Sixth Man Of The Year: J.R. Smith

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The oddest part about this season’s race for the Sixth Man of the Year Award is that there are probably a half-dozen candidates worthy of consideration.

A voter could close his eyes and take a stab anywhere on a quite worthy list of J.R. Smith, Jamal Crawford, Jarrett Jack, Ryan Anderson, Nate Robinson and Kevin Martin.

So does that mean if we put an entire team of second unit standouts onto the court, somebody would have to get bumped to a starter?

In that case, we’re elevating and giving our vote to Smith, who has ridden in the shadow of Carmelo Anthony’s season-long brilliance, but has been no less vital to the Knicks winning their first Atlantic Division title since 1994.

How does that sync with the image of the mercurial guard who had taken his ready-to-shoot game from New Orleans to Denver to China before landing in New York 15 months ago?

How strangely does it stumble off the tongue to say that from the start to the finish of this regular season, Smith has become the Knicks most dependable player night in and night out?

For while you obviously give great credit to Anthony for the performance that will likely win the scoring title and earn him a high place on some MVP ballots, Smith has been the Knicks’ second-leading scorer, averaging 18.1 ppg and the player that coach Mike Woodson has been able to rely on at both ends of the court.

There is no questioning Crawford’s credentials as a big-time scorer off the Clippers’ bench and an ability to take over a game offensively whenever he steps out on the floor. For much of the season, the Sixth Man Award hardware seemed to be his for the taking. He helped the Clippers beat the Knicks to 50 wins as L.A. earned its first division title in the history of the franchise that dates back to its infancy in Buffalo.

The difference is that Crawford is a one-trick pony galloping behind Chris Paul who makes virtually no contribution at all on the nights when the ball is not going into the basket. While the Crawford lobby will point to a higher field goal percentage, it’s only slightly better, 43.6 to 42.2. The same goes for 3-point shooting, where Crawford has 37.0 to 35.6 edge.

At the other end of the floor, Smith has hardly become a stopper, but he tries and is credible, which is all that Woodson has asked. Crawford, meanwhile, couldn’t guard a cadaver.

At 27, Smith has finally inched closer to becoming the complete player that George Karl tried to squeeze out of him during four seasons in Denver and when the Knicks are winning, his assists and steals, as well as his shooting, are up. What’s more, he is literally the only player to show up every night, having played in every game this season, helping hold up the tent when Anthony was injured.

Oh, it’s not like J.R. has traded in his initials, his off-court silliness or his penchant for me-first offense. You still have to live with the times when he tries to win by himself and the can-you-believe-that shots. But they are part of a bigger package now, one that gives the Knicks a real reason to believe in the East.

The top contenders:

Jamal Crawford — He’s bounced back from a horrendous one-year stint in Portland to play a key role in the best Clippers season ever. Not many teams can back up a Chris Paul with another scorer this dangerous. But when it comes down to splitting hairs in a very close race, defense has to matter. You can make the argument that Crawford is the worst defender on the floor any time that he plays.

Jarrett Jack — The veteran has three games of 25 points and 10 assists off the bench, making him the first reserve in NBA history to do that in a single season. He’s provided leadership, defense and helped get the Warriors into the playoffs for only the second time in 19 seasons.

Kevin Martin — It was not an enviable task to step into the role of last year’s runaway Sixth Man winner (James Harden) on a team whose only goal is a return to The Finals. He doesn’t have all the skills of Harden and contributes nothing on defense, but is a high-efficiency scorer with a knack for getting to the foul line.

Ryan Anderson — He’s having the highest-scoring season — by a tick — of his career and has had to carry the offensive load plenty in the frequent absence of Eric Gordon. But it has to count against you when your team has spent the entire season floundering near the bottom of the West.

Nate Robinson — What is he? Who is he? When will he ever figure it out? He’s come off the Bulls’ bench to have his best year since his days in New York and certainly played a big part in ending the Miami win streak.

