Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Los Angeles Clippers forward Montrezl Harrell (5).
- The 2019 NBA Sixth Man of the Year race is headlined by Lou Williams (-500), Derrick Rose (+170) and Domantas Sabonis (+700).
- Down the list is Clippers big man Montrezl Harrell (+1400), who is not just a good value -- he should be the favorite.
The 2019 NBA Sixth Man of the Year race is pretty loaded this season, mostly due to some teams playing should-be starters off the bench (don’t get Matt Moore started on that).
Are there any frontrunners though? And historically what has been most important in predicting this race?
To answer those questions, I went back to the 2005 season — about 15 years worth of data — to find which metrics best predicted the race. And it seems to be pretty easy to predict. Using just a couple metrics, including total points, minutes per game and win shares, for example, it’s possible to nail the winner most years.
In fact, if we exclude that weird 2005 season, the model I’ve built to predict the award would have gone 12-1 since 2006. The one race it would’ve missed on is in 2016, when then Clippers guard Jamal Crawford took home the award. My model actually would’ve had him fifth; I had former Thunder big man Enes Kanter as the most likely to win.
Anyway, I ran the numbers for this year, and the results my surprise you. Assuming rates stay the same — as in no players suddenly stop playing or go crazy from a box score perspective — I have a longshot as my model’s prediction…
2019 NBA Sixth Man of the Year Model, Odds
Clippers guard Lou Williams is the heavy favorite in the betting market currently with -500 odds (83.3% implied probability) at the DraftKings sportsbook. But it’s actually his teammate, Montrezl Harrell, who my model predicts will win.
The difference between the two is minimal in terms of games played, minutes, points and all sorts of raw statistics. The biggest difference is Harrell’s advanced stats are far superior, specifically win shares, where he (7.5) bests Williams (4.6) significantly.
In fact, he’s far above the rest of the field in the category, with Pacers big man Domantas Sabonis the only one close at 6.5.
Your next question is problably, “Will voters actually care about win shares?” Maybe not, but it does highlight their efficiency difference. A stat like effective field goal percentage, which even accounts for the value of 3-pointers, shows that Harrell has been much more efficient than his teammate:
His true-shooting mark is also much higher and shows that his efficiency is far and away superior. That, plus his defense, is baked into these advanced stats:
Some of the other candidates for the award — notably Derrick Rose and Sabonis — have either slowed down in the second half of the year or dealt with nagging injuries. Sabonis returned from a five-game absence earlier this week, but played just 20 and 18 minutes in those following two games.
At this point it seems to be a two-man race in LA, and while Williams may indeed win it — it’s not like my model hasn’t been wrong before, plus it’s possible voters go against how they’ve voted historically — the difference between the two in probability is definitely not the difference between -500 and where Harrell currently sits (+1400).
As such, I think Harrell is an incredible value — perhaps the best among all NBA futures at the moment. He’s arguably the best player for a Clippers team that has surprised this season, and he’s finishing out the year strong. That +1400 is just way off from his true probability.