The case for Manu Ginobili for Sixth Man of the Year makes itself, really, once you go through the numbers.
Boris Diaw deserves to be Sixth Man of the Year
Our spin-happy, big Frenchman isn't likely to garner much attention in the race for SMOY, but that doesn't mean he isn't fully deserving of the honor. Here's why Bobo should receive the award.
Manu is averaging 12.3, points, 4.5 assists, 3.1 rebounds and one steal in 23.3 minutes a game. Per 36 he is averaging 19, five and seven a game, basically. His net rating (offensive rating minus defensive rating) of 13.6 points is not only amazing but the best on the contending Spurs and second overall among players that have appeared in over 40 games and average over 20 minutes a game behind only Andre Iguodala. His effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage are above average, as is his assist to turnover ratio.
Simply put, Manu produces at a exceptional level on a contender which has the highest scoring bench in the league. He is arguably the most obvious 6MoY candidate out there. Unlike other Spurs that might deserve to be in the conversation like Patty Mills, Marco Belinelli and especially Boris Diaw, Manu is not only in the running but likely a favorite. And because he is a favorite, there is the possibility that voters try to get creative and overlook Manu for one of the other deserving candidates. So let's see how he stacks ups to the competition.
To figure out who that is, I read who others deemed worthy. SBNation's Michael Jones recently selected Reggie Jackson, Taj Gibson, Markieff Morris, Jamal Crawford and Tyreke Evans as serious candidates. In a column after the All-Star Break Matt Moore from CBSSports mentioned Rodney Stuckey. So let's see how those guys stack up, using The Box Score Geek's player comparison tool:
Here are the shooting numbers:
Manu came in second overall in points per 48 minutes, behind Jamal Crawford. Second among guards in rebounds behind Evans. First in assists and steals. In two point field goal percentage Manu tops the chart, including the bigs. In three point field goal percentage he trails only Crawford. He has the best eFG% and TS% of the bunch and it's not even close so it's not surprising he has the most points per shot.
Comparing the guards to Gibson and Morris is hard, but while those guys are certainly great players worthy of consideration, their stats don't exactly jump out of the page, even if we look at the numbers that are indicative of good big man play like rebounds and blocks. Obviously they bring extra value because Gibson is an elite defender and Morris can stretch the floor. But each of the candidates does something special for their team. Crawford and Stuckey provide self-created volume scoring, and Jackson and Evans provide a balanced, all-around game.
But Manu is close to or better than all of those guys at what they provide. Ginobili creates, shoots, scores, rebounds and makes defensive plays at the same rate or more frequently than all of those guys. And his impact on the Spurs is arguably greater than the impact those players have on their respective teams.
Maybe that's not enough for some. Do you prefer PER or Win Shares/48? Manu leads them all. Adjusted plus/minus? Manu leads them all. Statistical plus/minus? Manu leads them all. When you look at the big picture, no one that is considered Manu's competition for the award even comes close to his level. We are looking at another tier of player. Manu is different from those other guys; the numbers tell the story.
So how could Manu possibly not win? There are two ways. The first is rooted on the undeniable fact that these awards are often determined by narratives. With Goran Dragic being snubbed as an All-Star and no one on the roster likely to make either the All-NBA teams or All-Defense teams, giving the award to Morris would be a way of acknowledging the Suns' unexpected success. Gibson stepped up after the Bulls' season seemed to be geared towards tanking. It's a bit harder finding compelling narratives for the other guards in the list but a resourceful writer or voter could.
Manu also has a narrative going for him. After looking to be on his last legs last season and contemplating retirement, he came back strong to spearhead the Spurs' league-leading bench. And he has done that with the flair he's always shown. He threads the needle for passes not even the recipient knew were possible. He makes timely buckets. He pump-fakes people out of their shoes. He gets huge steals and blocks. He gets under the opponent's skin on defense and draws charges. Manu is exciting and that counts.
More concerning, and to an extent valid, is the objection someone could raise about Manu's minutes. Ginobili has played fewer games, fewer total minutes and fewer minutes per game that the other serious 6MoY candidates and that won't likely change, even if Manu remains healthy from here on out. And looking at raw per-game numbers, the gap between Manu and the others narrows. Crawford's 18 points per game look much more impressive and Stuckey and Evans look Manu-esque. Gibson's and Morris' scoring looks better and their niche excellence at defense and offensive versatility, respectively, could serve as a tie-breaker.
Fortunately, it seems voters are smarter now, as Marc Gasol winning Defnsive Player of the Year proved the past season. The days of Marcus Camby winning the award just because of his per game rebounds and blocks seem to be over, and so could the days of Crawford winning 6MoY on points per game. Because -- unless Ginobili gets hurt again -- he will have played enough minutes for his performance to merit a closer look. And once voters do that, Manu is a shoe-in.