Bulls Veteran Gaining Buzz as Sixth Man of the Year Candidate

Thaddeus Young

Getty Thaddeus Young guards Julius Randle in a February 1 game against the New York Knicks.

All-Star guard Zach LaVine jokingly labeled his teammate Thaddeus Young as the team’s MVP weeks ago. Fast forward to today, and the Chicago Bulls veteran is actually in consideration for an award. Just not that one.

In a midseason roundtable at NBA.com, staff writer John Schuhmann chose Young as his favorite for the Sixth Man of the Year award, despite everyone else casting their votes for Jordan Clarkson, the clubhouse leader.

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Young’s Got Stiff Competition

The aforementioned Utah Jazz guard is averaging 17.9 points, four rebounds, and 2.3 assists for the best team in the entire NBA. It’s going to be hard to top him in the voting, but Schuhmann insists Young’s been a larger contributor:

Young has averaged 12.1 points (on 60% shooting), 5.9 rebounds, 4.4 assists, and 1.4 steals off the bench for the Bulls. Furthermore, while the Jazz have been slightly better with Clarkson on the bench, the Bulls have 12.9 points per 100 possessions better with Young on the floor (+6.6) than they’ve been with him off the floor (-6.3).

Other names in the running include Chris Boucher of the Toronto Raptors and last year’s winner Montrezl Harrell.

Schuhmann went on to note how many games Chicago’s pulled out despite losing minutes with Young on the bench:

No player is responsible for everything that happens when they’re in the game, but the Bulls have won five games this season in which they’ve been outscored (or tied) with Young off the floor. That’s been the case for the Jazz and Clarkson only three times.

Young has been an integral piece to each and every one of Chicago’s 16 wins this season, Schuhmann’s right. It’s why he’s drawn so much trade interest, and why the Bulls will likely end up holding onto him through the trade deadline.

The Award is Contingent Upon Team Success

Rarely has anyone been dubbed the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year whilst playing for a team that’s below .500, or not one of the 16 in the playoff picture. All that to say, the more wins the Bulls can put together, then it’s all the more likely that Thaddeus Young will begin to be seriously considered for the award.

Over the last five seasons, teams home to the Sixth Man of the Year had an average .618 winning percentage. The Jazz are currently at .750, and the Bulls are at .471. Utah has played two more games than Chicago so far.

That said, it’s going to be hard for anyone, not just the Bulls forward, to top Clarkson. He’s playing 26 minutes a night for a team that’s won as many games as Chicago has (16) all season over their last 21 (16-5 in that span).

But as Schuhmann notes, it’s easier to make an argument for a guy not playing among the best of the best. If Young and the Bulls find their way to a playoff seed, it will be because he did some heavier lifting than Clarkson.

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