A playoff contending team always requires a deep roster in order to make a championship run possible. While the stars often put on a show, the guys coming off the bench are just as important in producing the numbers whenever the stars are resting or get injured. As a result, the sixth man carries the responsibility of helping the team win by leading the second unit. Throughout the years, we’ve seen some of the best sixth men step up to the plate when it mattered most. For this piece, let’s rank the 10 greatest Sixth Man of the Year winners.
10. Ricky Pierce: Milwaukee Bucks (1987, 1990)
A two-time Sixth Man of the Year winner, Ricky Pierce was a solid player off the bench for the Milwaukee Bucks. In fact, during the 1990 season, Pierce averaged 23.0 points per game to become the player with the highest scoring average to win the award. As a result, he deserves to take the 10th spot on this list.
9. Bobby Jackson: Sacramento Kings (2003)
The Kings had all the tools to bring a championship to Sacramento. But while the team featured Chris Webber, Peja Stojakovic, and Vlade Divac, it was Bobby Jackson who carried the load of the second unit. In the 2002 playoffs, the Kings went as deep as the Western Conference Finals by taking the Lakers to seven games before receiving the boot in heartbreaking fashion. During the series, Jackson averaged 12.0 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 1.6 assists per game. A year later, Jackson was awarded the Sixth Man of the Year Award after averaging a career-high 15.2 points per outing during the regular season.
8. Aaron McKie: Philadelphia 76ers (2001)
While it was Allen Iverson who ran the show for the Philadelphia 76ers during the early 2000s, Aaron McKie was also a crucial piece during their playoff campaigns. In fact, McKie was crowned the Sixth Man of the Year, averaging 11.6 points, 5.0 assists, and 4.1 rebounds per outing. He also played an instrumental role in helping the Sixers reach the NBA Finals that year before conceding to the Los Angeles Lakers in five games.
7. James Harden: Oklahoma City Thunder (2012)
There are only five players to ever win MVP and Sixth Man of the Year in their careers. One of them is James Harden. Harden was a reliable sixth man during the Thunder’s run at the 2012 NBA Finals. In the regular season, he averaged 16.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game to take the Sixth Man of the Year honors. After his stint with the Thunder, Harden would elevate into a superstar for the Houston Rockets, Brooklyn Nets, and currently with the Philadelphia 76ers.
6. Jason Terry: Dallas Mavericks (2009)
Dubbed as The Jet, Jason Terry was one of the best scoring spark plugs for the Dallas Mavericks. In the 2008-2009 season, Terry averaged 19.6 points, 3.4 assists, and 2.4 rebounds per outing to win the Sixth Man of the Year Award. He was also a vital piece during the Mavericks’ historic championship conquest two seasons later.
5. Kevin McHale: Boston Celtics (1984, 1985)
Speaking of the Celtics dynasty in the 80s, despite coming off the bench during his first few years, Kevin McHale established himself as among the best players in the league. Helping the Celtics win three NBA championships, McHale nearly averaged a double-double off the bench. Furthermore, he was the first player in NBA history to win the award on back-to-back occasions.
4. Bill Walton: Boston Celtics (1986)
Although it was Robert Parish who manned the frontcourt during the Celtics’ dynasty in the 80s, it was Bill Walton who served as a reliable backup center when Parish was on the bench. Mostly coming off the bench, Walton averaged a respectable 7.6 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. Walton also has two NBA championships to his name, the second one with the Celtics as the Sixth Man of the Year. He is the lone player in NBA history to win League MVP, Finals MVP, and Sixth Man of the Year.
3. Bobby Jones: Philadelphia 76ers (1983)
Given that he was the first ever Sixth Man of the Year, Bobby Jones deserves to be within the top five of this list. Jones averaged 9.0 points and 4.6 rebounds per game to win the award. Although his numbers weren’t flashy, he made an impact during the Sixers’ championship run that year. He averaged 12.0 points and 4.8 rebounds per game in the championship clinching series.
2. Manu Ginobili: San Antonio Spurs (2008)
Manu Ginobili was a critical piece to the Spurs franchise. As part of the Spurs dynasty, Ginobili won four NBA championships. After helping the Spurs win a championship in 2007, Ginobili followed it up with his best regular season performance individually. Coming off the bench, he averaged 19.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game to win his first and only NBA Sixth Man of the Year honors.
1. Toni Kukoc: Chicago Bulls (1996)
With the hopes of regaining their three-peat glory, the Bulls inked Euroleague star Toni Kukoc. Although the adjustment from Europe to the NBA was great back then, Kukoc naturally established himself in the league. And with Michael Jordan returning from retirement, the Bulls had all the tools to reclaim their past glory. Apart from Jordan’s usual greatness, Kukoc did the damage as part of the second unit. He averaged 13.1 points per game while shooting 41% from beyond the arc. Kukoc would become an instrumental piece in the Bulls’ second legendary three-peat from 1996 to 1998.
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Courtesy : https://clutchpoints.com/nba-sixth-man-of-the-year-ranking-10-greatest-winners