Every team has a sixth man, someone to step in off the bench and help the team. He could be a youngster, a franchise saver, a foreign wonder, the team's most important player, or he could take a number of other forms.
They are all different and some are more essential than others. These are the different forms of the sixth man.
The "hustler" is good for...well, hustling.
Many great teams have a hustler. You know, a man to get rebounds, blocks, and take charges. This player is usually a defensive specialist, who never backs down from a challenge.
A perfect example of a hustler is Anderson Varejao. He's the NBA leader in taking charges and is great at getting rebounds.
Another great example of the hustler is Mickael Pietrus of the Orlando Magic. He is a great defender and can hit the three.
The hustler always works.
The Birdman, Chris Anderson, is a perfect example of "the sideshow act". He gets plenty of blocks and is known for his athletic ability.
This player usually has a nickname, and could be considered a hustler (hustlers and sideshow acts are often interchangeable) because they grab rebounds and usually are good defensively.
Sideshow acts are usually players trying to make a comeback. What makes hustlers and sideshow acts different is that hustlers are remembered for their play, not their nicknames or tattoos.
Poor Darko Milicic. He is the best example of "the draft bust."
Draft busts are usually journeymen, traveling from team to team. When they play, if they play at all, they have good moments but usually just never live up to expectations.
Sometimes when they get in the rotation, they are just a limitation. Usually draft busts form due to injuries.
Teams only sign draft busts when they want to take a gamble. Good examples of draft bust include Eddy Curry, Kwame Brown, and Adam Morrison.
The "youngster" has potential.
Some prove they can be clutch, like Glen Davis, while others are there because of their potential, such as Daniel "Boobie" Gibson, although one could argue that he has been clutch.
They are usually mentored by a great of the game, like Kevin Garnett did for Glen Davis, and are usually sent to the starting rotation when injuries occur.
Sometimes they become an All-Star talent, and sometimes they will bust. Anything can happen with the youngster.
Probably the most ridiculous of all the sixth men is the "should-be starter".
Should be starters are classified as players who get over 30-35 minutes of play time a night, but are considered sixth men because they come off the bench after three to five minutes.
These players are almost always in contention for the sixth man award, and can even win it, like Jason Terry, for example.
Their play can range from being a complete threat, like Terry, to an out of control scoring machine, like Nate Robinson, to athletic monsters, such as J.R. Smith.
Any team can have a player like this, but they usually only play for the top contenders.
The "star replacer" is the player with a lot of potential, like Paul Millsap.
This type is a very important player to many franchises because they have a lot of pressure to replace a star player in the nearfuture.
Many teams might get rid of their stars due to free agency or through trade, and they are forced to fill that empty space by taking a gamble on another player.
Most likely the saddest thing to see is the "fallen star," a player who could have been one of the best players in the league, but turned into a man riding the bench and barely getting playing time.
Growing up, Stephon Marbury and Andrei Kirilenko were some of the most exciting players to watch in the NBA.
Now look at them.
Marbury is barely even on the Celtics and can't manage to make any kind of impact. Kirilenko is putting up average numbers, but with his role as a sixth man, he will never again show shades of his former abilities.
The "college great" is another interesting type of player. This class consists of players like J.J. Redick, Adam Morrison, and Juan Dixon.
These are the players who have been less than stellar in the NBA because they were unable to adjust to the transition to a more athletic type of play.
Usually these players will find some garbage minutes every now and then, but usually they have little to no importance.
Jamal Crawford is probably the best example of this form of NBA player.
Jamal is the fourth player ever to score 50 points or more on three different teams. Unfortunately for Jamal, all the teams he has ever been on are less than stellar.
This year is his chance to finally make the playoffs, but I'm sure he doesn't care if he has to come off the bench to achieve that goal.
Lamar Odom is a prime example of the "missing piece".
Odom has been with the Los Angeles Lakers for quite some time. When he started, the Lakers just weren't there.
But with Pau Gasol moving to the bench, he has become the missing piece that the Lakers needed to finally win another championship.
A "missing piece" could be on a team for quite a while before they can realize their potential. All it takes is for a star player to be sent to the bench.
I'm sure that we can all agree that Ben Gordon was the main reason that the Bulls turned their fortune around near the playoffs.
Yes, one could make arguments for Luol Deng, John Salmons, or Derrick Rose, but if it weren't for Ben Gordon, the team wouldn't have gone to Game Seven to play the defending champions.
Ben Gordon is a special player who can produce, but I'm not sure how he will adapt to playing in Detroit.
Former sixth man of the year Leandro Barbosa, with his lightning speed, makes me wonder...since when was he this good?
Barbosa is quite possibly one of the top three quickest players in the NBA, and perhaps one of the best bench players in the league. He can score, shoot, and defend.
Barbosa fits perfectly in the Suns offense, and he and Nash make this team one of the most complete guard combos in the NBA, behind only the duos of Derek Fisher and Kobe Bryant and Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.
Manu Ginobili is the Argentine stud who does it all.
Ginobili's play has won multiple NBA championships and many international titles.
Because of this, it is a shame that he'll be known as "the foreign one that came off the bench", and not the most important player for the San Antonio Spurs.
His numerous titles and abundant skills make Manu Ginobili the prime example of how important the sixth man is for a team.