Ahead of the 2021-22 NBA season, our NBA.com Staff share their predictions for who they believe will be crowned Sixth Man of the Year.
Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): Another incredibly difficult award to predict, but I think I'm going to go with Patty Mills.
Mills has long been one of the league's better backup guards, but he's going to get a lot of attention this season playing for the Brooklyn Nets, who are a popular pick to win it all. And sure, he's going to have to play alongside three ball dominant players in Kyrie Irving, James Harden and Kevin Durant, but he's a good enough shooter to play alongside all three of them and a good enough ball handler to play alongside one or two of them. (Irving's availability adds another wrinkle to this because if he is going to be limited in some way, shape or form, Mills could be the next man up).
Basically, this comes down to me banking on Mills putting up solid and efficient numbers on a team that's going to rack up a ton of wins this season. Also, I'm guessing lineups with him on the court are going to pop analytically. That always helps.
Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_): Give me Tyler Herro for this year's Sixth Man of the Year.
After a solid first portion of his rookie season, Herro exploded in the bubble, playing a huge role in helping the Miami Heat advance to the NBA Finals. He faced lofty expectations in Year 2, and a combination of injuries, coronavirus health and safety protocols, and inconsistent playing time resulted in the 21-year-old coming up well short of the breakout sophomore season people anticipated.
With that down year behind him and Miami's backcourt depth thinning out over the offseason, I expect Herro to be one of the best reserves in the NBA this season. With Kendrick Nunn and Goran Dragic gone, Herro will be the first guy off the bench behind veteran floor general Kyle Lowry, and Miami will need the Kentucky product to produce if it is going to achieve its championship aspirations.
"Some people are sleeping on me. I'm going to wake a lot of people up," Herro said himself at Heat Media Day. I'm a believer.
Yash Matange (@yashmatange2694): This one is always difficult to predict unless Lou Williams and Jamal Crawford are primed to win, but I'm going with Bobby Portis.
The 26-year-old, who was a much-needed spark off the bench for the Milwaukee Bucks en route to winning the NBA championship, is most likely to be the first big man off the bench for the reigning champions. Last season, he came off the bench in 59 of the 66 games he played in, posting averages of 11.4 points and 7.1 rebounds in just 20.8 minutes.
A 6-foot-10 forward who battles on the boards and stretches the floor with his long-range shooting at a career efficiency of 38.0 percent, Portis' energy that gets the crowd going is also a huge part of his role on the team.
He really found his role and grew into it during the Bucks' 2021 playoff run and given that he decided to return to Milwaukee, I believe he'll further maximize his contribution in that limited role to rise to a Sixth Man of the Year favourite.
Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21): All of the variables capable of shaping someone's role throughout the course of a season make this extremely hard, but I'm going to go in a much different direction and say Coby White.
This is admittedly a bit of a dicey pick, as the Chicago Bulls are targeting a mid-November return for White, who underwent offseason surgery to repair his shoulder, but I think there is still plenty working in his favour.
It's no secret that White is a bucket, as the 21-year-old averaged 15.1 points over 69 games last season while making 54 starts. With the Bulls signing Lonzo Ball to be their starting point guard, White will likely return to the second unit.
White going back to a reserve role isn't so much a demotion as it is an opportunity for him to thrive at doing what he does best, which is scoring in bunches.
Chicago's very real aspirations to compete in the Eastern Conference mean that it will be relying on White's production, and in Ball, DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic, the team has a number of playmakers capable of creating for White when they do share the court in various potential lineup combinations.
The Bulls have one of the more talented starting units in the league, but White's contributions from the second unit could be what allows them to reach a higher level. That he will miss the early parts of the 2021-22 season means there will be a clear level of impact made by his presence alone.
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