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Sixth Man Of The Year Award Winners Per Position: Shooting Guards Have Won More Than Half Of Awards

Sixth Man Of The Year Award Winners Per Position: Shooting Guards Have Won More Than Half Of Awards

Winning the Sixth Man of the Year award is the best possible way to credit a non-starter for their tremendous efforts as a backup. It is also one of the most difficult accolades to accomplish because making a noticeable impact as a backup is not easy, considering they did not have the advantage of getting into their rhythm by starting the game and competing in the first minutes of competition. For a bench player to come in and have an impact, he must have a unique set of skills and mental strength that should be rewarded.

We have seen some all-time great players compete as Sixth men, from Hall of Famer Kevin McHale to San Antonio Spurs backup Manu Ginobili. Both of these players, for example, are good enough to start every game, but coming off the bench gave their teams an excellent advantage. Since 1983, we have seen a Sixth Man of the Year every season and will continue to have one going forward. Of course, as of the 2021-2022 season, we have crowded Tyler Herro as this year’s Sixth Man of the Year.

Very few players as a whole have managed to achieve this incredible feat, and it is time to list all the Sixth Man of the Year winners per position. By the end of the article, it will be interesting to realize that there isn’t a particular position that stands out because there has been a wide variety of Sixth Man of the Year winners in terms of their natural positions.

Point Guards - 2 Sixth Man Of The Year Awards

Players who won: Darrell Armstrong (1998-99), Bobby Jackson (2002-03)

The point guard position isn’t the same as it used to be, but it is still arguably the most important position since these players bring the ball up on the floor on a consistent basis. Throughout NBA history, the best teams have all had strong ball-handlers and floor generals who impact the game by scoring or playmaking. However, only two point guards have ever won the Sixth Man of the Year award, Darrell Armstrong and Bobby Jackson.

Starting his career with a 3-year stint outside of the NBA, Darrell Armstrong completed his first year in the NBA in 1995, although he only appeared in 3 games. The following season, the point guard appeared in 13 games before competing in 67 games in his third year. The guard averaged 6.1 PPG and 2.6 APG in that stint, numbers that hardly moved the needle. But Armstrong blossomed into an excellent backup point guard by his 5th season, winning both the Most Improved Player and Sixth Man of the Year award. Armstrong took his numbers from 9.2 PPG and 4.9 APG to 13.8 PPG and 6.7 APG while also contributing 2.2 SPG. The only season of real significance from Armstrong, the 6’0” point guard, surely looks back at that season as a successful one.

The last point guard to win the award, Bobby Jackson, was a fantastic contributor off the bench for the Sacramento Kings squad led by Chris Webber and Mike Bibby. In 59 appearances and 33 games off the bench, Jackson contributed 15.2 PPG, 3.7 RPG, and 3.1 APG on 46.4% from the field, 37.9% from three, and 84.6% from the line. Jackson was capable of being a playmaker, but his primary role was to bring instant offense off the bench. The point guard had a solid jump shot that he could create and was excellent at finishing around the rim as well. Standing 6’1” with excellent speed and handles, there was no doubt that Jackson’s best season helped the Kings finish with a 59-23 record while ranking 1st in pace and 3rd in PPG. Since Jackson did it in 2003, we have not seen a pure point guard win the Sixth Man of the Year award.

Shooting Guards - 21 Sixth Man Of The Year Awards

Players who won: Ricky Pierce (1986-87), Ricky Pierce (1989-90), Dell Curry (1993-94), John Starks (1996-97), Aaron McKie (2000-01), Ben Gordon (2004-05), Mike Miller (2005-06), Leandro Barbosa (2006-07), Manu Ginobili (2007-08), Jason Terry (2008-09), Jamal Crawford (2009-10), James Harden (2011-12), J.R. Smith (2012-13), Jamal Crawford (2013-14), Lou Williams (2014-15), Jamal Crawford (2015-16), Eric Gordon (2016-17), Lou Williams (2017-18), Lou Williams (2018-19), Jordan Clarkson (2020-21), Tyler Herro (2021-22)

The shooting guard position has always been important, and that will never change. Shooting guards are known to be score-first players with outside shooting capabilities and must be somewhat of an impact player when coming off the bench. Unsurprisingly, shooting guards have won the most Sixth Man of the Year awards because of their tendency to take a lot of shots and provide instant offense. More so than any other position, shooting guards have the green light when coming off the bench.

