Basketball is a team game and not one superstar wins games for a team. Some teams have dynamic duos or big threes but they too cannot win a game on their own. A team’s starting lineup is composed of its best players at every position but a winning team needs more than just five men to win in a competitive league like the NBA.
The team’s bench is a key component of a successful NBA team. And every bench has its leader and that is the first player to come off it. That player is called the Sixth Man and in the history of the league, we’ve seen so many players thrive in that role.
Let’s take a look at the best Sixth Men during the 2019-20 NBA season:
Eric Gordon’s production dropped this season but that’s because the Rockets acquired Russell Westbrook who is a ball-dominant and scoring point guard. With his shot attempts and the ball touches down this year, Gordon still provided valuable contributions to the Rockets as the first guy off the bench.
Gordon played in a total of 34 games this season and he put up 14.5 points per game, his lowest output since coming to Houston. His shooting numbers also went down this year but despite that, he would still be dangerous if the season continues and we head to the playoffs.
The Rockets have one of the best starting guard duos in the NBA and they have one of the best reserves coming off their bench. Eric Gordon wasn’t having one of his better seasons in 2019-20 but he was still one of the best Sixth men in the NBA during the 2019-20 season.
Davis Bertans had a breakout season for the Washington Wizards. Playing four and five for Washington, Bertans thrived as an effective floor spacer with his three-point shooting. He ranked 7th in three-point percentage at 42.4% from behind the arc and was 4th in three-pointers made per game at 3.7.
Bertans averaged 15.4 points and 4.5 rebounds per game and established himself as one of the top snipers in the league. He played in a total of 54 games for the Wizards with only four starts. He isn’t the most athletic big man but he held his own in defense.
It’s hard not to notice a guy like Bertans who nearly doubled his scoring average while playing in his first season with a new team. He was always known as a good shooter but this season, he was a standout among the NBA’s bench players.
The Detroit Pistons got Derrick Rose for a bargain. The 2011 MVP signed a two-year deal worth $15M last summer and he has become instant offense for the Pistons. Rose started 15 out of the 50 games he played this season and despite some minor injuries, he had his best year since he was in New York.
Rose put up 18.1 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 5.6 assists per game this season while playing in 26.0 minutes per game. Rose shot the ball at a career-high 49.1% from the field and he had several game-winning baskets for Detroit this year.
This is no longer the D-Rose who won the MVP with the Bulls but after all the injuries that he has been through, the 2019-20 season was proof that he still has what it takes to excel at the highest level. If he can stay healthy, Rose will have many years ahead of him.
Clarkson started the season with the Cleveland Cavaliers and he averaged 14.6 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game in 29 games played with the team. His performance caught the eye of the Utah Jazz who needed production off their bench and they traded for him during mid-season.
The 27-year old clicked with his new teammates and the Jazz won their first 10 games with Clarkson. He averaged 15.6 points while shooting the ball at a career-high 48.2% in 34 games off the Utah bench. Clarkson also made a personal-best 2.1 three-pointers per game with the Jazz.
The former Lakers guard appears to have finally found a home in Salt Lake City. While he was putting up big numbers in Cleveland, Clarkson’s role was unclear there. Here in Utah, he’s an instant scoring machine off the bench, much like what Lou Williams is to the Clippers.
Many expected Dragic to falter this season after he was taken out of the starting line-up. But the Dragon accepted his new role and made the most out of whatever opportunities that were given to him. To everyone’s surprise, he is having one of his most effective seasons in a Miami uniform.
Dragic played in just 36 games last season, starting 22 times. This season, he already played in a total of 54 games with just one start. However, he averaged 16.1 points per game this season, 2.4 points per game more than he did the previous year. Dragic also averaged 5.1 assists per game and made 2.2 three-pointers per contest at a 37.7% from behind the arc.
The 33-year old was most deadly at Miami’s home floor as he made an average of 2.6 three-pointers per game at a very high 41% clip at the American Airlines Arena. Dragic’s new role this season reminds us of Dwyane Wade during his final year with Miami and it has worked well for Erik Spoelstra.
Schroder was a star with the Atlanta Hawks but he’s taken the backseat since transferring to Oklahoma City. His average went down last year as he came off the bench for the first time since 2016. But with Westbrook and George gone, he’s embraced a Sixth Man role while backing up Chris Paul.
The 6th year guard averaged 19.0 points, 3.7 rebounds, 4.1 assists, and a career-high 1.9 three-pointers made per game. Schroder also had the best shooting season of his career at 46.8% from the field and 38.1% from behind the arc.
Many thought that he would be lost or traded this season with Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander added to the Thunder roster. However, the three have taken turns in orchestrating the OKC offense to the 5th best record in the competitive Western Conference.
Lou Williams’ chief competitor for the Sixth Man of the Year award is his teammate in Los Angeles. Montrezl Harrell has continued to improve since moving to L.A. After his breakout season last year, many thought his numbers would go down with the arrival of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. But with their two All-Star not 100% during the season, Harrell has thrived again.
Harrell put up career-highs in scoring and rebounding this season at 18.6 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. He also blocked 1.1 shots per contest and shot 58% from the floor in 63 games played this season. Despite coming off the bench, Doc Rivers likes to close out games with him instead of Ivica Zubac.
Harrell’s future with the Clippers is uncertain as he will be a free agent this offseason. Despite that, there is no doubt that he is one of the Clippers’ key players this season and should be a big factor in the playoffs.
The best Sixth Man in the NBA during the 2019-20 season was Lou Williams. Williams is the NBA’s career scoring leader off the bench and is a three-time Sixth Man of the Year winner. He’s won the award during the last two seasons and was on his way to a third straight when the season was suspended.
Williams had an inconsistent year but he still put up 18.7 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 5.7 assists. Sweet Lou also made 1.8 three-pointers per game and was still the Clippers’ top option off the bench. With Paul George having an injury-plagued year, Williams has stepped up to help Kawhi Leonard bring the Clippers to second place in the West.
The 33-year old is the best scorer off the bench in the history of the NBA. He continues to provide instant offense for the Clippers. People talk so much about Leonard and George in L.A. but if there’s a glue on the team, it’s Lou Williams who has bailed them out in many games with his ability to score.