The Boston Celtics have recently hit the most difficult patch of their season thus far. They are 1-3 in their last four games including a loss to the Nets and overtime losses to the New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers. Amidst that recent turmoil has been a shift in betting odds concerning the 6th Man of the Year Award. Malcolm Brogdon was and still is among those with high odds but the favorite has shifted to New York Knick Immanuel Quickley, whose odds went from +175 before defeating Boston to -130 after, per MGM Sportsbook.
This shift is do to a recent surge in Quickley’s scoring, punctuated by the overtime defeat over the Celtics. He’s averaged18.3 points per game over the last ten games and 22 points per game over his last five. Both are decent jumps up from his season average of 13.4.
Meanwhile Malcolm Brogdon still has good odds, matched with Quickley in some sportsbooks or a slight disadvantage, with his worst odds a +120 on Draft Kings per RotoWire. Brogdon is averaging 14.8 points per game and both players are hovering around four rebounds and three or four assists.
Most fans would say that Quickley’s recent jump is more or less temporary and Brogdon clearly deserves the award more. But judging by season counting stats the race is rather close. Looking at some advanced stats things are less clear. Brogdon has better per 100 possessions and per 36 minutes stats per Basketball Reference; but Quickley has a better estimated plus minus, one of the better all-in-one stats out there, per Dunks and Threes.
Style separates Malcolm Brogdon and Immanuel Quickley’s Sixth Man of the Year cases
Things start to separate however when looking at how both players play. Each are combo guards but watching Malcolm Brogdon he’s a bit more of a table setter compared to Quickley, who is more of a gunner. This is reflected in their assist percentages with Brogdon assisting on 22.8 percent of teammates’ shots and Quickley at 16.7 percent (per Cleaning the Glass).
Brogdon gets the edge in efficiency too, scoring an outstanding 1.26 points per shot attempt while Quickley is still above average at 1.17, according to Cleaning the Glass. Watching the games both are there to score, no question, but there is a difference in the way Brogdon can carry the offense compared to Quickley. This can be reflected in his efficiency. He isn’t forcing as many shots as if he were a shoot first guard. Things can run through Brogdon as a primary ball handler as he maintains the flow of the game with the second unit.
This brings up an overall point about the Sixth Man award in general. Typically the honor has been awarded to the highest scorer of the bench, without much thought beyond that, which explains the recent change in betting odds. Most recent winners, Tyler Herro and Jordan Clarkson fit this mold, they’re shoot first attackers.
Proving this point even further can be done by looking at an early year favorite for the award, Russell Westbrook. Westbrook has had a bumpy last couple years to say the least. Most of that predicated on his inefficiencies as a scorer. He was only considered for the award because he was scoring off the bench when he was a Laker (16 points per game) .
To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with this type of player in the right context, they’re needed and serve a purpose. And sometimes those efforts are particularly remarkable and deserve to be awarded. But, that doesn’t mean players like Brogdon should be looked over simply because of scoring.
Yes scoring is the main objective of a basketball game, but teams don’t exist in a vacuum. The idea of a bench scorer who is also a quality table setter when needed should be considered as well. Brogdon can get others involved, score on his own, or be a spot up shooter. He came to this team with the role of being someone who can run the offense when one of the Celtics stars needs the rest, and he’s done that thus far. Plus, he’s only a small fraction away from being at 50-40-90 for the season and leads the league in three point percentage.
Quickley has been having a great season, no one is taking that away from him, but when it comes to the best player of the bench, the choice should be Brogdon.