A 6’4” shooting guard who was taken No. 18 overall in the 1982 NBA Draft, Ricky Pierce dropped 19.5 PPG in his 5th season and 23.0 PPG in the NBA in his 8th season. The guard won the Sixth Man of the Year on both occasions, and he certainly proved himself as a consistent scoring fire starter off the bench. One year following his second award win, Pierce would make the first and only All-Star Team in his career. The shooting guard was also the first to win the award at his position, helping the Milwaukee Bucks make the playoffs.

Before Stephen Curry became the best shooter of all time, his father Dell Curry was the premier shooter in the league. Dell had a natural stroke, nailing 40.2% of his threes in the 1994 season which gave the shooting guard his first and only individual accolade. Dell had one of the best jump shots in NBA history, nailing 40.2% of threes over his career, and also put up his career-high 16.3 PPG in the Sixth Man of the Year season.

The tough shooting guard that helped make the New York Knicks title contenders, John Starks, is one of the most beloved players that ever competed in Madison Square Garden. Starks was a great scorer and defensive guard, often using his speed and all-around talent to make an impact off the bench. Starks averaged 13.8 PPG and 2.8 APG in 1997, nailing 43.1% of his shots from the field and often kick-starting a run when he came on the floor. Thanks to Stark’s firepower, the Knicks had the talent to grab the third seed in the Eastern Conference.

Allen Iverson and, to a much lesser extent, Dikembe Mutombo, get most of the credit for the Philadelphia 76ers’ magical Finals run in 2001. But Sixth man Aaron McKie had a critical role for the squad throughout the season, backing up the MVP of the league in Allen Iverson. McKie averaged 11.6 PPG, 4.1 RPG, and 5.0 APG on 47.3% from the field and 31.2% from the three-point line during the 2001 season. That marked the best all-around production from Aaron in his career, and true 76ers fans will remember how useful the shooting guard was in multiple facets of the game.

Interestingly, All-Rookie Team member Ben Gordon won Sixth Man of the Year in his rookie campaign. The shooting guard was armed with a high-arcing jumper and above-average quickness and averaged 15.1 PPG on 41.1% from the field, 40.5% from three, and 86.3% from the free-throw line. Gordon had a knack for coming off screens to take jumpers and also create for himself when needed. His shooting percentages were certainly solid, especially from the three and the foul line, and his first season will certainly be memorable for Chicago Bulls fans.

Mike Miller’s 2006 season was a personally great one for the shooting guard because he captured Sixth Man of the Year on excellent shooting percentages. Miller shot 46.6% from the field, 40.7% from three, and 80.0% from the free-throw line. Mike was exceptional at spotting up for jumpers, and his height at 6’8” helped him get shots up over defenders. Miller won Rookie of the Year, which would probably mean more to him, but the Sixth Man of the Year award is a nice addition.

Leandro Barbosa was one of the fastest players in NBA history because he could glide across the floor with or without the ball with relative ease. The 6’3” Brazilian guard had the best season of his career in the 2007 season as a member of the Phoenix Suns, posting 18.1 PPG and 4.0 APG on 47.6% from the field and 43.4% from the line. An excellent backup to Steve Nash and Raja Bell, Barbosa was extremely valuable to the Suns because he ranked 3rd on the team in scoring behind Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire and 3rd on the team in APG.

San Antonio Spurs legend Manu Ginobili only won one Sixth Man of the Year award over his illustrious career, but it does not take away from the fact that the Argentinian is one of the best to ever do it coming off the bench. No doubt about it, Manu sacrificed his career statistics and even missed the chance to make a few more All-Star Team appearances by accepting a bench role. But Ginobili normally ended games on the court, because he is one of the most clutch players in Spurs’ history. With 4 NBA titles to his name, Manu’s sacrifice certainly worked because he is in the Hall of Fame.

