Jeremy Lin, the Charlotte Hornets guard, has emerged as the leading candidate to win the Sixth Man of the Year award this season.
Lin is leading a five-man race that includes the likes of Will Barton (Denver Nuggets), Victor Oladipo (Orlando Magic), Enes Kanter (Oklahoma City Thunder) and Ryan Anderson (New Orleans Pelicans).
There are two primary reasons for Lin leading the tight race: 1) His impeccable plus/minus rating – Charlotte Hornets outscore opponents by 8.4 points per 100 possessions when Lin is on the floor. 2) The fact Hornets have surprisingly emerged as a top-tier team in the Eastern Conference.
While Oladipo and Barton have been really impressive coming off the bench, their teams haven’t registered enough victories for them to make a serious case. Lin’s strongest competition comes from Kanter, who has 11.1 and 7.9 rebounds from 20 minutes per game (from 28 games). Kanter’s Thunder (19-9) are comfortably placed third in the Western Conference.
Jeremy Lin vs Enes Kanter
Jeremy Lin’s numbers (11.7 points, 3.1 assists and 2.9 rebounds) are only slightly better than Kanter’s but most importantly, his defensive rating is off the charts. Lin is averaging more steals and blocks combined than any of his previous four seasons. In fact, Lin has been entrusted with the responsibility of guarding the opposition’s best ball-handler, ahead of starting PG Kemba Walker.
Also, when it comes to closing out tight games in the fourth quarter, Lin has become the go-to man for Hornets coach Steve Clifford. The four most productive lineups for Hornets this season, in terms of net rating (minimum 30 minutes), all feature Lin. While Kanter has been a useful contributor off the bench, he has taken a backseat to Serge Ibaka and Steven Adams during most fourth quarters. Kanter is averaging only 20 minutes per game.
Here is another telling statistic: When Jeremy Lin is on the bench, the Hornets have their lowest point differential. But when Lin is on the floor, Hornets comfortably outscore opponents (by at least 8.4 points per 100 possessions as mentioned above). For example: During last night’s game against Houston Rockets, of all Hornets that played 20+ minutes, Lin, with 13 points and 5 assists, was the most efficient.
These days, voters tend to consider efficiency and advanced stats before finalizing winners. If Hornets continue on this path for a few more months, Jeremy Lin is a lock to win the prestigious Sixth Man of the Year award, which was won by Los Angeles Lakers’ Lou Williams last year.