We Love Love For Sixth Man Of The Year

By John Gilpatrick July 8, 2022

We Love Love For Sixth Man Of The Year

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Much like the Most Improved Player futures market that we highlighted a couple days ago, the Sixth Man Award futures market offers some extraordinary odds as this point in the summer.

Tyler Herro of the Miami Heat kind of wrapped up this award in the first two months of last season, and he was an easy pick in the preseason because he was clearly on top of his game.

We have no such body of work to judge as we look at this market in mid-July, as the only NBA players getting a ton of run right now are the Europeans competing for their countries in World Cup qualifying, and rookies and second-year players getting some burn in the NBA Summer Leagues.

But as we did with Josh Giddey of the Oklahoma City Thunder, who had a triple-double in just 27 ½ minutes Wednesday night in the Utah Summer League, we can look at where a few of these guys left off last season and figure out how the offseason changes their teams have made could alter their chances.

Jordan Poole of the Golden State Warriors is the preseason favorite at +470, and Herro is right behind him at +600. After that, the odds begin at +1600 and get quite a bit longer for a few players. What we want to do here is highlight a few players we feel are reasonable risks at their very high odds, and in order to make that argument we first have to address the issues of Poole and Herro.

The phrase “Poole Party” was trending in the early round of this year’s NBA playoffs as he knocked down 13 3-pointers in the first three games of the Warriors’ first-round series against Denver, and the 23-year-old is coming off a season in which he made 2.8 3-pointers per game while also led the NBA in free throw percentage at 92.5 percent. Nice numbers, but award-worthy? Not at all, and Poole did not receive a single first-second or third-place ballot from award voters.

Herro, meanwhile, got 96 of a possible 100 votes to win the award, and he will now be seeking to become the first back-to-back winner of the Sixth Man award since Lou Williams in 2018 and 2019. He is coming off a season in which he averaged 20.7 points, five rebounds and four assists, and if we assume he can duplicate those numbers next season, that sets the bar pretty high.

Who can clear that bar? Let’s have a look …

The first thing we have to assume is that next season’s winner will play for a successful team. Voters do not like to award team failure, except in the case of Rookie of the Year when short-term expectations are held in check because voters realize that several teams are in rebuilding mode in any given season.

So that takes teams such as Orlando, Utah, Indiana and Houston out if the mix, which does little to whittle down the field.

What we are looking for is a team that has a good chance of exceeding expectations, so let’s start with the Denver Nuggets because they did that last season and it paid off for Nikola Jokic with his second consecutive MVP award. They traded away Will Barton and Monte Morris to Washington for Ish Smith and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, shedding two starters to help make room for the returning Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr.

Sharp bettor Andy Roth, who we spoke to earlier this year for our column on What Makes a Sharp Bettor, has been telling anybody who will listen for the past two seasons that Bruce Brown was one of the most valuable members of the Brooklyn Nets because of his ability to get things done on both ends of the court. Nets coach Steve Nash leaned on Brown in playoff games the past two postseasons.

Apr 17, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Brooklyn Nets forward Bruce Brown (1) returns the ball against the Boston Celtics in the first quarter during game one of the first round for the 2022 NBA playoffs at TD Garden. David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 17, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Brooklyn Nets forward Bruce Brown (1) returns the ball against the Boston Celtics in the first quarter during game one of the first round for the 2022 NBA playoffs at TD Garden. David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Brown has now signed with Denver, where he and Bones Hyland will be the backup wings behind Caldwell-Pope and Porter Jr. Hyland is on the board at +4200 after averaging 10.1 points, while Brown is +8000 coming off a season in which he averaged nine points and 4.8 rebounds while making 45 starts for Brooklyn. He scored 23 and 26 points in the Nets’ Game 2 and Game 3 losses to Boston in the first round of the playoffs, then ditched the KD-Kyrie trade madness in signing with Denver for next season. Can he get his scoring into the Herro range? That is doubtful, but Brown will bear watching in the preseason and first two weeks of the season as his odds will remain high. So no need to jump now on him just of yet, but keep him in the back of your mind.

Malcolm Brogdon has been traded from Indiana to Boston, and it remains to be seen whether coach Ime Udoka will start him in place of Marcus Smart or bring him off the bench. And since Brogdon has started his last 210 games in the NBA over the past four seasons, we can expect one of two things: He will start along with Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Al Horford/Robert Williams, or he will come off the bench and be matched in most games against backups. 

Brogdon averaged 19.1 points and 21.2 points the past two seasons, so he can score like Herro. But because we do not know whether he will be a starter or a reserve, it would be premature to tout him for this award since he may not even qualify. But if Udoka commits to using him as a reserve, he is a very worthy wager at +1800.

Kevin Love garnered three first-place votes and finished second behind Herro last season as he came off the bench for the Cavs in 70 of his 74 games and averaged 13.6 points and 7.2 rebounds. Cleveland dropped off the radar following the season-ending injury to center Jarrett Allen, but for a while there they were doing what Minnesota plans to do next season: Play big and use a combination of size and speed to create matchup nightmares.

Love is oddly priced at +3000 since he finished second last season, and although we do not love the idea of taking a flyer on him, we certainly like it because the East is going to be weak next season and the Cavs, if all goes well, could compete with Miami and Milwaukee and Philadelphia for second-place behind Boston, which is the class of the conference.

Mar 23, 2022; Memphis, Tennessee, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Cam Thomas (24) dribbles up the court after a steal during the first half against the Memphis Grizzlies at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 23, 2022; Memphis, Tennessee, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Cam Thomas (24) dribbles up the court after a steal during the first half against the Memphis Grizzlies at FedExForum. Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

There is one more guy who is flyer-worthy, mostly because of his odds (+25000) but also because of his situation. Cam Thomas was the co-Most Valuable Player of Las Vegas Summer league a year ago, then spent the season wearing his warmups because the Brooklyn Nets were trying to win a title behind Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden, all of whom are gone or on their way out now. 

Assuming that Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks gets back at least two starters in trades, Thomas – who had a nine-game stretch last season in which he averaged more than 20 points — will continue to be a reserve but should start to see steady playing time as the Nets shift to rebuilding mode. Producing at a steady enough rate to actually compete for this award may be a reach, but somebody is going to have to step up for a Nets team that should still be able to finish in the top 10 and make the play-in tournament. 

So if you have to limit yourself to one wager, the one you may want to make this summer is Love. If you can stomach two, you may want to take a hard look at Thomas and keep abreast of what he does in Las Vegas Summer League, which begins for Brooklyn on Friday against the Milwaukee Bucks.

And remember, summer odds for NBA futures are a heck of a lot longer than they will be once the season starts. Yes, the money must sit idle for 10 months. But it provides hope, and if it hits your 2023 summer vacation plans are paid for.

We’ll take a closer look at Rookie of the Year next week after we have a body of work from Summer League to peruse. Right now, Paolo Banchero and Chet Holmgren are the favorites, with Banchero having outplayed No. 3 pick Jabari Smith on Thursday night in the Summer League debut for both players. 
 

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