Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports activities
Russell Westbrook‘s profitable transition from celebrity to sixth man is a really unusual occasion in NBA historical past. Regardless of 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. Nonetheless, in his second season with the Lakers — regardless of the crew’s total disappointing outcomes — Westbrook could also be on tempo so as to add to his Corridor-of-Fame profession by profitable Sixth Man of the Yr.
Per our HoopsHype superior statistics, Westbrook is arguably the highest candidate for the Sixth Man of the Yr Award. Per World Ranking, he’s at the moment second amongst eligible gamers for the award, solely behind Christian Wooden… who has began in 17 of his 42 video games, together with the final 16 he’s performed. In response 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, Wooden will quickly turn out to be ineligible, leaving Westbrook because the front-runner.
It’s extraordinarily uncommon for a participant who has gained the MVP award to win Sixth Man of the Yr too. Because the award’s inception in 1982, solely two gamers have completed that feat: Invoice Walton and James Harden. In Walton’s case, he gained the Sixth Man award at a degree in his profession when he was clearly unable to play starter minutes, averaging lower than 20 minutes per sport with Boston. However, Harden gained the award whereas enjoying for Oklahoma Metropolis earlier than rising to stardom with the Houston Rockets.
Apart from Walton and Harden, solely a choose few former MVPs have obtained votes for the Sixth Man of the Yr award. These embody 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 finest outcome being a third-place end two seasons in the past. With no severe accidents or comebacks from retirement to be thought of, solely McAdoo and Malone’s late careers as bench gamers are much like Westbrook’s scenario — and neither of them was actually near profitable the award.
During the last 5 video games, Westbrook has averaged 24 factors and 6.2 assists on 39.1 p.c from deep. Since Jan. 4, the Lakers’ web ranking with Westbrook on the courtroom has been the second-best amongst gamers with no less than 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. Whereas his numbers is probably not nearly as good as his prime days in Oklahoma Metropolis, Westbrook is successfully making the crew higher together with his contributions.
This influence shouldn’t be underestimated. With key rotation gamers like Anthony Davis, Lonnie Walker, and Austin Reaves sidelined on account of damage, there’s extra strain on LeBron to carry out each evening. Whereas James has not disenchanted, Westbrook’s rising consistency has been essential in drawing consideration away from the protection. His potential to shoot near the league common from past the arc has made it troublesome for opponents to go away him open, creating extra space for his teammates and rising his alternatives to assault the rim. Whereas not the dominant power he was with the Thunder, Westbrook has been one of the vital productive gamers in drive performs during the last 10 video games, taking pictures at a 53.4 p.c success fee in these conditions.
Westbrook’s run has helped the Lakers publish a aggressive 7-4 file within the final 11 video games regardless of the wave of accidents they’re struggling. With Davis seemingly again quickly, having Westbrook as a legit third star possibility once more is de facto welcome information for a struggling franchise. It additionally provides Russ a fantastic shot to win Sixth Man of the Yr.
– Alberto De Roa
You possibly can comply with Michael Scotto (@MikeAScotto), Yossi Gozlan (@YossiGozlan), Frank Urbina (@FrankUrbina_), and Alberto De Roa (@TikotDeRoa) on Twitter. 

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