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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.

13 Comments

  • [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Steve Kays, Detroit Pistons and Patrick Hayes, PistonPowered Feed. PistonPowered Feed said: Charlie Villanueva, Ben Gordon among early season contenders for Sixth Man award: Other than being a part of wha… http://bit.ly/dQYNMY [...]

  • Nov 24, 201012:26 pm
    by frankie d

    Reply

    why doesn’t tyrus thomas get more PT?
    cause he’s dennis rodman without the genius BB IQ.  he does more dumb things on the court than just about any player in the league, and that is saying something.
    if he had just an average understanding of the game – when to shoot, when to pass, when and where to showcase his extraordinary athleticism – he’d probably invent a new position in the league: the power hybrid forward.
    too bad, cause he’s very talented and fun to watch, but coaches are probably afraid to put him on the court at crucial times because they worry that he’ll do something really bad and really dumb at the worst possible time.
    if charlie v continues to come off the bench and continues to play the way he is capable, he’d be my choice.  he’s a jumbo-sized vinnie johnson, a guy who is literally cannot be guarded when he is hot.

  • Nov 24, 201012:47 pm
    by Laser

    Reply

    yuck. no thank you. it’s a hollow award, and neither one of these guys should be coming off the bench for this team.

  • Nov 24, 20101:09 pm
    by Patrick Hayes

    Reply

    @frankie d:

    I’m not gonna get into too much of an argument with you because it’s pointless to argue with someone who only relies on his own perspective as evidence, but Thomas is shooting 50 percent. He’s scoring 12 a game without ever having a play run for him. He’s one of the best shot blockers in the league. He’s on a crappy team and he’s significantly better than and significantly out-producing the man he’s backing up, Boris Diaw. If those aren’t cases that he should play more, I don’t know what are.

  • Nov 24, 20101:11 pm
    by Patrick Hayes

    Reply

    @Laser:

    Things you hate:

    1. Rodney Stuckey 2. Postseason awards 3. Joe Dumars 4. Critical comments on every single Pistons related thing ever written

    Things you love:

    1. Will Bynum 2. Nothing else

    Anything missing from the list?

  • Nov 24, 20101:53 pm
    by frankie d

    Reply

    @ patrickhayes,
    in case you haven’t noticed, every person on this planet relies on their own perspective when they make any sort of argument or engage in any discussion.
    to say that someone doesn’t is totally nonsensical.
    i am accustomed to relying on real evidence in my profession and real evidence is evidence that can be scrutinized and evaluated for its integrity.  real evidence is simply not information selectively culled and presented as though it was unassailable gospel.   in fact, if anyone has real confidence in their “evidence” they would want it to be subjected to the most rigorous scrutiny imaginable, in order to prove its worthiness.
    now, i’m not sure what you might be referring to, though it is curious that you would simply “pick a fight” with someone without any sort of provocation.
    very odd, indeed.
    you posed a question, and while it may have been intended as a rhetorical question, i attempted to answer it by offering my opinion.
    yes, from my perspective, which is all any person on this earth can do.
    i have an opinion about thomas’ basketball IQ.
    but it is certainly not a unique opinion.  this is what john hollinger says about thomas, even though thomas rates highly in his PER ratings, which relies on evidence that can be evaluated for it’s own worth:
    “Lacks strength and instincts to score in post. Must reduce turnovers. …
    As for his offense … it’s rough, man. Thomas is 6-10, can leap and has a decent midrange J, but he doesn’t have a good feel for the game…
    And the turnovers … oh, the turnovers. Thomas led all power forwards in turnover ratio with miscues on 14.3 percent of his possessions, evenly spread between out-of-control charging fouls, passes into row 17 and dribble drives that fell into enemy hands. At the moment he has more confidence in his offensive ability than he really should. That said, he’s just 23, he’s very talented and he made some nice improvements in the other phases of his game last season. .. ”
    http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/players/hollinger?playerId=3032
    and if you google, “tyrus thomas is dumb” or some such search, you will find plenty of other folks who delve in and discuss the same issue.  so my “perspective” sad to say, is hardly unique.
    i confess.
    i actually like thomas, as a player, quite a bit.  i do think that he could be a rodman-like impact player if he was smarter.
    one of rodman’s most under-appreciated qualities was his extraordinary BB IQ.  he had it from the moment he came into the league.  he only took shots he knew he could make – except for a couple of notable exceptions – he was a great passer, and his ability to defend was as much a result of his intelligence as his formidable athletic gifts.
    most coaches, and especially larry brown, like predictable players, especially smart, predictable players.  their worst nightmare is a not-very-bright player – no matter their abilities – whose contributions cannot be counted on, night in and night out.  they may throw that player out there to try to get a spark or to throw a different element onto the court, and hope he has magic on a particular night, but most coaches are very reluctant to rely on guys like that.  their jobs are on the line.
    as hollinger says, thomas is young and he can certainly learn to play within himself and therefore gain the trust of coaches and more PT, but whether he has it in him to do so remains to be seen.