59 Comments

  1. I def agree that Vince is also @ the top of this list!!!

  2. HIP HOP CATZ says:

    Why all of the HATE on “JR. SWISH” just check his overall stats. He also probably the lowest paid six man on the list($2.5m). His numbers are better than some starters on playoff teams. “SWISH” FOR SIX!

  3. KnickerbockerAl says:

    JR does deserve it. His shot selection has gotten better. His D is better. Im actually becoming a fan. Playoff time

  4. KB24 says:

    Def. JR Smith for 6th man of the year, someone mentioned that JR was invisible in this debate until the All Star game and whoever that was is def on some crack. Charles Barkley almost cried cause JR didnt make the All Star team. Crawford was great but we saw how that team did without CP3 and maybe thats just how good CP3 is but either way, Crawford cant and never has carried a team. JR on the other hand, his problem was always his attitude but now it seems finally in check with Woodson, the only other credible candidate for this conversation is Nate, the way he really helped that team without Rose but the Bulls could have all players injured and will still find a way to win, unline the Knicks. JR has def carried that team every night.

  5. RkoRosario says:

    Jamal Crawford..this last game vs. Kings..if it werent for him they would have lost.. Crawford has Put this Clippers team to a whole new Level.. when CP3 leaves the Court The Team leader is Crawford..And Fran to Say that Crawford has no D.. i can see that u dont watch the man Play..he has the best Crossover on Offense and he always has is hands up for the right D.. JCross For 6Th Man.

    • LeBrontourage says:

      What are you talking about? When Chris Paul went down with injury midseason did Crawford carry them then? Ahahhhaha, they were terrible without CP3, which means that not only is JR able to score more efficiently this year than Crawford, he can seriously put his team on hos back without their superstar. Can you say that about Jamal? Don’t make me laugh…

  6. NY Vlad says:

    j.r. doesnt start becasuse mike woodson has ocd when it comes to the subject. i still really dont see any plausible arguments against smith who fyi only averages 15.6 shots per game and 5.5 three attempts per game.

  7. Kyle says:

    JR!!!! MPG1!!!!! His role off the bench is phenomenal!

  8. Punisher says:

    J.R Smith sixth man of the year and Damian lillard rookie of the year.

  9. Raptor says:

    Vince not being on the list is something we, as VC fans, are used to. Always criticized and NEVER really being rewarded for what he does.

    D’ah well, the mainstream press can shove it.

  10. brinden batchie says:

    Yes, but what some ppl here seems to be forgetting is that this is the SIXTH MAN award. Sixth men don’t need to carry teams.

    They come off the bench to do whatever it is they need to do for the team to win. Crawford’s consistently been that guy for the clips, who had a better season that the knicks in every department, down to a better and longer win streak. Whoever compared the 2nd to 4th seed is an idiot – the clips have a better record.

    Who is better for the award remains to be seen but stop bringing this nonsense ‘Smith carries the team’ argument to the table – if he carries them so much, why isn’t he starting?

    • Note says:

      “They come off the bench to do whatever it is they need to do for the team to win. ”

      Yes…this is what 6th men do….they might not be the star player that is expected to carry the team…but they still do their part to contribute the most they can from the bench….thus in their own way…carry the team. You’re just playing with words here….

      “if he carries them so much, why isn’t he starting?”

      Probably because you know…..he’s doing really good as a 6th man??? If he is having the best season of his career why would you ruin that momentum and chemistry?

      “Crawford’s consistently been that guy for the clips, who had a better season that the knicks in every department, down to a better and longer win streak. Whoever compared the 2nd to 4th seed is an idiot – the clips have a better record.”

      First….you speak as if the same can’t be said about Smith…whose’s consistency is far more superior. Everything else you said has nothing to do with him. Better win streak? Better Record? The record is only a two game difference and the streak was 17 to 13….C’mon now….not only is this ridiculous and trivial, but its more connected with the entire team than it is with the individual.

