The NBA season is longer than you think. Eighty-two games. Five and a half months. A minimum of 3,936 minutes. In November, who was talking about the Nuggets as the No. 3 seed in the West? Or the Lakers as a No. 7 seed, but minus Kobe? Better yet, was there anyone alive who thought Jamal Crawford wasn’t going to win the Sixth Man Of The Year award?
Crawford scored at least 20 points in six of the Clippers first 10 games, and saw his scoring average increase to 17.8 a game during February. He was the new microwave, lighting opponents up with rainbow threes and destroying SportsCenter top 10s. Yet he won’t be winning any awards as the best bench player this year. It’s being reported that J.R. Smith will win the NBA Sixth Man Of The Year after averaging 18.1 points per game with a PER of 17.7.
Smith got better as the season progressed — his scoring jumped to 21.3 points a night after the All-Star break (16.2 beforehand) and his shooting improved from 40 to nearly 46 percent over the same period. With New York shuffling frontcourt players in and out of the lineup, Smith was the lone constant. He didn’t sulk when Mike Woodson refused to start him, didn’t moan when James White got his name announced during pregame introductions, didn’t do anything other than hit multiple game-winners and play like a legitimate All-Star over the season’s final two months. Crawford peaked during L.A.’s opening weeks. Smith peaked when his team needed him the most. In April, his numbers (22 points a night on 48 percent shooting, 40 percent from deep, 6.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game) don’t read like a bench player. They read like a star.
JR Smith will be announced as Sixth Man of the Year this afternoon.
— Howard Beck (@HowardBeckNYT) April 22, 2013
Has J.R. been the best bench player in the league this year?
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