Going way, way too deep on 6MOY
Starting the campaign for five unusual candidates for the John Havlicek Trophy
The Sixth Man of the Year (6MOY) award is one of the strangest NBA whimsies. A tribute to the best non-starter is both unnecessary and unusual; to the best of my knowledge, no other major sports league has anything similar (unless you count MLB’s Reliever of the Year).
And I love it! In theory, it’s fun to talk about the good-not-great players who fill up the award’s candidacies. Unfortunately, the inevitable winner of the John Havlicek Trophy is always the same. Like your college roommate’s obsession with tattooed blondes (no judgment here, Joe!), voters have a type: 17 of the last 19 winners have been high-scoring shooting guards (shoutout to exceptions Lamar Odom and Montrezl Harrell). All but one played on a playoff team. Most waffled between bad and execrable on defense.
[It also helps if you play for the Clippers: Between 2014 and 2020, three different Clippers won the award a total of five times: Jamal Crawford (2x), Lou Williams (2x), and Harrell.]
But that archetype may be in danger. Last year’s winner, Malcolm Brogdon, was a tiny step in the right direction. His 14.9 points per game were fewer than some of his competitors for the trophy, like Norm Powell, and a rather low mark compared to historical winners; he also played functional defense. More importantly, there was a noticeable chorus of media voices arguing that the shoot-first bench guard shouldn’t be the only position in consideration (even if Brogdon does, in fact, fit that description to a large degree).
Brogdon and Powell are frontrunners for the award again… but I
hope believe the 2023-24 season will see a change. The opportunity has never been greater for a different kind of reserve to win the award. Below, I have compiled five unconventional candidates in an effort to start a grassroots movement.
To be clear, the award will probably continue down its traditional path. Guards who score a lot of points efficiently are essential to the team. It’s the most important skill in basketball! (To be fair, efficiency hasn’t always been a strong consideration when picking a winner for this award.) But as basketball conversation becomes more nuanced, analytics and sharper eye-test evaluations lead to a better understanding of what drives winning, and coaches become more creative with their use of reserves, we’ll see a broader pool of candidates emerge.
Depending on how rotations shake out, this year could see a rise in unusual Sixth Men. And if they prove capable of driving team success from that role, why not reward the best of them?