Can Ryan Anderson win the NBA 's Sixth Man of the Year award? Most Pelican fans will argue yes, without looking deeper into what it would take to win it.. Well, I've decided to do just that, but I must remind you, looking 81 games in the future and trying to predict awards is always a long shot because of all the variables that will change through the course of a season.
Anderson finished 5th in Sixth Man of the Year voting in the 2012-2013 season, a campaign that saw Ryan play 81 games. In approximately 30 minutes of run, he averaged 16 points and 6.5 rebounds per contest. Sounds like a very good stat line for a 6th man, right?
Well JR Smith, who won the award, averaged 18 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and a steal. In 2nd place, Jamal Crawford averaged 16.5 points, 2.5 assists and 1 steal a game and 3rd was Jarrett Jack with 13 points, 5.5 assists and 3 rebounds. Arguably, all three of those players performed better than Ryan that year, as many would claim they impacted the game more than him in similar minutes.
The points difference in the voting between 3rd and 4th was huge as Kevin Martin only finished with 31 points. I believe the only reason he finished ahead of Anderson was because the Thunder had won the west.
In my opinion, 2 of the top 3 had similar statistical averages throughout the year to Ryan, with only JR Smith significantly outperforming them all. So why was there close to a 160 point difference between Jarrett Jack and Ryan Anderson?
Simple. The Warriors made the play-offs and Jack was a vital component serving as the spark plug off the bench. When paired with Stephen Curry, he often played on the ball, thereby allowing Curry to play the off guard role. He was recognized for closing a number of games where the Warriors walked away the winner.
This same ideology also applied to Crawford and Smith, but to an even greater degree. Both were crucial in aiding their teams to higher team playoff seedings. So, while Ryan Anderson was having a good year for himself, the Hornets finished a poor 27-55 -- good for 14th in the Western Conference Standings.
What do the previous 10 winners have in Common?
These are all the players who have won the award, but we're going to examine the previous 10 (Starting at Ben Gordon):
The main thing they all have in common? They ALL made the play-offs. Every single one of them went to the postseason that year with their team. Thus, logic dictates that if Ryan Anderson is going to win this award, the Pelicans are going to have to make the play-offs.
This now becomes an exercise for what he must do to win. The Pelicans must make the playoffs, the higher the seeding the better. For his part, Anderson needs to be reliable and serve as a huge spark against opposing teams' reserves. History has proven one doesn't have to be efficient, but Anderson won't be able to help himself. Hopefully, he gets some credit for it.
Another noticeably similarity is that all but two of the past 10 winners averaged over 15 points a game. This is something Ryan should be able to do with ease as he has proven it over the course of his career. His Per 36 numbers are good and his reserve role is one of the safest in the league. If the early season is any indication, Monty Williams is leaning heavily on a small rotation.
In regards to other statistics, he would also likely have to average 6+ rebounds to win the award as a big man, but with only ONE big man winning the award in the last 10 years, we don't have the data to back it up. Admittedly, it is mildly disconcerting that guards take home the award more times than not.
Who will be his main Competitors?
Reigning Award holder: Jamal Crawford:
Jamal Crawford has won the award twice in the previous 5 years and was second in voting 2 years ago. Crawford is a pure scorer off the bench for the Clippers, leads their second unit and often finishes games for them. His role appears to be similar this season. If he approaches 18.6 points a game again and the Clippers vie for a top seeding, Crawford will be looking to become the first player to win the award 3 times and also the second player to win it back-to-back.
Gibson was huge for the Bulls last year, not missing a single game. He averaged 13 points a game and 7 rebound and 1.4 blocks a game. Taj finished second in the voting, narrowly missing out to Jamal Crawford. Gibson is regarded as an exceptional defender -- being able to bang with the bigs down low but also possessing the footwork and quickness to guard wings on the perimeter. He has continually refined his offensive game in the off-seasons, adding post moves and solidifying his jump shot. Gibson is poised to have another huge year helping the Bulls out east.
After moving to Phoenix this past summer, Thomas will return to being a 6th man after finishing the year as a starter in Sacramento. He is a proven guard in the league, averaging stats comparable to Kyrie Irving last season. In his opening 2 games, the diminutive guard has averaged 23 points in 24 minutes at an incredible shooting clip of 67%. I understand its only two games, but Thomas averaged 20 & 6 last year in Sacramento with less talent around him. His numbers might go down a little bit, but he's going to be an effective 6th man for Phoenix. It will boil down to how many minutes he receives behind Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic.
Honorable mentions: Reggie Jackson, Manu Ginobili and Rodney Stuckey.
So to answer my original question, can Ryan Anderson win the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year award?
Yes he can.
What would he have to do?
The Pelicans make the play-offs and he average 16+ points and 6+ rebounds -- realistic numbers for a dead-eye shooter like Anderson.
If I was a betting man, my money would be on Ryan Anderson.