Who will win the 2014 6th Man of the Year award?

Come on, do you really have to ask? This one's easy. It's Jamal Crawford.

One of the observations that we've made here at Boxscore Geeks and the Wages of Wins is that people really like points, especially when it comes to handing out awards. The voting for the 6th Man of the Year (6MOTY) award is no different. Take a look at the posts we’ve written about this award in the past:

The requirements for the 6MOTY are simple: a player must start fewer than 50% of the games he's played in order to be eligible for the award. Voters love points per game (PPG) and almost always vote for players who play on one of the best teams in the league.

Given these criteria, who will win the award this year? The following is a list of the top players (as sorted by PPG) who have started fewer than 50% of their games and play on a team with a winning record:

Player Team W% PPG Wins
Jamal Crawford 0.700 18.5 2.8
Markieff Morris 0.588 13.7 4.3
Taj Gibson 0.595 13.2 4.7
Reggie Jackson 0.734 13.2 3.9
D.J. Augustin 0.595 13.1 4.5
Jeremy Lin 0.663 12.6 3.5
Manu Ginobili 0.775 12.4 6.0
Ramon Sessions 0.513 12.3 3.7
Vince Carter 0.605 12.0 2.7
Marco Belinelli 0.775 11.3 6.6
Andray Blatche 0.544 11.3 1.8
Darren Collison 0.700 11.3 5.7

Jamal Crawford leads this list by a comfortable margin. As with J.R. Smith last year, there is little doubt that he will win the 6MOTY. But will he deserve it?

To put it simply, the answer is hell no. This season there are 40 bench players who have produced more wins for their teams than Crawford has produced for the Clippers. And even when we limit these players to those on winning teams, that number is still 28. Here are the top 15 players from that list:

Player Team W% PPG Wins
Chris Andersen 0.675 6.7 8.2
Marco Belinelli 0.775 11.3 6.6
Draymond Green 0.620 6.2 6.5
Brandan Wright 0.605 9.0 6.3
Manu Ginobili 0.775 12.4 6.0
Martell Webster 0.525 9.8 6.0
Darren Collison 0.700 11.3 5.7
Mike Miller 0.595 6.9 5.6
Mason Plumlee 0.544 7.1 5.5
Patrick Mills 0.775 10.2 5.1
Ray Allen 0.675 9.5 5.0
Taj Gibson 0.595 13.2 4.7
Marcus Morris 0.588 9.6 4.6
D.J. Augustin 0.595 13.1 4.5
Markieff Morris 0.588 13.7 4.3

Chris Andersen is the most productive bench player playing for a winning team, and it isn't particularly close. Unsurprisingly, the Spurs have three players on this list, and the Heat, Bulls, and Suns have two apiece. Oh, and one of these fifteen players – Darren Collison – plays on the same team as Jamal Crawford. So Crawford isn't even the most deserving player on his own team!

Another prominent candidate – Taj Gibson, who Tom Tibodeau has been pushing – is barely ahead of his own teammate (D.J. Augustin). And Augustin was a mid-season pickup! That doesn't sound like a shoe-in to me.

But one thing that always bothers me about the 6MOTY award is that "playing on a winning team" requirement. As with the MVP, it's possible that the best bench player plays on a losing team. Why punish a productive player for having bad teammates? If we remove that requirement, we get a top 15 that looks like this:

Player Team W% PPG Wins
Anderson Varejao 0.395 8.4 8.4
Chris Andersen 0.675 6.7 8.2
Marco Belinelli 0.775 11.3 6.6
Draymond Green 0.620 6.2 6.5
Jordan Hill 0.316 9.4 6.4
Brandan Wright 0.605 9.0 6.3
Manu Ginobili 0.775 12.4 6.0
Martell Webster 0.525 9.8 6.0
Kris Humphries 0.313 8.4 5.8
Darren Collison 0.700 11.3 5.7
Mike Miller 0.595 6.9 5.6
Mason Plumlee 0.544 7.1 5.5
Patrick Mills 0.775 10.2 5.1
Ray Allen 0.675 9.5 5.0
Maurice Harkless 0.291 7.3 4.9

Now we can actually have a legitimate conversation around who to give the 6MOTY award. It's a battle of the Ændərsəns! Varejao produced more wins, but he also played more minutes, which means that Andersen was better on a per-minute basis. The Birdman gained that edge mostly on the strength of his amazing shooting percentages – he's ranked second in the NBA in TS% among players with more than 1000 minutes played. But Varejao is in the top 10 in both rebounds per minute and rebounding percentage. Then again, Andersen is also top 10 in blocks per minute....

