Apr 11, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; Phoenix Suns forward Markieff Morris (11) dunks the ball during the second half against the San Antonio Spurs at AT&T Center. The Spurs won 112-104. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

2014 NBA 6th Man of Year: A further examination

Clippers guard Jamal Crawford won the 2014 NBA Sixth Man of the Year award for the second time in his career and many, especially people in Phoenix and Chicago, thought the selection was a bit misguided.

Bulls forward Taj Gibson was a close second to Crawford, while Suns forward Markieff Morris took fourth on the overall ballot. Sandwiched in between them in third was perennial sixth man contender Manu Ginobili.

But many believe Morris and Gibson, the two big men, got the short end of the stick to a volume scorer who had an inefficient season even by his standards.

The Arizona Republic’s Paul Coro shared some of the tidbits that should have given Morris an edge for the award.

“Morris led the NBA in bench points (1,115) and double-doubles (11) and was fourth in rebounds per game (6.0), sixth in field-goal percentage (48.6), fifth in points per game (13.8) and seventh in steals (0.85) among reserves. He changed his game, mostly ditching the 3-point shot to give the Suns their only consistent interior scoring option and leaning more on his efficient mid-range game. When he scored 15 points or more, the Suns went 25-11 (.694), and Morris got better when the Suns were in a playoff chase, with averages of 15.8 points and 6.4 rebounds after the All-Star break.”

As Coro has pointed out, it seems like the Sixth Man of the Year award is given to the best volume shooting bench guard. But shouldn’t it be given to the best, most complete player who happens to come off the bench?

And what makes the a Sixth Man winner, anyway? It should reward the player who sacrifices a starting spot to be the best and most complete player in the league coming off the bench. A few criteria can help to nail those players down. Obviously, production off the bench — and not as a starter — is important. In shorter minutes, efficiency is important as well. And finally, how does a player’s impact help his team?

Number of games played off the bench (MPG) [PPG]:

Markieff Morris – 81 (26.6) [13.8]

Taj Gibson – 74 (28.7) [13.0]

Manu Ginobili – 65 (22.8) [12.3]

Jamal Crawford – 45 (30.3) [18.6]

So Gibson played all the games, starting only eight, while Morris came off the bench all 81 games he played after sitting out the season opener. Ginobili missed 14 games due to injury and started three others. Crawford missed 13 games due to injury and started 24 games for the Clippers, hurting his case.

In terms of efficiency and playing time, Ginobili played the least and scored the least while Crawford played the most (more than 30 minutes per game) and scored the most. Morris played about two minutes less per game than Gibson while scoring 0.8 more.

From here it looks like Crawford is a volume scoring guard who by technicality is eligible for the Sixth Man of the Year award because he came off the bench for a majority of the year.

Field goal percentage (3-point FG%) [True Shooting %]:

Manu Ginobili- 46.9% (34.9%) [59.0%]

Markieff Morris – 48.6% (31.5%) [56.3%]

Jamal Crawford- 41.6% (36.1%) [56.1%]

Taj Gibson – 47.9% (0%) [53.1%]

Looking at the field goal percentages, things get interesting. Morris leads the group in field goal percentage, with Gibson and Ginobili close behind, but Crawford is a full seven percentage points back. From behind the arc, Crawford leads the group, but that is to be expected. Crawford shot 446 threes, which is 73 more than the other three players combined this season.

Gibson’s lack of three-point shooting limits his True Shooting percentage (which weighs threes, twos and free throws). Morris and Crawford’s True Shooting percentages are very close, while Ginobili leads at 59 percent.

Real Plus-Minus

Manu Ginobili – 4.57

Taj Gibson – 4.10

Markieff Morris – -0.20

Jamal Crawford – -0.68

How do the four candidates stack up in terms of impact while on the court? Gibson and Ginobili are in solid shape with ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus, Morris is slightly in the red, while Crawford is a little more in the hole negative.

Both efficiency-wise and by plus-minus statistics, Morris stacks up evenly with Crawford, but he does have a resume that speaks more to being a sixth man. While the Sixth Man honor may be voted upon based on loose definitions, Gibson and Ginobili join Morris by also having a reason to gripe for the award going Crawford’s way.

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