  • Nov 24, 20102:18 pm
    by Patrick Hayes

    Reply

    @frankie d:

    “now, i’m not sure what you might be referring to, though it is curious that you would simply “pick a fight” with someone without any sort of provocation.”

    Haha … come on man. Don’t play innocent. You are a professional provacateur/no-it-all in these comments.

    You posted something in your initial comment that said, basically, “I think Ty Thomas is one of the dumbest guys in the NBA.”

    To me, that’s not real hard evidence.

    My post is based on what guys are producing this season. This season, Thomas is one of the most productive bench players in the league. Per-minute stats show it, advanced stats like PER and win shares show it and the traditional counting stats even show it as he’s among the league leaders in blocks in only about 20 minutes per game.

    He’s putting up career high numbers in points, offensive rebounds and field goal percentage. He’s getting to the line five times a game in just 20 minutes, and shooting above 80 percent there.

    It’s not even a matter of consistency this year. He’s had two really poor games out of 13. Not much different than most any good player in the league — they occasionally have bad games.

    At some point, young players who produce have to play. With Thomas, it’s been the same tired story. He out-produced Malik Allen and guys like that, but he’s too dumb to play. In Charlotte, he can only get 20 minutes a game because for some reason, it’s vital to get Boris Diaw, who is out of shape, a worse defender, a worse rebound and a worse shot blocker, 35 minutes a game?

    Thomas’s improvement has been noticeable the last two seasons if you watch him, and the statistics back that up.

  • Nov 24, 20102:39 pm
    by nuetes

    Reply

    Jason Terry should have this award on lock, but I like what Harrington is doing in Denver. Tyrus Thomas and Warrick should be starting. Both of their teams would be better if they were starting. Same with CV in Detroit. 3 PF’s that would all make their teams better. I’m not sure when it became a trend to have your best PF come off the bench, maybe teams like what LA did with Odom. Except LA has a legit PF to start, and a good one off the bench. Pheonix, Detroit, and Charlotte don’t have any reason not to start these guys.
     
    Also early season should have been in quotation marks or something because I’m still not confident CV and Gordon are going to maintain their production. They didn’t last night. When did Dallas get a good defense? They are 4th in the league in PPG allowed.

  • Nov 24, 20102:43 pm
    by Patrick Hayes

    Reply

    @nuetes:

    Chandler has been a big influence, but they have been better defensively under Carlisle. Kidd doesn’t get enough credit for his defense, even if he is a step slower, and they have solid, strong win guys like Butler, Marion and Stevenson who are tough defensively when they want to be.

    And Dirk isn’t as soft at that end of the court as people make him out to be.

