The NBA has a strange obsession with “sixth men.” They even give out an official award to the Sixth Man of the Year, despite not doing anything for the plethora of quality starters that aren’t superstars in the league.
Sixth men are virtually always high-scoring players that provide little impact otherwise. Although most teams have at least two bench players who play similar minutes, the guy who takes the most shots is usually the most celebrated.
But today, we shine a light on the essential but inglorious role of the seventh man.
You’ve likely heard that coaches tighten their rotations in the playoffs to maximize their best players’ minutes, but note that no coach ever uses a six-man rotation.
There is ALWAYS a need for a seventh player to soak up some minutes while the starters rest. Having someone who can not just tread water but positively impact a game in that role is a huge advantage.
To qualify for my ballot, a player had to be the team’s second-most-played reserve by minutes per game. This can be a bit murky for some teams, especially with all of the protocol absences and replacements, but I used my best judgment to identify and select the best seventh men in the league today.
NBA 7th Man of the Year ballot so far this season: 5. Andre Iguodala
`Andre Iguodala’s career seemed like it might have run its course after a lackluster year and a half in Miami, and his stats for the Warriors this year don’t pop off the page. He’s only averaging 21 minutes per game and producing 4.4 points, 4.2 assists, and 3.6 rebounds on horrendous shooting percentages.
But these numbers are entirely misleading. Iguodala is on the team to replace Draymond Green with another unselfish passer who’s also a defensive genius.
Like Draymond, Iguodala’s box-score stats will never show his impact on the game. Draymond’s passing and screening drive much of the Warriors’ offense and maximize the abilities of the Warriors’ plethora of shooters, and Iggy can fill that role seamlessly.
Defensively, he can quarterback the defense and play some free safety or lock up opposing stars for a few possessions at a time, just as Green does.
Iguodala is third on the team in assists. Warriors lineups with Iggy and without Draymond (the front-runner for Defensive Player Of The Year, mind you) allow a (frankly cruel) 95.9 points per 100 possessions, per Cleaning The Glass.
That’s miles worse than Detroit’s league-worst offense and shows how little defensive drop-off the Warriors have when Green rests.
Iguodala might well be out of the rotation for 20 other teams in the NBA, but his ability to approximate Draymond Green’s unique skill set makes him one of the most important seventh men in the league.