Russell Westbrook, Cam Reddish, Kyle Kuzma, Rui Hachimura

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Russell Westbrook‘s profitable transition from celebrity to sixth man is a really unusual occasion in NBA historical past. Despite a historical past of non-starters turning into essential gamers, like Manu Ginobili and Jamal Crawford, there’s nonetheless a stigma of demotion to not being on the courtroom when the sport begins. However, in his second season with the Lakers — regardless of the group’s general disappointing outcomes — Westbrook could also be on tempo so as to add to his Hall-of-Fame profession by profitable Sixth Man of the Year.

Per our HoopsHype superior statistics, Westbrook is arguably the highest candidate for the Sixth Man of the Year Award. Per Global Rating, he’s at present second amongst eligible gamers for the award, solely behind Christian Wood… who has began in 17 of his 42 video games, together with the final 16 he is performed. According to the award guidelines, a participant should come off the bench in additional than half of their appearances to be eligible. Barring a return to a reserve position, Wood will quickly turn into ineligible, leaving Westbrook because the front-runner.

It’s extraordinarily uncommon for a participant who has received the MVP award to win Sixth Man of the Year too. Since the award’s inception in 1982, solely two gamers have completed that feat: Bill Walton and James Harden. In Walton’s case, he received the Sixth Man award at some extent in his profession when he was clearly unable to play starter minutes, averaging lower than 20 minutes per recreation with Boston. On the opposite hand, Harden received the award whereas enjoying for Oklahoma City earlier than rising to stardom with the Houston Rockets.

Besides Walton and Harden, solely a choose few former MVPs have acquired votes for the Sixth Man of the Year award. These embrace Bob McAdoo in 1985 (sixth place), Moses Malone in 1991 (sixth place), Magic Johnson throughout his temporary 1996 comeback (fifth place), and Derrick Rose from 2019 to 2021, together with his greatest outcome being a third-place end two seasons in the past. With no critical accidents or comebacks from retirement to be thought of, solely McAdoo and Malone’s late careers as bench gamers are much like Westbrook’s state of affairs — and neither of them was actually near profitable the award.

Over the final 5 video games, Westbrook has averaged 24 factors and 6.2 assists on 39.1 % from deep. Since Jan. 4, the Lakers’ web ranking with Westbrook on the courtroom has been the second-best amongst gamers with a minimum of two video games performed at plus-10.7, solely behind LeBron James. In distinction, when he’s not on the courtroom, the Lakers have been outscored by 8.1 factors per 100 possessions, once more solely surpassed by LeBron James. While his numbers might not be nearly as good as his prime days in Oklahoma City, Westbrook is successfully making the group higher together with his contributions.

This influence shouldn’t be underestimated. With key rotation gamers like Anthony Davis, Lonnie Walkerand so forth Austin Reaves sidelined on account of damage, there may be further stress on LeBron to carry out each night time. While James has not dissatisfied, Westbrook’s rising consistency has been essential in drawing consideration away from the protection. His capacity to shoot near the league common from past the arc has made it tough for opponents to go away him open, creating extra space for his teammates and rising his alternatives to assault the rim. While not the dominant drive he was with the Thunder, Westbrook has been one of the vital productive gamers in drive performs over the past 10 video games, taking pictures at a 53.4 % success charge in these conditions.

Westbrook’s run has helped the Lakers publish a aggressive 7-4 document within the final 11 video games regardless of the wave of accidents they’re struggling. With Davis doubtless again quickly, having Westbrook as a legit third star choice once more is admittedly welcome information for a struggling franchise. It additionally offers Russ an amazing shot to win Sixth Man of the Year.

– Alberto De Roa

You can observe Michael Scotto (@MikeAScotto), Yossi Gozlan (@YossiGozlan), Frank Urbina (@FrankUrbina_), and Alberto De Roa (@TikotDeRoa) on Twitter.

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