Who would you pick for 6th Man of the Year? You can use the player comparison tool to help make your decision!

When I try to explain to my friends how regression works, or why the type of analysis that leads to Prof. Berri's conclusions about the character of productivity in the NBA is more reliable than the "eye test" or highly problematic "advanced" stats like APM, exhibit A in the counterpoint is always the high regard in which WP holds Chris Andersen, so I wouldn't hold my breath.

Among players upon whom WP looks with a favorable eye, I would give Ginobili the best odds of beating out the front-runner (whom you've, I think, correctly identified as Jamal Crawford). I know he's a previous winner- when I suggested his possible candidacy to a friend, he responded that "Manu ALWAYS" wins SMOY, and though he's only actually won it once, I understand the sentiment- but I don't see any other Spurs winning individual awards this year, and I don't know that they're gonna let a team as good as the Spurs into the history books without conferring an award on at least one player.
"This season there are 40 bench players who have produced more wins for their teams than Crawford has produced for the Clippers"

Never change boxscore geeks.
John,
I hear ya. I always enjoy the odd dichotomy of "Wins Produced doesn't account for everything, like defense, yeah...defense!" then immediately turning around and saying "You overrate players like Dennis Rodman, Dikembe Mutombo and Chris Andersen!" :)
Looking back at your posts for 2013, 2012, 2010, and 2009 (what happened to 2011? Slackers. :)), and assuming that Birdman won't win it this year (duh), it looks like the voters get it right about a third of the time. Which is, actually, better than I'd have thought.
Voters: It's pronounced Bel-in-ell-i

Grazi
I look at the playoffs and awards the same way. The best doesn't always win so its just a spectacle like the Grammys or Golden Globes. So when the playoffs start, just sit back and watch the "nominees" fight for the trophy.
Hey now, you are selling Jamal Crawford short! Not only does he lead all the other by far in scoring, he does it all by himself. He plays 1 on 5 on offense. He doesn't need to pass the ball, he doesn't need to run plays. He doesn't need to rebound or play defense to get his balls. Just give him the ball way outside and he waits for the whole defense to come out to him and then he chucks it way high over all of them. This is the player that Nick Young could become some day if he just learns to cut back on his fouls by playing no defense at all.
It's fascinating the amount intelligent people who hate on WP so much with the passion that they do. Their arguments are amusing. I occasionally post on canishoopus.com (wolves fan site with generally intelligent people) and I reference WP and boxscoregeeks.com in most of my posts. Almost always someone responds with "yeah, but that is the kind of player that WP always overrates. Idiot" Uhhh... you mean the kind of player that WP rates correctly and the public doesn't rate correctly? Or they respond with some variant of "WP needs to die because they are not nice people!"
I can not wait until a front office embraces WP and games the league for five years before everyone else catches on. It's not rocket science. Basketball is so weird in that the people with the "most knowledge" seem to make the worst decisions. Flip Saunders, Joe Dumars, Isiah Thomas, etc. know more about basketball than most will ever know, but that doesn't correlate to being an effective GM or coach. If a GM could only evaluate players from reading boxscoregeeks.com and had no other stats, info, anything, would they not be better at their job than 90% of the other GMs?

Wolvesfan-

You are probably right that, using WP in a vacuum, one could outperform 90% of NBA decision-makers, but that's like being the most chaste woman in a brothel. One of the complaints often leveled at WP is that it's not a "magic" statistic that can tell you "completely" how "good" a player is, in the abstract and out of context. While it's obviously much closer to this (essentially impossible) ideal than its competitors, such complaints fundamentally misconstrue what it is that WP conveys.