Known as “The Jet”, Jason Terry was the sidekick to Dirk Nowitzki during the magical 2011 championship season. But he also won Sixth Man of the Year in 2009, posting 19.6 PPG and 3.4 APG on 46.3% from the field, 36.6% from the three-point line, and 88.0% from the line. Terry had a knack for getting hot from the perimeter, and also had the ability to create his own shots from the floor. Despite being slightly undersized at 6’2” and 185 lbs, Terry was a professional bucket-getter.

Jamal Crawford is in contention for being the most impactful Sixth Man in NBA history, because he has won the individual award three times in his career. Crawford won the first award in 2010 as a member of the Atlanta Hawks, averaging 18.0 PPG and 3.0 APG on 44.9% from the field, 38.2% from three, and 85.7% from the stripe. With his ability to break down defenses with his handles and also his quick first step, Crawford was difficult to defend against when he came off the bench. He won the award again four years later as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers, posting 18.6 PPG on 41.6% from the field, 36.1% from three, and 86.6% from the line. The last time he won the award was in 2016, when he dropped 14.2 PPG on 40.4% from the line and 90.4% from the line. Crawford is in contention for having the best crossover ever and in terms of bench scoring, he might be the best Sixth man ever when looking at his resume.

In between Jamal Crawford’s first and second Sixth Man of the Year award, James Harden blossomed into an excellent playmaker and scorer off the bench for the talented Oklahoma City Thunder led by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. In his third season, Harden averaged 16.8 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 3.7 APG, and 1.0 SPG on 49.1% from the field, 39.0% from three, and 84.6% from the free-throw line. The shooting guard was exceptional at being a consistent playmaker and also began showing his capabilities as a one-on-one scorer. Of course, Harden would become an MVP with the Houston Rockets a few years later.

After Harden, J.R. Smith won Sixth Man of the Year as the next shooting guard to capture the award. The shooting guard averaged his career-high 18.1 PPG on 42.2% from the field, 35.6% from three, and 76.2% from the line as a member of the New York Knicks. The Knicks were led by Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire, but Smith was their third option on the floor because of his ability to make tough shots and long-range bombs. Smith’s 2013 season was certainly the best of his career, even if he started 0 games in 80 appearances. With Smith coming off the bench, the Knicks finished with the second seed in the Eastern Conference.

In between Jamal Crawford’s second and third Sixth Man of the Year award, Lou Williams would capture his first Sixth Man of the Year award. The 6’1” shooting guard was clearly not a large player, but he got the job done as a backup scorer off the Toronto Raptors bench. The shooting guard averaged 15.5 PPG on 40.4% FG, 34.0% 3-PT FG, and 86.1% FT. With his elite speed and quickness, Lou could get any shot he wanted. After Eric Gordon would win the award in 2017, Williams would capture back-to-back Sixth Man of the Year awards in 2018 and 2019. Williams dropped 22.6 PPG and 5.3 APG on 43.5% FG and 35.9% 3-PT FG for the Los Angeles Clippers, followed up with 20.0 PPG and 5.4 APG on 42.5% FG and 36.1% 3-PT FG. Many regard Lou as the best Sixth man ever considering his 3 award victories and resume, and it is hard to argue against that.

In his first season with the Houston Rockets, Eric Gordon averaged 16.2 PPG on 40.6% FG, 37.2% 3-PT FG, and 84.0% FT. The Rockets wanted Gordon on the roster because of his powerful frame and outside shooting, and the shooting guard would capture the Sixth Man of the Year in between Jamal Crawford and Lou Williams’ reign as the premier backup guards. The Rockets would be onto something with Gordon coming off the bench, and he was certainly one of the best Sixth men over the few years he was on the team.

