The NBA announced today that Oklahoma City guard James Harden won the league's Sixth Man of the Year award--predictably, in overwhelming fashion. Harden appeared in 62 games for the Oklahoma City Thunder this season (starting in just two), averaging 16.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game. Harden was one of the NBA's best pure scorers, with a .660 TS% that ranked behind only dunkaholic Tyson Chandler. His playmaking came a long way as well, something very evident if you've watched the Thunder at all this postseason.
Milwaukee Bucks forward Mike Dunleavy played exceptionally well in his bench role, with per-game averages of 12.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 2.1 assists. Dunleavy wasn't too shabby a scorer himself, ranking 9th in TS%. Anybody who watched the Bucks more than a few times this season can attest to how well Dunleavy performed in his role, as a sort of hybrid scoring/creating forward. His chemistry with backup point guard Beno Udrih evolved quickly and stayed consistent.
However, Dunleavy went largely unrecognized in the Sixth Man voting, earning only two 3rd-place votes. Not being in the playoffs sure seems to have hurt his case: only New Orleans forward Carl Landry and Portland guard Jamal Crawford joined Dunleavy as vote-getters from lottery-bound teams.
There were lots of deserving candidates behind Harden: Philadelphia's Louis Williams, Dallas's Jason Terry, and Chicago's Taj Gibson, just to name a few. Mike Dunleavy's season might not have been high-profile enough to capture national attention, but it was undeniably successful. Every Bucks fan can attest to that.