topping the Pacers in rebounds, and mixes-and-matches well with whatever lineup coach Nate McMillan puts out there. But Williams has laid claim to this award for the second straight season and third overall, averaging nearly 28 points per 36 minutes while making the Clippers more dangerous, not less, when coach Doc Rivers gets into his bench. (For me, the Brooklyn Nets' Spencer Dinwiddie and the Minnesota Timberwolves' Derrick Rose have missed too many games -- super subs need to be available -- while the Orlando Magic's Terrence Ross has faded this month.)
Shaun Powell: The first is Lou Williams in a year where he broke the all-time bench scoring record and helped rescue the Clippers after the Tobias Harris trade. The second is his teammate, Montrezl Harrell, also in the running for Kia NBA Most Improved honors, emerging as a top energy guy. The third is Derrick Rose, who resurrected his career by finding a useful role that has him shooting more efficiently.
John Schuhmann: Lou Williams leads the league in both points (1,339) and assists (349) off the bench, while also ranking third in total plus-minus (plus-220) off the bench. He's not the most efficient scorer among the league's super-high usage players, but his ability to get to the line gives him a true shooting percentage (55.5 percent) just slightly below the league average (55.9 percent).
Domantas Sabonis hasn't been the headliner that Williams has been. But he also deserves some real consideration for the top spot, given how efficiently he's scored (much more efficiently than Williams), how well he has rebounded (he ranks in the top 10 in rebounding percentage) and how good the Pacers have been with him on the floor, especially on defense (where Williams is a liability). And yes, defense matters!
Montrezl Harrell is a notch below Sabonis across the board (efficiency, rebounding, passing and defense), but is worthy of a top-three spot. Apologies, as always, to Andre Iguodala (who makes the Golden State Warriors better when he enters the game) and the Spurs' bench ensemble (which has been terrific once again).
Sekou Smith: Lou Williams at No. 1. Lou Williams at No. 2 and No. 3as well. Seriously, is there anyone else who can even come close to the Clippers' closer and the league's all-time best bench scorer? Derrick Rose and Domantas Sabonis would scrap it out for those two spots after Williams, who gets extra credit for being the Clippers' closer all season. But I'm convinced this is the one award this season where someone can go ahead and start engraving Lou's name on the trophy.