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Charlie Villanueva, Ben Gordon early contenders for Sixth Man award

Other than being a part of what is sure to be a full season of ‘not it!’ among bad Eastern Conference teams that aren’t quite bad enough to fall out of playoff contention, it’s safe to say the Pistons are unlikely to have many team successes. But that doesn’t mean we can’t root for individual accolades, right? We have to do something to occupy the time.

And with almost 20 percent of the season down, a couple of Pistons have legit shots at a postseason award. Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon are among the league’s best sixth men so far.

Is it a bit premature to speculate on postseason awards? Sure. But start the campaign early, that’s what I always say.

The main obstacle for Gordon and Villanueva is each other. If both remain bench players all season, it’s likely they’d split votes among those who pick the award. But just based on numbers alone, either would be a solid pick, and they are kind of made for this category: Sixth Man winners are picked based solely on offense typically. Here’s how they stack up.

The Favorites

Ben Gordon, Detroit

  • Per game: 14.4 points, 2.7 assists, 51 percent shooting, 50 percent 3-point shooting
  • Per 36 minutes: 18.7 points, 3.5 assists
  • Advanced stats: .631 true shooting percentage; 17.5 PER; 114 offensive rating
  • Why Gordon? He’s shooting the ball better than he ever has in his career and he’s the Pistons’ most explosive scorer.
  • Why not Gordon? He’s prone to streakiness, and his shooting percentages are quite a bit higher than his career averages suggest they’ll stay.

Charlie Villanueva, Detroit

  • Per game: 14.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, 43 percent shooting, 43 percent 3-point shooting
  • Per 36 minutes: 18.7 points, 6.8 rebounds
  • Advanced stats: .556 true shooting percentage; 17.7 PER; 113 offensive rating
  • Why Villanueva? He’s playing hard defensively for the first time in his career and his advanced stats are all far superior to any other season in his career.
  • Why not Villanueva? If Gordon is streaky, I don’t know if there’s a descriptor to Villanueva. He’s been consistent so far this year, but he’s had major prolonged shooting slumps in past seasons that could derail him.

Shannon Brown, LA Lakers

  • Per game: 11.1 points, 52 percent shooting, 50 percent 3-point shooting
  • Per 36 minutes: 21.6 points, 4.0 rebounds
  • Advanced stats: .665 true shooting percentage; 19.9 PER; 125 offensive rating
  • Why Brown? He’s getting the hype right now for his great start and he’ll be on national TV all the time. Sports writers are a lazy lot. They tend to vote for who they’ve seen.
  • Why not Brown? He’s on one of the deepest teams in the NBA and he backs up arguably the biggest star in the league, so he could see more limited opportunities than the other contenders.

Jason Terry, Dallas

  • Per game: 18.1 points, 5.1 assists, 50 percent shooting, 42 percent 3-point shooting
  • Per 36 minutes: 18.9 points, 5.3 assists
  • Advanced stats: .601 true shooting percentage; 20.0 PER; 114 offensive rating
  • Why Terry? He’s already won the award before and he has the highest scoring average among bench players in the league.
  • Why not Terry? It’s unclear what role he’ll play. He’s already started some for Dallas and been effective, so it’s conceivable he could become a permanent starter at some point.

The Sleepers

Nate Robinson, Boston

  • Per game: 7.9 points, 2.2 assists, 46 percent shooting, 39 percent 3-point shooting
  • Per 36 minutes: 18.2 points, 5.1 assists
  • Advanced stats: .571 true shooting percentage; 15.5 PER; 111 offensive rating
  • Why Robinson? He’s the best bench scorer on a great team and he’s really played under control for Boston, which was an issue for him earlier in his career.
  • Why not Robinson? His shooting percentages are good, but he might not get enough minutes playing behind Rajon Rondo to get the scoring average gaudy enough to contend.

Thaddeus Young, Philadelphia

  • Per game: 11.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, 56 percent shooting, 29 percent 3-point shooting
  • Per 36 minutes: 17.0 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.4 steals
  • Advanced stats: .596 true shooting percentage; 18.2 PER; 115 offensive rating
  • Why Young? A bit of a forgotten man in Philly with young players like Evan Turner, Mareese Speights and Andre Iguodala occupying much of the forward playing time, Young, a hybrid forward, is a great energy player off the bench.
  • Why not Young? It’s hard to build a case for Sixth Man who isn’t an explosive scorer. Young scores through activity, which is an important role to fill, but not conducive to getting enough opportunities to put up points every game.

Kyle Korver, Chicago

  • Per game: 9.0 points, 1.5 assists, 50 percent shooting, 56 percent 3-point shooting
  • Per 36 minutes: 15.3 points, 2.6 assists
  • Advanced stats: .654 true shooting percentage; 15.5 PER; 124 offensive rating
  • Why Korver? One of the best shooters in the league, Korver is Chicago’s only real long distance threat and should get open looks all season thanks to the attention Derrick Rose commands from defenses.
  • Why not Korver? He’s just a spot-up shooter. He’s a very good one, but I’m not sure that’s enough to win the award.

