Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
It's not the Heisman Trophy, but it's still quite an accomplishment.
Hardware season in the NBA continued Thursday as the league honored Oklahoma City Thunder guard James Harden with his first Sixth Man of the Year award.
Harden was terrific this season, compiling an impressive 16.8 ppg in 62 regular-season games (just two of them were starts). That total was the most of any bench player in the league.
After setting career highs in just about every category this season (ppg, rpg, apg, field goal percentage, free throw percentage and 3-point percentage), it's safe to assume this won't be the last time Harden wins this award. Unless of course, the Thunder decide to promote him to the starting lineup. But come on, what would be the fun in that?
We won't see Harden on the floor again until Round 2 of the playoffs when the Thunder will take on either the Denver Nuggets or the Los Angeles Lakers.
By the time that series is finished, Harden's Albus Dumbledore beard might be down to his knees. But while we're waiting, let's take a look at some of the league's best sixth men not named James Harden and how they can help out your fantasy team next season:
Ray Allen, Guard, Boston Celtics: Yes he looked awful Thursday against the Atlanta Hawks, but remember Allen is dealing with a bad ankle right now. At age 36, Allen was still able to score over 14 ppg, and only three players (Steve Novak, Ersan Ilyasova and Stephen Curry) maintained a higher 3-point shooting percentage than Allen this season (45.3 percent). After he has offseason surgery on his ankle, Allen should resume his status as one of the game's most dominant long-range shooters.
Jamal Crawford, Guard, Portland Trail Blazers: Crawford only started in six of his 60 games for the Trail Blazers this season, yet he still managed to average almost 14 ppg. Crawford struggled from deep this season (career-low 30.8 percent on 3-point attempts), but he was excellent from the foul line (league- leading 92.7 percent). Crawford has gained a reputation as one of the league's great bench players: he won Sixth Man of the Year back in 2010 as a member of the Hawks.
Manu Ginobili, Guard, San Antonio Spurs: Ginobili hasn't always had a clean bill of health and his ppg average fell by nearly five points this season (17.4 ppg in 2010-11 compared to just 12.9 ppg this season), but he can still finish at the basket and is a phenomenal shooter (52.6 percent from the field this season). The 10-year veteran collected 17 points in San Antonio's series-clinching win over Utah on Monday and notched double-digit assists in the game before that. If Ginobili can stay on the court (he missed 32 games with injuries this season), he'll be able to help your fantasy team in many ways next season.
Ben Gordon, Guard, Detroit Pistons: It's always a nice luxury to have someone on your bench who can blow up for 40 points on any given night. That's exactly what Gordon did on March 21. He actually scored 45 in that game while going 9- for-9 from behind the 3-point line. Gordon is one of the league's most prolific 3-point shooters and it's never mattered to him whether he starts or comes off the bench. Despite starting in less than 50 percent of his 594 career games, Gordon still carries a career average of 16.5 ppg.
Al Harrington, Forward, Denver Nuggets: Harrington was only in the starting lineup once this season, but that didn't stop him from pouring in 14.2 ppg. Harrington netted over 20 points on nine occasions this season. That's also how many times he hauled in 10 or more rebounds. Harrington came in fourth in Sixth Man of the Year voting this season.
O.J. Mayo, Guard, Memphis Grizzlies: Here is another high-scoring guard who does most of his damage from off the bench. Actually, Mayo did all of his damage off the bench this season: he didn't start in any of Memphis' 66 regular-season games. Mayo provided plenty of help offensively (12.6 ppg, 36.4 percent shooting from 3-point distance) for the Grizzlies in 2011-12, but if he wants to become a more complete fantasy player in the future, he'll need to work harder on the glass. He averaged just 3.2 rebounds per game this season.
J.R. Smith, Guard, New York Knicks: In his first season as a Knick, well, half a season (he didn't sign with the team until mid-February), Smith racked up 12.5 ppg in 27.6 minutes per contest. He had a few shaky shooting performances at the end of New York's first-round series with the Heat but he still averaged a respectable 12.2 ppg over the five-game set. Smith doesn't pass up many shots, so the scoring upside will always be there. He started once in his 35 games with the Knicks in 2011-12.
Jason Terry, Guard, Dallas Mavericks: Before Harden cemented his status as the league's most prolific bench player, Terry used to be the league's gold standard for coming off the bench. Terry, who finished third in Sixth Man voting this season, had another productive season for the Mavericks, averaging 15.1 ppg on 37.8 percent 3-point shooting. The bench prodigy won his only Sixth Man of the Year award back in 2008-09.
Lou Williams, Guard, Philadelphia 76ers: How often does a bench player lead his team in scoring? Not very. But that's exactly what happened this season in Philadelphia with Williams, who paced the Sixers with just under 15 ppg. Williams was also third on the team in assists, distributing 3.5 helpers per contest this season. Williams scored only 12.8 ppg during Philadelphia's first- round series, but that was against one of the stingiest defenses in the NBA, the Chicago Bulls.
Mo Williams, Guard, Los Angeles Clippers: With Chauncey Billups out for the season with a torn Achilles tendon, Williams has taken his game to a new level this season. He shot his way to 13.2 ppg in 52 regular-season games, just one of them as a starter. The Grizzlies' size and defensive prowess has limited Williams to only 11.4 ppg in the Clippers' current playoff series, but the nine-year veteran got back on track with a 20-point effort Wednesday in Game 5.
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