Warriors/NBA/Basketball

The Daily Update 4.7.11

Recently, there’s been a lot criticism of the 6th man of the year award over Lamar Odom’s consideration for the award. The Los Angeles Lakers’ forward has started 34 games this season, more than any other high profile candidate for the award. The other top candidates, Jason Terry, Glen Davis, and Thaddeus Young, have started just 10, 11, and 1 games respectively. Jamal Crawford and Marcin Gortat have also started 10 games or less.

The question is, does this make Odom any less of a sixth man than these players? He doesn’t really play a great number more minutes than his 6th man competitors. In fact, of the top 4, only Young plays 3 or more minutes less than Odom per game. Starting a significant number of games hasn’t stopped other players from winning the award. As recently as Manu Ginobili in 2007-2008, a winner had started at least 20 games in a season. There was a lot of talk of how he was good enough to start for San Antonio (and he was), just as there’s been with Odom this season.

But this season, the criticism of the SMOTY (Sixth Man of the Year) has become even louder. With Odom starting 34 games games in place of the Lakers injured center Andrew Bynum, there’s been some debate on how many starts is too many. Currently the requirements for 6th man candidates is starting no more than half of the games you play in. With just 4 games left, and having played in a total of 78 already, Odom will meet that requirement. But that hasn’t stopped some writers from suggesting he doesn’t deserve their vote. They simply say he’s “too good,” or has started too many games for them to justify voting for him.

Looking at just this season, Terry began the season as Dallas’ starting shooting guard, but was quickly replaced by DeShawn Stevenson, who had been healthy in the first 5 games in which Terry started. So Terry wasn’t necessarily starting out of necessity due to injury like Odom, but because Rick Carlisle was testing out a new strategy.

What those people are ignoring is that Odom started just 7 games where Bynum was available this season, and those came as Bynum was easing his way back in after returning from off-season knee surgery. He was also returned to the starting lineup on two different occasions. Once alongside Stevenson after both Dirk Nowtizki and Caron Butler were out with injuries. He started 4 straight games, but curiously, he was removed from the lineup before either returned. More of Carlisle tinkering with his rotations. Instead the head coach decided to start Alexis Ajinca (now with Toronto) for the remaing two games that Nowtizki was out. But once again, soon after Nowtizki returned, Terry was reinserted at shooting guard while Stevenson was still healthy. This time it was Tyson Chandler who was missing, but Haywood took his spot in the lineup. Chandler had also not been healthy the previous game.

The point is, Terry is every bit as good or better than who the Mavericks have started at shooting guard this season. His starts, while not as many as Odom’s, still show that he’s used in a way other than a 6th man when the coach feels it is necessary. I do find it odd that he got inserted and removed from the lineup those two times when the main injuries weren’t to players at his position. It’s also very odd that he didn’t start over Stevenson when Rodrique Beaubois does. It’s obviously not something that has to with size. Terry and Beaubois are the same height and his younger counterpart weighs just 2 pounds more.

What’s key here is the Mavericks utilize Terry in very different way than Lamar Odom. When injuries hit (and they did because Beaubois missed the whole 1st half of the season), he isn’t necessarily going to be in the starting lineup. However, if one of the Lakers big men go down, there isn’t anyone else but Odom to fill the void, and he is forced to start. Like many 6th men in the league, his role on the team also calls for him to start in case of long-term injuries. It doesn’t make him any less of a 6th man. It just means Terry doesn’t have that role.

So, even if you think Odom’s stats are inflated for a 6th man because he has more starts, his numbers only as a sub are still far and away better than forward counterparts Davis and Young. And Terry plays just 25 seconds less per game. There is no reason that Odom should be punished for filling his 6th man role so well that he looked good as a starter. The fact is, the best 6th men in the league should be starting quality players. Terry is one of those guys. Manu was one of those guys when he came off the bench. Is it fair to punish Odom because his teammate got injured? No. He was still just filling his role as a 6th man.

Since that’s out of the way now, Lamar Odom is hands down the best 6th man in the NBA this year. If you want to make an argument against that, make sure it’s that one of the guys I mentioned is actually better, and not that Odom is “too goo” or started too many games to be the 6th man. Because a vote against him for that reason would be robbing the most deserving player blind.

Scores from last night:

Orlando 111, Charlotte 102 (OT) – The Magic are now locked into the East’s 4th seed, with no room for movement upward or downward in the standings.

Indiana 136, Washington 112 – The Pacers now clinched a playoff birth for the first time since 2006.

New York 97, Philadelphia 92 – The Knicks pass  the Sixers by a half game in the standings with their 5th straight win. Philadelphia has now lost 3 in a row.

Cleveland 104, Toronto 96 – With their 17th win of the season, the Cavaliers have now moved out of the NBA’s basement. Minnesota now owns the league’s worst record.

Detroit 116, Ne Jersey 109 – Nothing to see here.

Phoenix 108, Minnesota 98 – The Timberwolves now own the worst record in the NBA.

New Orleans 101, Houston 93 – The Hornets clinch a playoff spot. The Rockets now need to win their remaining games and have Houston lose all of theirs to make the playoffs.

Oklahoma City 102, Los Angeles Clippers 98 – Thunder avenge last week’s loss and clinch at least the 4th seed and Northwest Division.

Milwaukee 90, Miami 85 – The Heat drop behind the Celtics in the East once again. With Indiana’s win, the Bucks were officially eliminated from playoff contention.

San Antonio 124, Sacramento 92 – Spurs have now locked up the West’s top seed.

Denver 104, Dallas 96 – The Nuggets’ win keeps them solidly in 5th in the West. Mavericks fall to just 1 game ahead of Oklahoma City in 3rd.

Golden State 95, Los Angeles Lakers 87 – The Warriors win their 3rd straight against Western conference playoff teams. The Lakers lose their 3rd straight but remain 2nd in the West.

Game of the Night:

Boston @ Chicago – This is the 4th meeting between the teams this season, and each game has been won by the home team. If Chicago wins, they would go up 4 games over Miami and Boston with just 4 to play, eliminating the Heat from the top seed race. The Celtics however, holds the tie breaker over the Bulls regardless of if they win this game. Both teams really want this game, and it should be tight and hard fought throughout. Plus, it’s on national TV (TNT). Make sure you watch this one. It could be an incredible playoff preview. Don’t miss it. Prediction: Boston by 3. Noah is back but still not likely 100%. That will be the difference in this one, where the Celtics hold the advantage inside.

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