Fantasy Basketball Awards: 2013-14 Sixth Man Of The Year

markieff morris, darren collison
2013-14 NBA regular season is now in the rear-view mirror. And that means that fantasy leagues, with the exception of daily leagues and NBA.com’s Drive to the Finals, are done and dusted.

Now’s the time to look back on what transpired over the last five and a half months and reminisce on all the great performances from a fantasy basketball perspective.

Without further ado, I present to you, the Red Rock Fantasy Basketball Awards Spectacular.

Previous awards:

2013-14 Sixth Man Of The Year

And the nominees are:

The way I decided to hand out the Sixth Man Of The Year was based on the same qualifications the NBA uses to hand out it’s award. So, a player who comes of the bench for more games than they start, who had the biggest all-around fantasy contribution.

Fifth place — Patty Mills, PG, San Antonio SPurs

10.2 points, 1.7 three-pointers, 2.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.1 blocks, 46.4 FG%, 89.0 FT%, 0.8 turnovers in 81 games.

Believe me when I say that there is absolutely no Australian bias going into the selection of Mills as a Sixth Man candidate. He’s just been that good.

Mills has been putting up standard league fantasy value for most of the season, playing only 18.9 minutes a game for the best team in the NBA. He ended the season as the 79th ranked player in fantasy, a large part of that is his ability to score, hit threes and his amazing shooting percentages.

Mills started only two games for the season and was fantastic in those games. In the starts, he averaged 23.0 points, 4.0 three-pointers, 3.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.5 steals, numbers which are mind-blowingly good. In fact, based on per-36 numbers, Mills was the number 14 ranked player for the season.

Mills, who is an unrestricted free-agent at season’s end, will be an intriguing fantasy option next season, particularly if a team decides they like him as a starter, or on a team apart from the Spurs where he could get 25-28 minutes a game.

Just keep an eye of the Aussie’s movements this off-season and if he lands somewhere favourable, he may be a fantasy sleeper next season.

Fourth place — Jamal Crawford, PG/SG, Los Angeles Clippers

18.6 points, 2.3 three-pointers, 2.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.2 blocks, 41.6 FG%, 86.6 FT%, 2.0 turnovers in 69 games.

Crawford, who is a leading candidate for the NBA’s Sixth Man award, probably would’ve taken out my fantasy version had he stayed healthy and played more games. As with most of my awards, I base it on total production, as that’s what counts in fantasy.

In fantasy leagues, Crawford is drafted in basically every league, every season. But if you procure him for your team, you need to be able to take the big hit in field goal percentage that Crawford gives you. The last time he shot over 45 percent from the field was in 2001-02, his second season in the league and if you are expecting his shot-jacking to cease as his career plows on, I think you’ll find yourself disappointed.

In saying that, his elite free throw percentage, high scoring and fantastic contribution from beyond the arc, makes Crawford a great fantasy option. His ranking of 77th compares favourably with his 83rd from last season and I think we can expect similar production from him again next season. Just be wary, at some stage his legs are going to give away and the decline will begin.

Third place — Reggie Jackson, PG, Oklahoma City Thunder

13.1 points, 1.0 three-pointers, 3.9 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.1 blocks, 44.0 FG%, 89.3 FT%, 2.1 turnovers in 80 games.

Jackson was in a great position to provide extremely valuable fantasy stats, with starter and potential alien, Russell Westbrook, missing for so much of the season. Jackson did start 36 games this season, but that still leaves him coming off the bench for 44, so he qualifies for this award.

The thing about Jackson’s season though, was that even when Westbrook was healthy, Jackson’s production remained about the same and he was a key cog of the Thunder’s bench unit.

In just his third season in the league, Jackson doubled his minutes compared with last season and saw his fantasy value increase massively as well. He ended this season as fantasy’s 76th ranked player, last season he came in as 237.

Jackson doesn’t do anything spectacularly, but he was solid in most categories, particularly assists, steals and free throws. He could be the type of player that gets a big offer in restricted free agency and if he does get a starting job, could see himself as a top 50 player.

For now, we just have to live with the 28 minutes of the bench and his solid top 100 value.

And now, with only two player remaining — can I get a drum roll please?

Second-place — Darren Collison, PG, Los Angeles Clippers

11.4 points, 0.9 three-pointers, 2.4 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.2 blocks, 46.7 FG%, 85.7 FT%, 1.7 turnovers in 80 games.

Winner — Markieff Morris, PF/C, Phoenix Suns

13.8 points, 0.4 three-pointers, 6.0 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.6 blocks, 48.6 FG%, 79.2 FT%, 1.8 turnovers in 81 games.

The Sixth Man race was a tight one this season, but like Reggie Jackson before him, Darren Collison benefited immensely from injuries in the Clippers usual rotation.

When Chris Paul went down with a shoulder injury in January, Collison stepped in and performed admirably, but when Paul came back, many thought the ride was over. Fortune smiled on Collison’s owners, when Jamal Crawford went down with a calf injury, compounding the earlier injury to J.J. Redick. That left Collison as the only viable backcourt option alongside Paul.

Collison slotted in as the starting shooting guard and continued his great play. Does this translate to next season? I’d doubt it. He’ll only be valuable in a situation like this year, when injuries befall the Clippers’ backcourt.

Collison’s numbers dropped from last season, but that’s due to a change in role. He was a starter in Dallas last season, whereas this season, was primarily a backup. As impressive as he’s been, and he would’ve guided a lot of teams further in the playoffs than expected, it’d be a stretch to imagine it continuing next season.

There a number of reasons for the Suns’ dramatic improvement this season. The play of Miles Plumlee. The elevation to star level of Goran Dragic. The potential of Gerald Green being realised. The acquisition of Eric Bledsoe. But it was the play of Markieff Morris that was a key cog in Phoenix pushing for a playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Morris played off the bench for the Suns, but in essence played starters minutes as the team’s centre, relegating to Plumlee to around 20 minutes a game. He averaged 26.6 minutes a game, up from his numbers last season of only 22.4. This modest four minute increase saw a massive rise in his PER, up from 12.6 to a very impressive 18.4. His Win Shares also increased markedly — from 1.7 to 6.4. A huge part of Morris’ improvement was his much better shooting and shot selection. His field goal percentage sat at around 40 percent in his first two season, but this year something clicked. He hit 48.6 percent of his shots and his True Shooting percentage was a fantastic 56.4 percent.

But what about his fantasy value? Well, there was dramatic rise there as well. He was the 141st ranked player last season, a decent 12 team player, no doubt. But this season Morris was a must-own in any league, finishing the season as the 68th ranked player.

There’s no reason for Morris to see much of a drop-off next season and I can see him taking home the NBA’s version, albeit less valuable than this one, of the Sixth Man Of The Year.

Keep an eye out for the rest of the awards over the coming days and weeks and enjoy the playoffs!

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