The 2020-21 NBA regular season has come to an end, and after five months of one of the most challenging seasons ever, the playoffs, and the award season, is finally upon us. With several deserving candidates, the Sixth Man of the Year was unarguably the most interesting award race this season.
This season has been undoubtedly a physical challenge for most NBA players, due to the reduced offseason, and several stars struggled throughout the season with injuries and fatigue. Besides, health and safety protocols related to the COVID pandemic also caused many starters to miss some games. Therefore, bench play had a bigger role than ever before, and these players had to rise to the challenge and contribute to their teams’ success.
Utah Jazz’s guard Jordan Clarkson won the award after a great season under Quin Snyder, and the following players were the other finalists for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award for the 2020-21 season, and each one of them impacted his team in a major way.
Jordan Clarkson – Utah Jazz
Jordan Clarkson was the overwhelming favorite with sportsbooks and analysts on BettingNews.com NBA Picks, and won the award for a reason. He’s averaging career-highs in points, with 18.4 per game, rebounds, with 4, and free-throw percentage, shooting 89.6 percent from the foul line.
The Jazz held the league’s best record for almost the entire season, and Clarkson’s performances have played a huge role in this campaign. He’s Utah’s second-leading scorer, behind Donovan Mitchell with 26.4 points per game, and providing many scoring opportunities, despite only playing 26 minutes per game. Clarkson has been able to carry the team’s offense, even when Mitchell is off the court, and he’s also coming through when Utah’s starters are struggling to score.
Over the regular season, Clarkson scored double figures in all games but four. He is an integral part in Quin Snyder’s well-oiled machine that has led the Jazz to be considered legitimate title contenders after so much time.
Joe Ingles – Utah Jazz
Despite having started many games throughout the season, due to injuries and COVID-related absences, Joe Ingles was one of the finalists for the Sixth Man of the Year award. He’s averaging career-highs in points and three-point percentage, with 12.1 points per game and 45.1 percent from the arch.
The Jazz are one the teams that shoot the most 3-pointers and Ingles is their most accurate sharpshooter. He became only the second player in franchise history to shoot at least 45 percent from range with over 100 3-pointers made in a single season, after Jeff Hornacek in the 1995-96 season. He has also been able to provide the team consistent playmaking, dishing 4.7 assists per game, and creating much space for his teammates.
Partnering up with Jordan Clarkson, they form the league’s most dangerous duo coming off the bench.
Derrick Rose – New York Knicks
After returning to New York this season and reuniting with former Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, Derrick Rose rapidly regained a lot of the prestige he had lost in the past few seasons. Averaging 14.7 points per game, 4.2 assists and 2.6 rebounds coming off the bench, he has become an important piece in these surprising Knickerbockers, who have returned to playoff action after eight years.
A three-time NBA All-Star and the youngest ever MVP, Rose has become a kind of mentor to the Knicks young core, and players like RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley have significantly improved after his arrival. Apart from being the scorer we all know he can be, he provided smart playmaking throughout the season, and was able to carry the Knicks offense when Julius Randle was on the bench.
Montrezl Harrell – Los Angeles Lakers
The reigning Sixth Man of the Year, Montrezl Harrell had the opportunity to win the award in consecutive seasons but for different teams. Last year, he won it after coming off the Clippers bench and providing the team energetic scoring and rebounding.
This year, with the Los Angeles Lakers, he is averaging 13.5 points and 6.2 rebounds, and played a big role in their campaign, especially when both LeBron James and Anthony Davis were sidelined, and his performances, alongside Kyle Kuzma, were able to carry the Lakers over this period. Despite playing fewer minutes than he did last season with the Clippers, Harrell’s intensity and team-first mentality put him as one of the contenders for this year’s award.