  11. Fred Firpo says:

    Typical East Coast mentality…..he plays in New York so he must have been better….

  12. Koolaid says:

    I’m going to have to go with JR on this one since he has been doing a little bit of everything for the Knicks while Crawford is mainly just a scorer Smith has also been playing good defense which is what some people don’t realize.

  13. wooderson says:

    it has to be jarrett jack followed by smith, no one else is even in the conversation

  14. As far as defense, none on this list are good at exept jack. I def give my vote to crawford & jack running close to him.

  15. no love for VC says:

    I can’t believe this article does not mention any word of Vince Carter but puts Ryan Anderson. He’s been the only bright spot for the mavericks who fell short of making the playoffs. Had dirk been there all season surely he’s in the talks of sixth man of the year. No love for the old man :(

  16. sean joh says:

    I just can’t stand how can a player play 36 mins a game winning the “SIXTH MAN ” award.

  17. rugdan says:

    Somebody say Vince carter he has been the most consistent player on the Mavericks

  18. villmatic says:

    Jack for the award! With a young team like the Warriors, Jack’s leadership and experience coming off the bench is an integral part of the team; something that I think is being overlooked. Along with that, he has been a consistent scorer and ball handler.

  19. Stern H8r says:

    Am I blocked?

  20. tradnnixi says:

    JR Smith has been the man for the Knicks all year, he has definitely been essential, hes a HUGE part of what the Knicks do. JR Smith is the biggest producer off the bench and with the amount of injuries to the Knicks, JR Smith has been helping the team in many different ways. Clutch shots, better shot selection, penetration, and defense. Jamal Crawford is a talented player, but JR Smith has been much more valuable as a team player coming off the bench.

  21. Dave says:

    Corey Brewer

  22. Barry Lird says:

    This is so weak, JR comes in in the first quarter some games. It should be Jamal. 1 on 1 for the trophy?

  23. King Gary says:

    Ryan Anderson is the best guy to come off the bench in years and is always shafted, he should be starting on every team in the NBA pretty much. JR shoots way too much and is not dependable just like the rest of the guys, Jamal Crawford and Nate Robinson, there is a reason they come off the bench because they are just too sparatic. FGP and efficiency is key. If you are looking for players who make an impact off the bench not just scoring, I would look at players like Shane Battier and those along the line. Anybody can score 17 points a game if they throw up 25+ shots a night

    • Note says:

      yeah….except you know….when he was throwing up 20 or more shots a game he was actually putting up close to 30 a night….The man should be clear for 6th Man of the Year.

  24. Patty says:

    NATE ROBINSON DESERVES MUCH BETTER TREATMENT THEN HE IS GETTING.

    ROBINSON IS A WONDERFUL PERSON AND A VERY GOOD PROFESSIONAL BASKETBALL PLAYER. THE NBA SHOULD GIVE HIM A CHANCE.

    BOSTON CELTICS SHOULD HAD KEPT NATE ROBINSON. SHAME ON THE CELTICS.

  25. Vinsanity says:

    Why is there no mention of Vincent Lamar Carter?

    I know the Mavs aren’t a playoff team, but the Hornets aren’t either!

  26. gabriel says:

    please guys, Nate Robinson ??? only because he palyed with luck last NY’s gamne?
    c’mon? why he is changing team every 2 years????
    JR smith has won severla games in a final second at th ebuzzer; he dunks the ball special like any other like RObinson and Jamal..what about the dunk againts Miami?
    nobody has done those type of dunks…

  27. ChicagoBullsFan242 says:

    i gotta say it between Nate And J.R, they both can step up when needed n lift their team to win, i wont say crawford because the clippers style of play is fast pace, it like whoever get a look takes the shot

  28. NY Vlad says:

    even in the beggining of the year i thought j.r. was a leading candidate. jamal crawford is only asked to score while j.r. smith has been asked to do a little bit of everything from carrying the team when melo was out to going out and getting rebounds for a knicks team that was winning games without a single big man. i think j.r. is way above any other 6th man this year and i would even go as far as saying i would pick him this year over harden last year by a slim percentage….he has played on such a high level…..smith has been asked to do so much and hes come through every time.

