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The NBA Sixth Man of the Year award has been dominated by Los Angeles Clippers’ guard Lou Williams recently, but there’s a new challenger eager to dethrone the king of the bench bucket-getters — Dennis Schroder.

Schroder has made a major leap this season for the Oklahoma City Thunder. The seventh-year guard is averaging 18.9 points and 4.0 assists per game off the bench in 2019-20. He’s also shooting a career-best 47 percent from the field and 38 percent from three.

Schroder’s efficient scoring off the bench is a big reason why the Thunder are one of the most surprising teams in the NBA this year. Oklahoma City sits at sixth place in the Western Conference with a 37-24 record.

Like Williams, Schroder is a starter masked as a sixth man

One of the reasons Williams has won the last two NBA Sixth Man of the Year awards is that he plays starter minutes. Although he doesn’t start games on the floor, Williams frequently closes games in the lineup alongside Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.

Those extra minutes allow Williams to build scoring stats that no other bench player in the league can attain. This season, however, Schroder is taking a page out of Williams’ book.

Schroder has started only one game this season for the Thunder, but he averages the third-most minutes per game behind Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Akin to Williams, Schroder is always on the floor at the end of close games because of his scoring ability and defensive versatility.

Another factor going Schroder’s way is recency bias from the voters. Since Williams has won the award two consecutive years, it would be hard to fathom voters favoring him for a third.

Schroder is propelling the Thunder to a playoff spot

Before the season, many people wrote off the Thunder as a noncontender. After all, they traded their best player in Russell Westbrook for an older, slower Chris Paul and an unproven Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

It seemed as if Oklahoma City was punting on the season to rebuild and acquire as many draft picks as possible to build toward the future. However, it’s only March and the Thunder have already surpassed their preseason win total of 32.5.

Schroder contributes to one of the most devastating closing lineups in the league. The Thunder’s closing five of Schroder, Paul, Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, and Steven Adams has an eye-popping net rating of 29.0. That’s the highest mark of any lineup in the NBA that has played more than 170 minutes together on the floor.

The next highest mark is 18.5, held by the historically efficient Milwaukee Bucks’ closing five.

Schroder is the betting favorite to take home award

According to Oddschecker, Schroder is the betting favorite at almost every major sportsbook in the country right now. His odds to win the award range from +110 to +140, with Williams checking in at around +200.

Schroder was listed at 20-1 odds before the season started, so hopefully, you got your bet in early.

The voters are always looking for a fresh name to carry the NBA Sixth Man of the Year trophy, and Vegas seems to agree that name is Schroder.