Jamal Crawford, J.R Smith in Race for NBA's 6th Man of the Year Award

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Jamal Crawford, J.R Smith in Race for NBA's 6th Man of the Year Award
Brett Deering/Getty Images

An NBA team can be good with a solid starting lineup, but can be a championship contender with a strong bench.

While not as glamorous as a LeBron James or a Kevin Durant, an NBA "sixth man" is often one of the most important players on his team.

The sixth man can be utilized in a variety of different ways, and is primarily the orchestrating link between a team's starting lineup and the rest of their bench.

Many sixth man players, such as Manu Ginobili and last year's James Harden, infuse their teams with energy and intensity. They are viable scorers who play high minutes for their teams and are key components in maintaining or creating momentum on any given night. 

As NBA All-Star weekend approaches, here are seven early candidates to be in contention for this year's award.

All statistics are from NBA.com, and are accurate as of February 12, 2013.

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