  29. THe Truth says:

    I’d have to go with lil nate b/c what he’s doing being so short on a team without very good offensive players is amazing

  30. jacques says:

    i agree with you to a certain degree, those guys (JR, Jamal, Nate and K mart) are great NBA players but again I think that JR smith deserves this SOY title more than the others. when Melo was struggling with his knee injury, JR was the go the guy of the k. Jamal is an outstanding player but this year JR has been much more important for his team.

    • Willie Beamen says:

      Without Crawford the Clippers wouldnt have gotten off to the great start they did this year as he led them in scoring for the first month while spearheading the best bench in the league they then went undefeated in jan while also winning their first division title and posting their first 50 win season

      • Note says:

        You’re talking as if someone can’t say the same thing about Smith…and even more…..The one thing you do consistently fail at bringing up is consistency. January was nice…we all know how close it was back then…now its not even close. JR produces starting quality numbers off of the bench. Very true that he gets starter minutes. But his consistency night in and night out has been tremendous….not to mention as of late has been completely one sided…Offensively and defensively. You’re bandwagoning to hard for Crawford…

  31. dattebayo says:

    Can we all just take a step back and remember how good James Harden was, coming off the bench for OKC? Suddenly, Crawford and Smith seem like 3rd stringers…

    I think we need to think outside the box for SMOY and we shouldn’t look for a poor man’s James Harden. What about Javale McGee? A solid defensive presence of the bench with efficient scoring off of the bench of the 4th best team in the league? Or how about Jeff Green, good defensive player and rebounder, efficient scorer and playmaker.

    • Willie Beamen says:

      harden averaged 16 pts 4 rebs and 3 apg last year it seems that your memory is not that good

  32. paulofc says:

    Everytime you use the words trust and J.R. Smith on the same sentence you make a fool of yourself

  33. Daan says:

    Nate Robinson. Nuff said.

  34. knick4eva says:

    all the candidates are worthy of been immediate offense of the bench, however only JR and nate can carry a team…….a sixth man should be able to carry the team when nothing is going right not just shoot when all is well………now if you compare JR to nate, JR wins hands down because even though both players are yet to figure it out when they do JR is better. JR is more athletic, a better shooter and a better defender. JR’s greatest strength is also his greatest weakness- his a risk vs reward player. on a night when nothing is going right for every other person and he is committed there is nothing you can do except just play ball and hope the basketball Gods are on your side, while on the flip side even when nate is committed he needs his teams help. for example in the last win over the knicks nate was good but his team wasnt struggling, when okc was at the garden the knicks were rubbish without melo and JR took over the game by himself….so respect to all the candidates with nate been a runner up but this one is all JR SWISH

  35. Patrick says:

    Those entertaining the possibility of anybody besides Smith has not followed many Knicks games this year. JR Smith is the only reserve player that would carry a team without the superstar ie. Melo, Paul etc. Carmelo has missed 13 games this year and in those games the Knicks are only 6-7 however eight of those games were playoff teams. Also, during the stretch of games Anthony missed throughout the year Jr averaged 22.4 pts/game while leading them with TWO buzzer beater game winners. That is something that isn’t brought up very often. I believe Smith had a great chance to make the all-star game but did go through a cool stretch during around that time that left him off. He is averaging career highs in points and rebounds while often defending the opposing teams top player. Overall, Jamal Crawford was making it close call pre-allstar break but everyone has realized all he can do is score. Jack has been consistent all year but nothing impressive enough to win the award. The other viable candidates are Nate Robinson and Jeff Green but they have come on late, no where near the productivity Smith has produced all year.