Just last year, Jordan Clarkson averaged 18.4 PPG and 4.0 RPG on 42.5% FG, 34.7% 3-PT FG, and 89.5% FT. Jordan had the best season of his career, coming off the bench to get up jump shots as quickly as possible. With Jordan coming off the bench, the Utah Jazz finished first in the Western Conference. Clarkson was arguably the second-best scorer on the team behind Donovan Mitchell, using his elite speed and jump-shooting to terrorize defenses as soon as he stepped on the court. So far, Clarkson’s career-high in PPG came in 2021 and it will be interesting to see if he can usurp that number because he is approaching 30 years of age.

The last shooting guard to win Sixth Man of the Year, Tyler Herro, made a huge statement in his contract campaign with the Miami Heat. The talented shooting guard averaged 20.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG, and 3.2 APG while showcasing his ability to dominate the offensive end with his natural scoring ability. As great of a player as Jimmy Butler is, the Heat would not have achieved the first seed in the Eastern Conference without Herro’s presence. In many ways, Miami needed Herro’s scoring to be a factor in the East, which is why they did not make the NBA Finals with Tyler only competing in 4 games in the Eastern Conference Finals this year. It remains to be seen if Herro earns a maximum contract because he is truly an exceptionally offensive talent.

Small Forwards - 4 Sixth Man Of The Year Awards

Players who won: Eddie Johnson (1988-89), Toni Kukoc (1995-96), Corliss Williamson (2001-02), Antawn Jamison (2003-04)

Small forwards have proven to be the most effective players in the game these days, mainly because of their size and varied skill sets. Superstar small forwards have been the driving forces behind championship teams over the past decade, from the likes of Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant to LeBron James. Especially in the modern NBA, small forwards are key to what a team does on both ends of the floor. Looking back through history, however, only four players have managed to play impactful backup roles. That might have to do with the fact that small forwards used to be relied on for their defense, not scoring, and their numbers might have never compared well enough with other positions.

Eddie Johnson had his best and most impactful season come in 1989 when the 6’7” small forward won Sixth Man of the Year. Posting 21.5 PPG, 4.4 RPG, and 2.3 APG on 49.7% shooting, Johnson’s role was to fill it up consistently for the Phoenix Suns. He did just that, nailing shots at an impressive rate and using his size and skill to make a difference off the bench. He appeared in 70 games during the year and certainly made the most out of being selected No. 29 overall in the 1981 Draft because nobody could have predicted his consistent offense. Unfortunately for Johnson, his production would start to dip the following year as he would enter his 30s and never averaged 20 PPG again.

Toni Kukoc was a mastermind signing by the Chicago Bulls, because at 6’10”, the Croatian had an excellent jump shot and could literally shoot over defenders with ease. He wasn’t blessed with the supreme athleticism of other players in his position, but in terms of basketball IQ and scoring ability, Kukoc was right up there with the best. During the championship 1996 season, Kukoc averaged 13.1 PPG, 4.0 RPG, and 3.5 APG while shooting 49.0% from the field, 40.3% from three, and 77.2% from the line. Surrounded by stars in Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, Kukoc knew his role was to let it fly and he did that as best as anyone could have possibly done during the year. Obviously, a championship soon followed him and the Bulls.

Corliss Williamson is often a forgotten member of the Detroit Pistons teams in the early 2000s, but he was certainly a valuable contributor on both ends of the floor. He had his best season with the team in 2002 at 28 years old, when the swingman posted 13.6 PPG, 4.1 RPG, and 0.6 SPG on 51.0% shooting from the field. The forward was not known for his All-Star capabilities on offense, but he got the job done by making open shots and also creating for himself when needed. Standing 6’7” and weighing 245 lbs, Williamson had the girth to be an effective scorer, and he made sure to help make the Pistons a strong team. The forward was also a member of the 2004 Pistons team that won the championship, although he only played 19.9 MPG during the regular season. Without a doubt, winning the championship in 2004 and also the Sixth Man of the Year in 2002 were his greatest achievements.