  • Nov 24, 20102:47 pm
    by frankie d

    Reply

    i’ve never said i was any sort of innocent.
    i’m a fan and i have strong opinions.
    frankly, most of the guys on this site seem to have a problem with people who have strong opinions who are not afraid to express them.
    i acknowledged that i may have once personally attacked someone, rather than deal with their opinion, and i noted that i regretted that.
    for whatever reason, that has fallen on deaf ears.
    again, i simply offered an opinion.  as i do always.
    opinons are certainly not evidence – unless one is qualified as an expert witness in some sort of trial – but opinions are the grist for sports discussions.
    and sometimes those opinions can be butressed by facts, such as statistics.  and as hollinger shows, certain stats clearly indicate that thomas does dumb stuff on the court.
    high turnover rates are one of the best indicators that players are doing dumb stuff.  it is especially true of non-guards, who should not have really high turnover rates.
    players who do dumb stuff on the court hurt their teams and therefore coaches are reluctant to play those players no matter how productive they might be.
    i certainly would not argue that thomas is not a productive player.  obviously he is and obviously if he was given more time, he would be even more productive.
    but it is revealing that you do not even discuss the hard statistical evidence that argues against your viewpoint: his turnover rate, the highest for his position in the league, as hollinger documents.
    this is “evidence” in anyone’s book, yet you don’t even mention it when discussing thomas.  rather than deal with it and attempt to reconcile it with your own argument, you conveniently ignore it.
    not exactly a good way to address an obviously strong point.
    i would certainly appreciate it if you could refrain from name-calling and ad hominem attacks.  i visit this site to discuss BB, and try to stay on subject.
    i certainly don’t “no it all”, though i do know a lot about college and nba basketball.
    i’ve been following the pistons since i used to go down to the old cobo arena to watch dave debusschre and joe strawder and eddie miles and later dave bing and jimmy walker.
    i watched college basketball, as a college student in the ’70′s and saw those great bobby knight indiana teams and watched phil hubbard and ricky green and steve grote and wayman britt and johnny robinson and all of those guys play just about every home game up in ann arbor.
    i saw freaking larry bird when he was a rookie, from an almost-courtside seat at the boston garden.
    i covered magic when he was at MSU, when i wrote sports for my student newspaper.
    i even interviewed – via phone – larry brown, when he was with denver, for an article i wrote when i worked for my university’s student newspaper back in the ’70′s.
    so yeah, i do know a lot about basketball, cause i’ve followed it for a heckuva long time and i’ve  been privileged to watch it in any number of cities i’ve lived in and that does give me a perspective on the game and players and coaches that lots of folks don’t have.
    i would imagine and hope that you would welcome, rather than attack people with that kind of perspective.
    but i’ve never, ever said anything close to, “i know it all”.
    despite my strong, very well-informed opinions.

  • Nov 24, 20104:15 pm
    by frankie d

    Reply

    btw, i never said that thomas was one of the dumbest guys in the nba, which you state i essentially wrote.
    i was very careful to state that he did more dumb things on the court, not that he was necessarily dumb.
    there is a huge distinction.
    sometimes really smart people just do dumb things, for some reasons.
    on the other hand, some people who seemingly are not very bright – and rodman comes to mind again – do very smart things on the BB court.
    rodman has done a lot of things that make you seriously question how smart – or how dumb – he is.
    but no one would argue against his genius BB IQ.
    is thomas a dumb guy?
    i don’t know and i never said that he was.
    does he do dumb things on the basketball court.  the evidence is pretty clear that he does.

  • Nov 25, 20104:34 am
    by Laser

    Reply

    @hayes: the will bynum bit is getting old. i like the guy. i’d give him a chance to start a game or two over the worst excuse for a point guard i’ve ever seen. nothing more than that. i’ve come to tayshaun’s defense before, and probably more often. i’d stand up for any piston who was being unfairly criticized. he’s the 9th or 10th man, and he was targeted twice in rapid succession by some joker (was it pcb?) who probably thinks stuckey’s great, once after a bad performance and once after a perfectly fine one. come on, get over it now.

  • Nov 25, 20104:42 am
    by Laser

    Reply

    oh, but you missed a few on the things i hate: kuester, michael curry, this past offseason where we did nothing to upgrade a pitiful team… though i guess maybe all of these fall squarely on dumars. ok just add dumars a few more times to the list of things i hate. swear to god i’d euthanize him if given a consequence-free opportunity.
     
    i just saw bits of an interview with him on an NBAtv 2004 special. he was so smug, talking all about how he knows the league and how that’s the difference why other people couldn’t do his job. he might be my most hated person i’ve never met right now. a championship and half a decade of highly competitive basketball, yet i’d fire him without blinking for what he’s turned it into.

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