The NBA Sixth Man of the Year award has been around since 1983, when Philadelphia’s Bobby Jones took home honors. Past winners have included Hall of Famers (Bill Walton), Most Valuable Players (James Harden), rookies (Ben Gordon) and veterans (35-year-old Jamal Crawford).
So, how should NBA betting fans go about wagering on season-long odds of who will win the award? Much like when it comes to NBA MVP betting, we’ve found some trends to help you make a more informed decision.
Sixth Man of the Year winners are good players. That much is obvious. But most good young players find themselves in the starting lineup, either because their contract or draft status dictates it. It’s rare that a team has a true young star coming off the bench.
So it isn’t surprising that most winners are significant veterans. From 2007 to 2018, only one winner (James Harden, 22 years old) was younger than 27. And the average age of those other 10 winners was 30.3. What’s more, those players’ average year in the league when they won the award was 9.7.
Harden, being in his third year in the league in 2012, was the outlier there, and he was on a team that included Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka. Think older veterans when placing your bet. Most young talent is going to be in a team’s starting lineup.
It makes sense that an impactful Sixth Man would help a team to victories. But it goes even deeper than just being above .500. In recent years the award winners have been on dominant teams.
From 1994 to 2017, all 23 Sixth Men of the Year were on teams that won at least 47 games (or were on pace for that in a lockout-shortened season). The average number of wins of those 23 teams was 54.9, and all but three won at least 50 games.
Lou Williams broke the streak in 2018 on a 42-win Clippers team, but we’ll consider him an outlier. When considering Sixth Men, find winning teams.
If you weren’t aware, guard play in today’s NBA is king. Welcome back from the rock you were living under. That shows to be true in Sixth Man of the Year voting, too.
From 2004 to 2018, of the 14 Sixth Men of the Year winners, 12 were shooting guards. The only exceptions were power forward Lamar Odom (who played more of a point-forward anyway) and Mike Miller (who played on the wing but was technically listed as a small forward).
The last true forward to win the award was Antwan Jamison in 2003-04. The last true center to win the award was Bill Walton in 1986. No point guard has even won the award since 1999 (Darrell Armstrong), though players like Williams, Crawford and Harden had the ball in their hands plenty.
The point is, find shooters.
Save your floor generals and staunch defenders for a different award. The Sixth Man of the Year award comes down to one thing: scoring. Points are the most important statistic when considering who might take home the award.
Consider: From 2002 to 2018, 17 players won the award. Of those players, 11 led the NBA in bench scoring, three others were second, two others were third and one was fourth. So, 16 of the 17 winners in that stretch finished in the top three in bench scoring.
The NBA qualifications for the award are simply starting fewer than half the games you appear in. If your pick does something well and it isn’t scoring points, look elsewhere. And that lone player outside of the top 3? That was Jamal Crawford in 2016. He finished fourth and had won the award twice already. He was a true outlier because of his presence as a bench scorer.
If notice these tips, we’ve almost perfectly described Crawford. He won the award at ages 29, 33 and 35. From the first time he won the award through 2018, his teams missed the playoffs just one time. He’s a shooting guard, and he’s as pure a bench scorer as the NBA has ever seen.
So perhaps your best bet, when it comes down to it, is picture a Jamal Crawford. Find someone like him and you’re on your way to finding the best value for a Sixth Man of the Year winner.