The most recent Sixth Man of the Year winner as a small forward, Antawn Jamison certainly had a great season in 2004 after competing in his first and only year with the Dallas Mavericks. Jamison averaged 14.8 PPG for the Dallas Mavericks after he was acquired by the team before the season, and he rewarded their trust in him with some excellent two-way performances. A unique forward at the time due to his scoring inside and outside the paint, Antawn shot 53.5% from the field and 40.0% from three while also making 74.8% of his foul shots. With his ability to create his own offense and be a go-to scorer for his side, Jamison made his mark on the Mavericks side although he would be moved to the Washington Wizards a year later.

Power Forwards - 11 Sixth Man Of The Year Awards

Players who won: Bobby Jones (1982-83), Kevin McHale (1983-84), Kevin McHale (1984-85), Roy Tarpley (1987-88), Detlef Schrempf (1990-91), Detlef Schrempf (1991-92), Clifford Robinson (1992-93), Anthony Mason (1994-95), Danny Manning (1997-98), Rodney Rogers (1999-00), Lamar Odom (2010-11)

The power forward position is often underappreciated, but some of the best players ever have occupied this position. Throughout history, a power forward was required to play defense and also hustle for loose balls and wreak havoc on the court. Interestingly, there have also been 11 power forwards who have won the Sixth Man of the Year award. The first power forward to ever win Sixth Man of the Year was Bobby Jones for the Philadelphia 76ers, and the last was Lamar Odom for the Los Angeles Lakers in 2011.

Bobby Jones is a Hall of Fame power forward who averaged 9.0 PPG and 4.6 RPG in 1983 in the season after two straight All-Star Team appearances. At age 31, Jones would start experiencing a steep decline in his production as he averaged under double-digit scoring for the first time in his career. But due to his basketball IQ, scoring ability, and leadership, he won Sixth Man of the Year for appearing in 74 games and helped guide the 76ers to the NBA championship as a backup to starters, including Moses Malone.

By far one of the most unstoppable players at the power forward position, Kevin McHale won back-to-back Sixth Man of the Year awards as a member of the Boston Celtics. A Hall of Famer and top-75 star of all time, McHale had arguably the best post-game in NBA history due to his soft touch around the rim and excellent back-to-the-basket moves. Standing 6’10” and weighing 210 lbs, Kevin was a lanky scorer in the paint and was automatic when he had a position. Clearly talented enough to be a starter and All-Star, Kevin accepted a Sixth Man role and ended up winning two straight Sixth Man of the Year awards. In the first season, he posted 18.4 PPG and 7.4 RPG while making his first All-Star Team, and in the second season, he dropped 19.8 PPG and 9.0 RPG.

Taken No. 7 overall in the first round of the 1986 NBA Draft, Roy Tarpley averaged 13.5 PPG and 11.8 RPG for the Dallas Mavericks in his second season. The 6’11” power forward was a solid presence in the paint, and even if he would only play 280 games in his career, he had a great campaign with the Mavericks in 1988. An elite rebounder and paint scorer, Tarpley get in his own way as a substance abuse suspension would essentially spell the end of his career after his first 4 full seasons. Dallas still got the most out of the big man when he was legible to play because averaging a double-double off the bench is certainly an impressive feat.

A 6’10” power forward with a unique blend of shooting and offensive, Detlef Schrempf won two straight Sixth Man of the Year awards as a member of the Indiana Pacers. The German was a consistent outside shooter, nailing 52.0% and 53.6% from the field respectively in 1991 and 1992. He only started 7 games out of the 160 games in both seasons, clearly making him legible for the Sixth Man of the Year award. Schrempf was not a liability in the paint, however, as he averaged 8.0 RPG and 9.6 RPG in each season while also coming close to 4 APG. A talented player with a very high basketball IQ, Schrempf was invaluable to the Pacers teams that made the playoffs both years.

Clifford Robinson was taken No. 36 overall in the 1989 NBA Draft and was certainly a more talented player than his draft position would indicate. The big man would make his first and only All-Star Team in 1994 for the Portland Trail Blazers, but he would win the Sixth Man of the Year one year prior. The big man averaged 19.1 PPG, 6.6 RPG, and 2.0 BPG for the franchise in 31.4 MPG of action. Robinson was known for his ability to be effective around the rim, as his 47.2% field-goal shooting indicates. He appeared in all 82 games, starting 12, and proving himself to be a valuable backup big off the bench.

