Just because a player comes off the bench doesn’t mean he has any less impact on the game. James Harden proved that this season, as he averaged nearly 17 points per game, including a 40 point outburst against the Phoenix Suns earlier in the season. Harden averaged 31 minutes a game this year, second only to Jason Terry of the Dallas Mavericks. Minutes like that are usually reserved for starting players, but Oklahoma City Thunder coach, Scotty Brooks, couldn’t afford to keep him off the court.
Embracing the 6th Man Role
Harden’s first two years in the league, he had a difficult time embracing the fact that he was never given the starting role. “At first, as a rookie, I didn’t get it. I just thought I was going to go out there and score and just do all the other things that every other player thought,” Harden said. “It took me three years to embrace that role.” Embrace it, he has.
With Harden now understanding that finishing games is more important than starting them, the Thunder have really benefited from it, posting the second best record in the Western Conference and easily disposing of the Mavericks in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. “Most of the time in the second quarter and the fourth quarter, I’m out there with the starters finishing games,” Harden said. “That came with that trust, from my rookie year to now, being out there in the fourth quarter, he’s giving me the ball, letting me make plays.”
Harden’s Invaluable Presence
Harden’s presence on the court is invaluable, especially when the Thunder’s superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are getting a much needed rest. “It’s nice to know that when Kevin and/or Russell are out of the game, our offense doesn’t go stagnant” said Brooks. “Harden gives us a unique threat as a scorer, ball handler, and defender. He has really grown into one of the best players in this league, starter or otherwise.”
Who is Eligible for the Sixth Man of the Year Award?
In order to be eligible for the award, the player must have come off the bench in more games than they started. There is no cap in terms of minutes played each game.
How does the Sixth Man of the Year Voting Take Place?
A panel of sports writers and broadcasters from across the US & Canada each receive three votes (one for first place, one for second place, and one for third place). First place votes are worth 5 points, second place votes are worth 3 points, and third place votes are worth 1 point. Once all of the votes have been cast, the player with the most points wins, regardless of how many first place votes they received. Harden all but won unanimously this year, receiving 584 points total, and 115 first place votes. Lou Williams of the Philadelphia 76ers was the second closest player with 3 first place votes and a total of 231 points.