    • Willie Beamen says:

      JR wasnt even in the conversation pre all star breajk shooting sub 40% thats just ridiculous Crawford was ahead by a mile until march and now some try and ignore what happened pre all star break to justify Smith receiving the reward . Somehow JR Smith was the best 6th man when the Clippers were undefeated in Dec and Crawford is their second leading scorer . No one but knicks fans is gonna ignore that kind of stuff

  36. kwalt says:

    It should not be Nate ..he actually started some games

  37. Titimbe says:

    DENZO clearly does not watch basketball if he thinks Carmelo(an outstanding NBA player and prolific scorer) should win the MVP over Lebron.

  38. Joy Roath says:

    Horrible choice. Jamal Crawford should be voted 6th man because without him, the Clippers would probably not be in the playoffs, no one coming off the bench can come close to what he has helped achieve what the Clippers have achieved and he is on the floor at the end of games because of what he brings to the team.
    J.R. Smith might be a close second…but the Knicks could win with or without him…Jamal Crawford should win the award.

    • Reginald Von Bartlesby says:

      Jamal Crawford has been essential to clippers but you haven’t watched a single knicks game if you say JR isn’t essential to the Knicks. JR is always in the end of games and is beating crawford in stats in all categories except for FG% which is only a slight difference. Crawford is the close second, because 6th man award is all JR.

    • Love4Dame says:

      WRONG!!! when their star player CP3 got injured clips had a tough time winning or should i say they aren’t winning at all. Crawford cannot carry the clips even Griffin is playing. But on the other hand, when melo missed some games, Smith stepped up and brought wins for the knicks and hell yeah he looks a star. there’s no question Smith should get the SOY award. Smith is an all around package while Crawford is just a scorer.

    • richard says:

      How can you say the Knicks can without him if has played every single game this year, and nearly everyone been in the top 3 of the team in scoring

    • Joe M says:

      Wow. this is SUCH an ignorant comment it’s not even funny. JR hits 2 game winning buzzer beaters in the same month, he shoots 13-16 for 31 points the same night that melo scores 31. He has a higher ppg and PER (player efficiency rating) than Joe Johnson on the Nets. And most of all, he has becoming the go to guy for late game situation. Please do some research before making a complete fool of yourself on the internet.

      • Anonymous says:

        J.R shoots way to much and doesn’t make too many of them. Crawford is a little better, but the award goes to the player who did the most FOR THEIR TEAM off the bench, not only % or ppg. NY is 2 seed, clippers are 4 so JR should win it

  39. Lola says:

    I’m actually liking Nate Robision for this more than Smith. Also, could Jeff Green be considered a candidate?

    • Shawn Kemp No. 1 says:

      I agree, to me it’s either Smith or Robinson. From that list, the 2 of them have the biggest impact on their teams. Jamal was great the first half of the season, but dropped significantly so i think it’s between JR and Nate with JR having a slight edge

      • Denzo says:

        I think its Nate. He has just been amazing this year. I know for NYC that JR has a better shot.. but as someone who has watched at least half of each teams games this season.. Nate has just been unstoppable. Seriopusly he has delivered in the BIG games.. when there was no other options on the floor.. hitting shots from the car park.. and hes 5’9 which makes it that much more impressive – like Spud winning the dunk comp (or Nate for that matter lol). JR is sick though and I love his game.. my top 2, I just think JR has an easier time being good than Nate does.

        Then again I think Carmelo is MVP this year without question.. When he plays the Knicks are better.. when LeBron doesnt play for the Heat – it makes no difference – they still win – heck they still win without Wade and Bosh! Team full of all stars and you give that team MVP??

      • Willie Beamen says:

        Where id Jamal drop to exactly considering in FEb and march he shot 49% and 47% he didnt fall off anywhere hes just been consistent and hasnt been playing the 35-40 mpg that Smith has been playing

      • \Nate could actually pull this off…he has been player of the week 2 times this season and has helped the bulls mightily

    • Patty says:

      J.R. SMITH IS NO DOUBT THE SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR!!! HOWEVER, NATE ROBINSON IS EXCEPTIONAL!!!