Anthony Mason was taken No. 53 overall in the 1988 NBA Draft, and he certainly had a good career considering the fact. The 6’7” power forward managed to win the Sixth Man of the Year award by posting 9.9 PPG and 8.4 RPG on 56.6% shooting from the field and 64.1% from the free-throw line. The forward had a strong ability inside, and even if his numbers did not leap off the page, he was an impact player for the 1995 New York Knicks team that finished 3rd in the Eastern Conference.

A 6’10” power forward for the Phoenix Suns, Danny Manning averaged 13.5 PPG and 5.6 RPG, which earned him the Sixth Man of the Year in the 1998 season. At age 31, Manning had the ability to score the ball even without the presence of a three-point shot. The big man was strong around the rim and was generally a solid player that already had 2 All-Star Team selections to his name. Appearing in 70 games and only starting 11 games, Manning earned his first and only individual accolade before suffering a decline in his production just one year later.

Drafted No. 9 overall, Rodney Rogers had stints with the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers before landing with the Phoenix Suns in his 7th season. At age 28, Rodgers appeared in 27.9 MPG in 82 games, starting only 7 games and averaging 13.8 PPG and 5.5 RPG on 48.6% from the field. The 6’7” power forward was a solid scorer for the franchise and would have the second-highest scoring average of his career before his production would decline the following year. Overall, Rodney earned his only individual accolade in the 2000 season by capturing Sixth Man of the Year, the last to do so as a power forward until Lamar Odom over a decade later.

Lamar Odom had his production finally appreciated during the 2011 season when the backup power forward posted 14.4 PPG, 8.7 RPG, and 3.0 APG as the versatile player he always was. Odom was invaluable to the Lakers during the 2009 and 2010 title runs, but he would not get rewarded until the following season when he played his final games with the Lakers. It is well documented that Lamar was heartbroken to leave Los Angeles because he felt he deserved to be untouchable by helping Kobe Bryant over the years. No matter what, Odom was a special player for the Lakers and he would earn his most valuable individual award in 2011.

Centers - 2 Sixth Man Of The Year Awards

Players who won: Bill Walton (1985-86), Montrezl Harrell (2019-20)

Centers, especially in the older days, are regarded as the most dominant players in the NBA due to their incredible size and ability to influence both ends of the court. Of course, the game has greatly changed over the past decade to allow for big men to be shooters and floor-spacers rather than physical forces. Interestingly, the last time a center won Sixth Man of the Year was in 2020 when Montrezl Harrell captured the award, and he was only one of two centers to have ever done it.

Bill Walton was the first to do it in 1986, as the former MVP and Finals MVP played a backup role for the Boston Celtics. Standing 6’11” and 210 lbs, Walton was clearly a massive figure on the court, but he was also a very intelligent player who could defend the rim, pass, and rebound. Walton only started 2 games out of the 80 he played in, averaging 7.6 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 2.1 APG, and 1.3 BPG. His presence inside greatly outweighed his numbers, because at age 33 with a ton of injuries in his past, Walton could only focus on the defensive end. He did that exceptionally well, adding a Sixth Man of the Year award to his already impressive trophy cabinet that included an MVP, Finals MVP, and 2 All-Star Team selections.

Montrezl Harrell was the last center to win Sixth Man of the Year, and he certainly impressed with his all-around ability and athleticism around the rim. The undersized center posted 18.6 PPG, 7.1 RPG, and 1.1 BPG while shooting 58.0% from the field and 65.8% from the foul line. Despite standing only 6’7”, Harrell had the aggression and energy to be an impact player in the paint and he might have benefitted from the modern era of basketball, where going small is the most important aspect of the game. Nonetheless, Harrell beat out point guard Dennis Schroder and his own teammate, Lou Williams, for the award. There was no doubt that Montrezl deserved it after being one of the key contributors on a team that finished with an impressive 49-23 in a covid-shortened season. 


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