Let's state the obvious right off the bat; James Harden won't be winning back-to-back Sixth Man of the Year Awards this year. Sorry, Jimmy, but there's some kind of rule that says starters can't win it.
That leaves the door open to a slew of candidates out there, but there are a few that stand out above the rest, so let's take a look at what this first week of basketball can tell us.
Sure, it's only a week into the young NBA season, but if CNN can make presidential predictions with three percent of a state's precincts reporting, we Internet folk can take a look at four percent of the NBA season and make some projections based on that, right?
Right now, four guys look to be ahead of the pack: Lou Williams, Ray Allen, J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford, although we can throw in Jason Terry and Kevin Martin now that he's basically in the de facto Harden role for Oklahoma City.
Of those guys, four stick out as favorites due to their position and history. Terry and Crawford have won it before, Williams is a hot-scoring young fellow—those are the types that always seem to win the award—and Allen is going to get open shots all year long.
I'm not a huge fan of Martin winning it just based on the idea that he'll end up getting compared to Harden too much, and J.J. Redick doesn't seem to have the firepower.
I'm not sure how much faith I have in Allen bringing it home, as he's primarily a three-point shooter and sixth men usually add more than just shooting off the bench.
Then there's Jason Terry. It seems to me that he might have too much competition on the Celtics bench to put up the numbers necessary. When Avery Bradley returns, he'll be sitting beside Courtney Lee and Leandro Barbosa, all guys who play his position and produce very well.
That leaves Williams and Crawford from the original six.
Both are on playoff teams, which is a good start, and both are basically the same player. They're hot shooters who can come in on a streak and shoot the lights out in a big situation when their team needs them to.
They can handle the ball and get a little bit tough on defense down the stretch. The biggest difference is just age in this case.
Between Crawford and Williams, I believe I would bet on experience over youth. Of course, I'm basing this off of a little bit of what we've seen so far as well.
Williams has been very good for Atlanta, but he's been his usual inefficient self. There's something to be said about a guy who knows his limitations while still retaining shooting confidence. Crawford may not know those limitations, but he looks to be a much better shooter than Williams—at least this season.
Last year, Crawford was in Portland with a bad attitude, playing for a team that was going to miss the playoffs, so right off the bat it was a bad situation for him to be in. He would come in, chuck some shots and not care whether or not they fell. There was a negativity that he exuded that was extremely detrimental to his team and his own numbers.
This year, however, there are expectations of Crawford and Vinny Del Negro seems to have put those out there as a vote of confidence toward the guy.
He's come out of the gate and already piled up one-third as many excellent shooting nights as he did last season. He's got one game of over 60 percent shooting out of four, something he did only three times in 60 tries last season.
Crawford is more focused, more into the game and I think he realizes that this could have been the end of the line for him if he didn't preform well.
Out of the gate, he has to be the favorite to take James Harden's Sixth Man of the Year Award.