Is Lou Williams the Favorite for Yet Another Sixth Man of the Year Award?

The suspension of the 2019-20 NBA season due to the coronavirus pandemic may be the end of it. Should play resume with any regular-season games, the season will likely to be a shortened version with abbreviated playoffs. If the season is over, who should receive the 2020 Sixth Man of the Year Award in the NBA? The folks at The Ringer have some good ideas. 

The reigning champion?

Dan Devine of The Ringer started by saying he wouldn’t choose Lou Williams. The point and shooting guard for the LA Clippers has won the award three times so far. If he won in 2020, he’d receive the hat trick with three consecutive awards.

Devine doesn’t deny that Williams had a strong season. He was undeniably part of the reason why the Clippers are second in the West. They were ready, before the season was suspended, to pursue the NBA Finals.

Williams is a formidable player. In his 15th NBA season, he averaged 18.7 points with 5.7 assists each game. Devine didn’t argue that point. But, in his opinion, Williams wasn’t the most valuable sixth man this season. For Devine: he wasn’t even the best reserve on a loaded Clipper team. 

Possible candidates for Sixth Man of the Year

So who should the award go to? Opinions vary but there’s a shortlist of impressive players who are worthy.

Montrezl Harrell

Devine isn’t the only one who ranks this talented center at the top of his list for the award. A teammate of Williams, Montrezl Harrell is one of the most energetic and vital offensive reserves in the league. When it came to replacement players, the forward from Louisville took great initiative. He brought a high level of energy and intensity off the bench, making the Clippers’ second unit one to watch.

Harrell greatly upped his defensive game this year, according to Kurt Helin at NBC Sports. He was one of only nine players to complete over 25% of his team’s possessions using foul draw, attempted shot, or turnover. And through it all? He had a shooting percentage of over 600.

Harrell’s offensive game isn’t as strong and his scoring responsibilities grew. Still, he did what he does best and held his opponents to 51.4% shooting at the rim. Out of 126 players, he was 16th to contest as many as 100 shots this year. 

The dynamic between Harrell and Williams on the court is interesting when you consider 80% of Harrell’s possessions happened with Williams in play. Likewise, 79% of Williams’ possessions happened with Harrell on the court. Harrell, unlike Williams, was able to keep his numbers steady when Williams wasn’t present. 

Dennis Schröder

Schröder is a close second to Harrell according to Devine. The point guard who plays for the Oklahoma City Thunder is, according to Keith Smith at NBC Sports, just a little better than the two Clippers. Schröder’s second season was the best of his career so far with 19 points per game. He’s shot 46.8% overall from the field and from three 38.1%. When it comes to the Thunder’s closing lineup, Schröder is often part of it.

As Devine pointed out, Schröder went from being a net negative in ESPN’s defensive real plus-minus in his first six seasons to being a defensive hero. He finished eighth across all point guards in this season’s DRPM for 2019-20.

Other candidates

Devine considered George Hill and Donte DiVincenzo, both of the Milwaukee Bucks, to be tied for third place on his list. The guys at NBC had Derrick Rose (Pistons), Christian Woods (Pistons), and Williams (Clippers) as third on their top three list for the award. Devine listed Woods and Rose on his list of honorable mentions, impressed with their performances this season.

Who deserves Sixth Man of the Year?

The overwhelming opinion of these sports analysts is that Harrell should receive the Sixth Man of the Year Award for 2020. 

At the start of the season, the Clippers had to consider how Harrell who was heading for a contract year and coming off a phenomenal streak would fare in a repurposed rotation led by two great All-NBA players. 

Harrell rose to the occasion by playing a high-energy game, giving his best performance, and even outplaying his teammate and current holder of the Sixth Man of the Year Award, Williams. Could Harrell be the first non-guard to win the award since 2011? It remains to be seen. If he does, he definitely earned it.