Lou Williams Beats Out Other Deserving Candidates For Sixth Man Of The Year

“6 Man,” indeed.

With his candidacy for the award no doubt enhanced by his team’s wholly unique public relations campaign, the Toronto Raptors’ Lou Williams has been named the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year. The Boston Celtics’ Isaiah Thomas and Los Angeles Clippers’ Jamal Crawford placed second and third in the voting, respectively.

Below are pertinent details of the NBA’s release on the Sixth Man award.

The Toronto Raptors’ Lou Williams, who averaged a career-high 15.5 points this season and helped Toronto win a franchise-record 49 games, is the winner of the 2014-15 Kia NBA Sixth Man Award as the league’s best player in a reserve role, the NBA announced today. The 6-1 guard becomes the first Raptors player to earn the honor.

Williams, in his 10th NBA season and first with the Raptors, amassed 78 first-place votes and 502 total points from a panel of 130 sportswriters and broadcasters throughout the United States and Canada. Isaiah Thomas of the Boston Celtics finished second with 324 points (33 first-place votes), and two-time winner Jamal Crawford of the Los Angeles Clippers was third with 131 points (eight first-place votes).

Toronto sent voters a push button that played Drake’s “6 Man” in efforts to remind them of Williams’ viability for the honor. The song opens with three references to the 6’1 bench scorer in as many lines.

Williams enjoyed a banner season during his first go-round with the Raptors, averaging a career-high 15.5 points per game. Though his efficiency numbers are pedestrian at best, they bely context of his crucial role within Toronto’s isolation-heavy offense. A whopping 15.2 percent of Williams’ field goal attempts came within the last four seconds of the shot clock according to Synergy Sports, and he was assisted on just 39.7 percent of his made baskets – Toronto’s second lowest mark.

The 28 year-old was his team’s on-off court bellwether, too. The Raptors offensive and defensive ratings of 111.3 and 104.6 with him in the lineup were team-bests among regular rotation players, and his -.5 off-court net rating was Toronto’s worst by 1.3 points.

Williams is a fine Sixth Man choice, basically, but not the best choice for this award. Our hypothetical first-place vote would have gone to Thomas, who was good enough with the Phoenix Suns to keep Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe on the bench in crunch-time and helped spur the Boston Celtics’ run to a playoff berth after the trade deadline.

Less realistic candidates like the Golden State Warriors’ Andre Iguodala and Cleveland Cavaliers’ Tristan Thompson made impacts as big or larger than Williams’, too, and did so playing for superior teams. The two-way worth of both players is supported by numbers and the eye-test in ways the award-winner’s simply isn’t.

But Sixth Man voting lacks the nuance that presently accompanies that of Defensive Player of the Year. Like how the latter honor used to go to the player with a high number and memorable combination of blocks and steals, the former is still given to a productive bench scorer that developed a reputation for thriving in the clutch. It’s a regrettable reality, but one that will be more difficult to overcome due to the award’s very nature – the cases of its lesser-known candidates aren’t as easily understood by voters like those of MVP or DPOY, unfortunately.

Williams is a less deserving winner of Sixth Man than he is a surprising one, but that’s hardly a knock on his 2014-2015 campaign. He’s been a driving force behind Toronto’s success this season, and will continue to be as the Raptors fight tooth and nail to advance in the playoffs.