Tyrus Thomas, Charlotte

  • Per game: 12.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, 1.1 steals, 52 percent shooting
  • Per 36 minutes: 20.9 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.6 blocks, 1.8 steals
  • Advanced stats: .601 true shooting percentage; 22.5 PER; 108 offensive rating
  • Why Thomas? Because his per-36 numbers are a thing of beauty.
  • Why not Thomas? Because he doesn’t play big minutes. Seriously, why doesn’t this kid play big minutes?

Hakim Warrick, Phoenix

  • Per game: 11.6 points, 4.3 rebounds, 56 percent shooting
  • Per 36 minutes: 17.7 points, 6.5 rebounds
  • Advanced stats: .649 true shooting percentage; 17.8 PER; 119 offensive rating
  • Why Warrick? Call it the Steve Nash bump if you want, but Warrick has always had the skills as an athletic and fast forward who loves to run the floor to excel in a frenetic style like the Suns run. He will get easy opportunities all season.
  • Why not Warrick? Because we’ve seen guys in Phoenix put up big numbers before, and I think voters for awards might finally be catching on.

Boobie Gibson, Cleveland

  • Per game: 14.1 points, 4.1 assists, 44 percent shooting, 42 percent 3-point shooting
  • Per 36 minutes: 17.7 points, 5.1 assists
  • Advanced stats: .566 true shooting percentage; 17.9 PER; 114 offensive rating
  • Why Boobie? Because he’s second on a not very good but competitive Cavs team in scoring and seriously, who would’ve predicted that?
  • Why not Boobie? It’s hard to imagine him maintaining that pace. His minutes will go down since Mo Williams is healthy.

Al Harrington, Denver

  • Per game: 14.1 points, 5.7 rebounds 42 percent shooting, 40 percent 3-point shooting
  • Per 36 minutes: 17.8 points, 7.2 rebounds
  • Advanced stats: .532 true shooting percentage; 14.9 PER; 107 offensive rating
  • Why Harrington? He’s going to get opportunities all season in Denver to score as a stretch four. He’s shooting it well and has guys in Chauncey Billups, Carmelo Anthony and Ty Lawson who will help him get good looks.
  • Why not Harrington? His teammate, J.R. Smith, might steal votes for him if Smith gets it going this season.

Struggling but don’t forget about them

Leandro Barbosa, Toronto

  • Per game: 10.6 points, 1.6 assists, 1.6 steals, 40 percent shooting, 27 percent 3-point shooting
  • Per 36 minutes: 19.1 points, 2.9 assists, 2.3 steals
  • Advanced stats: .493 true shooting percentage; 15.3 PER; 103 offensive rating
  • Why Barbosa? Playing on a bad team in Toronto in an offense that allows him to freelance, he’ll get plenty of shots and minutes.
  • Why not Barbosa? He might not have the same ‘Brazilian Blur’ quickness he did a few years ago in Phoenix when he won the award.

Antawn Jamison, Cleveland

  • Per game: 12.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, 44 percent shooting, 41 percent 3-point shooting
  • Per 36 minutes: 17.6 points, 8.6 rebounds
  • Advanced stats: .523 true shooting percentage; 15.7 PER; 103 offensive rating
  • Why Jamison? Another guy who has won the award before, Jamison is Cleveland’s best offensive player and will get all the shots he wants.
  • Why not Jamison? He might move into the starting lineup at some point.

Corey Maggette, Bucks

  • Per game: 12.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, 41 percent shooting, 18 percent 3-point shooting
  • Per 36 minutes: 22.7 points, 6.2 rebounds
  • Advanced stats: .549 true shooting percentage; 15.1 PER; 103 offensive rating
  • Why Maggette? He’s as explosive a scorer as anyone on this list, and he’s as good at getting the free throw line as anyone in the league.
  • Why not Maggette? With John Salmons and Carlos Delfino (when healthy) also in the mix, as well as Michael Redd (remember him?) making some rumblings about returning in February, the Bucks have a lot of options on the wings, which means everyone’s potential for individual stats suffers.

Jamal Crawford, Atlanta

  • Per game: 13.1 points, 3.5 assists, 41 percent shooting, 30 percent 3-point shooting
  • Per 36 minutes: 15.9 points, 4.2 assists
  • Advanced stats: .555 true shooting percentage; 14.0 PER; 106 offensive rating
  • Why Crawford? Last year’s winner had his best season in a style and role that really fit him well with the Hawks, and he’s in the exact same role this year.
  • Why not Crawford? He’s very distracted by his contract situation, hinting that it’s hurting his production.

Feel free to add your picks or players to watch out for in the comments.

Tags: Ben Gordon Charlie Villanueva

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