September 22, 2017 | 4:04 am
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Denver Nuggets’ Wilson Chandler Leads Race for 6th Man of the Year

The end of year awards are still a long way out yet but there are countless aspiring candidates strutting their stuff very early this season. Conversations on who will be the rookie of the year and who will win the coveted Sixth Man of the year award are already underway. Right now Wilson Chandler of the Denver Nuggets is edging out the competition, but there are a couple close contenders who may give him a run for his money as the season progresses.

The Los Angeles Lakers have exceeded expectations this season and Coach Luke Walton is making exceptional progress with his young roster. Much of LA’s success is due to their bench. Jordan Clarkson is making a huge impact off the pine for the Lakers. He is currently averaging 15.2 points, 3 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. Los Angeles has their eyes set on making Clarkson their future shooting guard and he’s been making some great improvements in hopes of filling that role. In particular, he’s been placing an emphasis on improving his three point shooting abilities and learning how to get better looks on shots. Clarkson provides Coach Walton with more offensive options in that he can be another pick-and-roll ball handler when need be. With a little focus on defensive improvement Clarkson could be a serious nominee for the award.

While we’re on LA, we need to talk about Lou Williams. He has proven to be very valuable to the Lakers this year. The 30 year old veteran from Georgia has played for several different teams in his NBA career but really seems to have found his groove this season. A fun fact about Lou Will is that he is a previous recipient of the Sixth Man of the year award. This season Williams is averaging 16.7 points and 3.5 assists per game. Currently he’s shooting at a very respectable 39% from the three point line. To top it off he’s making about 83% of his free throw shots which will prove very useful in close games that the Lakers are seeing more and more often. With Kobe Bryant out of the picture, LA was in need of another player who would come in and create shots and Williams has filled this role quite nicely. He could improve on his ability to create shots for his teammates which would make him a much more versatile guard allowing Walton to experiment with more lineup options. With Clarkson and now Williams, the Lakers are primed to have a say in how this award will be determined.

With all that said, if Wilson Chandler continues his resurgent season both Clarkson and Williams will be out of gas. “Ill Will”, as he is known by Denver Nuggets fans, has been nothing short of incredible this season. Chandler is coming off a season-ending injury last year but hasn’t missed a beat. Ill Will is tallying 18.2 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.6 assists so far this season and isn’t slowing down one bit. Wilson is also a respectable three point shooter averaging around 33% from the 3 point line. Before his injury, Chandler took nearly 40% of his shots from the three point line. While he isn’t opposed to taking the opportunity with a good look from three, Chandler is getting to the rim on a much more regular basis this year. He’s shown excellent post-injury confidence by driving to the basket for dunks, lay-ins, & and finishing in traffic through contact. Chandler can also play the power forward position which allows Coach Mike Malone to play with the lineup options. We can definitely expect to see Ill Will in the running for this award as the season progresses as long as he can remain healthy.

There are so many incredible bench players in the NBA–we could have an endless debate about who is showing to be a contender for this prestigious award. I’m confident these three will remain in the running, but we are less than a quarter of the way through the season so anything is possible. One thing is for certain, the competition is fierce and will only get tougher as we move into the new year.

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