WP gives a rigorous, basically settled-scientific account of the value of different statistical events in the NBA; a point is worth such and such, a shot attempt costs such and such, a rebound is worth such and such, and so on. What WP does NOT assert, or attempt to assert, is WHY a player with a particular profile of statistical production generates the numbers that he produces; it simply tells you how productive, in terms of overall statistical output, the player was over a given length of time. For instance, Dwight Howard and Stephen Curry are both stupendously efficient offensive players, but they achieve their efficiency in quite strikingly different fashions.

A GM or coach looking for efficient offense would find it in either player, but he shouldn't understand what Howard and Curry contribute to an offense to be interchangeable, rather than simply statistically roughly equivalent. Because of complementary production (NBA teams need guards and big men; they need playmakers and rim protectors, and so forth), knowing THAT a player is productive only gets you so far (alright, alright, it gets you very far indeed); the role of coaches, and of traditional basketball experts, should be to take the knowledge about the relative value in terms of productivity of different statistical events in the NBA provided by Wins Produced, and find a way to optimize that production across the team.

What I'm trying to convey here, in a rather long-winded fashion, is that a collection of unproductive players by WP would almost certainly be a bad team; a collection of VERY bad players, irrespective of how overrated and thus expensive they are, would definitely be quite bad. But I don't know that we can therefore say that any possible combination of players at each position who rate well by WP would automatically be a very good team. NBA teams need superstars to think about contending for championships; they need a variety of different types of production from role players in support of the superstar(s) to be consistently successful and win multiple championships.

I really need to get my own blog; my posts here are getting longer and longer.
It should also be noted that, unsurprisingly, Win Shares thinks Andersen is very productive as well (http://bkref.com/tiny/8VW2u). Someone using WS to select a 6MOTY winner would also choose Andersen. The big difference between the two "systems" is that, relative to Wins Produced, Win Shares has a larger team adjustment. Which means that players on good teams are helped, and players on bad teams are hurt. And Crawford still can't beat Varejao or Andersen!

Any metric that uses the boxscore would identify Chris Andersen as a top performer. He shoots too well to be ignored and, other than assists, doesn't do anything poorly.
Buy:

I don't think you could go wrong with either Chris Andersen, Anderson Varejao, Jordan Hill, Brandan Wright, Manu Ginobili, Kris Humphries, Darren Collison, Mike Miller, or Ray Allen. These are all players who have proven that through their respective careers, when given minutes, they can be pretty productive.

Sell:

Belinelli, Mills, and Webster are easily having outlier seasons, I suspect regression to the mean (a la Josh Smith), especially with respect to Webster. Perhaps Belinelli and Mills have a chance at continued success within Popovich's offense? I like what I'm seeing out of Green and Harkless (especially since a lot of their success seems predicated on things independent of shooting efficiency which can be inconsistent season-to-season). But they're still young, I'd like to see more out of them, before buying into them. And then there's Mason Plumlee, who I do like, but who just doesn't rebound enough. This could prove problematic moving forward.
Here is a team full of undervalued/inexpensive players with excellent WP/48 min:

Starting lineup

PG Pablo Prigioni
SG
SF
PF
C Chris Andersen

Key reservesHI
Here is a team full of undervalued/inexpensive players with excellent WP/48 min, which could be easily assembled:

Starting lineup

PG Pablo Prigioni
SG Kyle Korver
SF James Johnson
PF Jordan Hill
C Chris Andersen

Key reserves

Brandan Wright
Al-Farouq Aminu
Patrick Mills
Marco Bellinelli
Tyler Hansbrough

The big money "franchise player" is Kyle Korver. Total payroll is likely less than $30 mil. How many games do we think this team would win?
Replace Prigioni with Rubio and Korver with Allen and you've got a high-WP team that's not gonna win a whole hell of a lot of games.
This one is fairly easy. Birdman shoots the ball extremely well rebound and block a LOT of shots, Jamal Crawford just don't.
@ John Floyd I agree that WP doesn't understand interactions, and interacting relationships in basketball are frequent and incredibly complex. That's the cutting edge of basketball research. However, I don't think it's the case that the traditional NBA people understand it any better. Sure floor spacing can lead to some very pretty threes and dunks, but that doesn't make it a good strategy. I think ignoring the interactions is about as useful as most NBA decision-makers' theories about the interactions that go on.

Sign in to write a comment.