6 early Kia Sixth Man of Year contenders

These players -- and Derrick Rose -- have a solid shot at the trophy this season

In addition to Detroit’s Derrick Rose, here are six more early candidates for Kia Sixth Man of the Year, each valuable in his impact so far off the bench:

1. Lou Williams, LA Clippers: This elusive combo guard officially has been the NBA’s top Sixth Man the past two seasons, making it three wins in the past five. One more would break his tie with Jamal Crawford and, heck, make a case for naming the award after Williams once he retires. He entered the weekend averaging 20.2 points, 3.2 rebounds and 5.2 assists.

2. Montrezl Harrell, LA Clippers: Harrell finished third in Sixth Man balloting last spring behind Williams and the Indiana Pacers’ Domantas Sabonis. The danger is that he and Williams might split votes, but Harrell’s case is strong: 19.3 ppg and 5.5 rebounds, while shooting 74.2 percent so far.

3. Dennis Schroder, Oklahoma City Thunder: Even with Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on board, Oklahoma City has found minutes for Schroder that the seventh-year guard has made productive. He’s been averaging 28.6 minutes off the bench, with 14.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg and 4.4 apg.

4. Goran Dragic, Miami Heat: At 33, the one-time All-Star has been a steadying influence in reserve to Miami’s mostly young starting lineup and its second unit. Coach Erik Spoelstra sized him up for this switch and — after Dragic scored 19 points in the Heat’s opener — said: “It’s right in his wheelhouse. He was aggressive, attacking, getting to the free-throw line, drawing fouls. We’ll continue to build on this.”

5. Spencer Dinwiddie, Brooklyn Nets: Dinwiddie finished fourth in 2019 SMOY balloting after starting just four of his 68 appearances for Brooklyn. He looks fully healed from the torn thumb ligaments that interrupted last season for him, averaging 17.5 points, 2.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists. He’s been hitting only 38.2 percent on his 13.8 field-goal attempts, though.

6. Devonte’ Graham, Charlotte Hornets: Graham — at 16.4 ppg and 7.6 apg and 17-for-33 on 3-pointers to date — has been more productive than big-ticket free-agent addition Terry Rozier. The two might find themselves paired in the Charlotte backcourt at times, though the second-year Graham is likely to remain a reserve.

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Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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