What does it mean to be a 'Sixth Man' in the NBA?

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The Sixth man of the Year award is as illustrious as it is deceiving. What does it really mean to be the best bench player in the NBA? In some cases, the sixth man plays more minutes than some of the starters.

Since the award started in the 1982-83 season, only two winners have gone on to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame. In fact, they were two of the first three men to win the award: Kevin McHale and Bill Walton.

So, how important is a good sixth man? Without any production from the bench, it doesn't matter how good a teams starting five are, they will lose games when they are resting up on the pine.

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Nearly all the best sixth men offer great production off the bench. They have to have the ability to lead the second-string, but also plug gaps with the starters too.

Jamal Crawford - who collected the award for a record third-time last season - still averaged 26.9 minutes on the floor for the L.A. Clippers last term. To put that into context, Chris Paul saw an average of 32.7 minutes of action a night.

The 36-year-old secured a new $46 million, three-year deal this summer to stay in L.A. and even in the new, inflated world of the NBA, that's a lot of money for a player of his age.

He's set to make $14.5 million in the final year of that contract when he'll be 39-years-old. Is he worth that kind of cash? For the championship-chasing Clippers, he just might be.

Although Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Paul are the prime-time players at the Staples Center, the Golden State Warriors have proven over the past two years that no success comes without depth.

The Clippers can feel they are well stacked now with the likes of JJ Redick, Austin Rivers, Paul Pierce and Crawford all taking their place on the rotation next to the big three.

Let's explore some other winners: Lou Williams - who also plies his trade at the Staples Center, but with the Lakers - won the award in 2015 with 15.5 points a game from just over 25 minutes for the Toronto Raptors.

Unfortunately, the Lakers aren't in a position to make the most of his fleeting talents, even though he averaged 15.3 points for the Purple and Gold last term in similar minutes, but with a far worse supporting cast.

J.R Smith won the award back in 2013 as a complimentary part of the New York Knicks. Three years later, he started 77 games for the championship-winning Cleveland Cavaliers and has reveled in the role of LeBron James' sidekick.

James Harden picked up the award the year before that when he was still a part of the Oklahoma City Thunder. At just 22-years-old, The Beard won the award after posting an average of 16.8 points a game during the 2011-12 season.

Unlike most people on the list, Harden's star was shining too bright at his current franchise and he was just waiting to become the leading man elsewhere. Houston would be his eventual destination, and he has flourished into one of the most efficient scorers in the NBA today.

The road for a sixth man is a varied one. It can be the platform to superstardom, or it can be a reminder that, while a player is a decent hand on the court, he is not capable of leading a franchise.

Unfortunately, the award doesn't hold any real correlation to titles, but what we have learned is organisations will pay good money for the unsung heroes they can rely on.

Houston Rockets
Southwest Division
Western Conference
L.A. Lakers
Pacific Division
Cleveland Cavaliers
Central Division
Eastern Conference
Lou Williams
JR Smith
James Harden

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