With the book closed on the 2017-18 NBA season, we’re making our picks for the individual end-of-year awards. Here, we look at a group who shouldn’t go overlooked just because they weren’t starters.
SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR
The value of high-volume, high-scoring sixth men is usually overstated, but in Williams’ case, it can’t be said enough how important he was to the Clippers this season.
He had a career year at the age of 31, averaging 22.6 points and 5.3 assists – the first player in league history to average those numbers off the bench – which could have easily landed him on the All-Star team. He even dropped 50 points in a win over Golden State, while having three 40-point performances sprinkled in throughout the season.
Few players in the league are more ‘instant offence’ than Williams, who never enters a game lacking for confidence. For slashing to outside shooting and everything in between, the guard simply knows how to get buckets.
It’s a testament to Williams’ season that the Clippers, after losing Chris Paul last summer and trading Blake Griffin at the deadline, were in the hunt for a playoff spot until the final days and finished two games above .500.
The one factor working against Williams’ case for the award is that he started 19 games and wasn’t a true back-up for the entire season, but that still leaves 60 games in which he came off the bench.
The reigning Sixth Man of the Year, Gordon had another strong campaign for the Rockets as a reserve in a season they notched a league-best 65 wins. He had the third-most 3-pointers attempted (8.8) and made (3.2) per game among all players.
Stats don’t tell the whole story with VanVleet, who was crucial to the Raptors’ 59-win season as a player who did it all in his limited minutes. Toronto outscored by 352 points when the back-up guard was on the floor – a mark that was among some of the top stars in the league.
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