NBA betting: Is the Sixth Man of the Year race Austin Reaves' to lose?

ByTyler Fulghum ESPN logo
Wednesday, December 13, 2023

The Lakers left Las Vegas as the first ever NBA In-Season Tournament champions. LeBron James added another MVP trophy to his mantle. Anthony Davis was downright dominant in the championship game, posting 41 points, 20 rebounds, five assists and four blocks.

Perhaps the unsung hero of the game for the Lakers, though, was Austin Reaves off the bench. Reaves scored 28 points in 27 minutes, most of that damage coming in the first half, to keep the Pacers at bay.

After bursting on the scene last year in helping the Lakers make the Western Conference Finals, Reaves signed a 4-year, $53 million deal to remain in Los Angeles this summer. The move appears to be paying off with Reaves now coming off the bench.

Coming off that IST performance, he's the betting favorite to win sixth Man of the Year award at ESPN BET and tonight his Lakers are in Dallas taking on the Mavericks. What a coincidence!

Dallas sixth man Tim Hardaway Jr. is second on the odds board at +400. Let's look into this market about a quarter of the way through the schedule and see how we feel about some of these bets.

The Favorites

Austin Reaves +250 (Lakers) - 14.1 PPG | 4.7 RPG | 4.7 APG | 15.3 PER

Reaves plays for the most glamorous franchise in the NBA and is settling nicely into his new role off the bench. I think he's justified as the favorite, but his price isn't prohibitive. He'll have the benefit of playing in a ton of nationally televised games and has secured his role in the "closing lineup" alongside LeBron and AD for Darvin Ham.

Tim Hardaway Jr. +400 (Mavericks) - 16.9 PPG | 3.4 RPG | 38.3% 3PT | 14.6 PER

Hardaway Jr. is the classic sixth man responsible for coming in the game and shooting early and often from deep off passes from Luka Doncic or Kyrie Irving. THJ doesn't have the ball in his hands as much as Reaves, though, and won't have as much opportunity to produce impact plays and highlights in high leverage moments.

Immanuel Quickley +500 (Knicks) - 15.0 PPG | 2.9 RPG | 2.8 APG | 16.6 PE

Quickley finished second in the voting last year to winner Malcolm Brogdon. He's once again amongst the favorites to win it this year, but I'm not sure I like the price attached to his name. I don't think the Knicks will stand out collectively as a team, nor will Quickley's numbers significantly eclipse other contenders.

Cole Anthony +600 (Magic) - 15.4 PPG | 4.6 RPG | 3.6 APG | 16.8 PER

Anthony is a bet I would definitely consider right now playing for one of the more pleasant surprises in the league, the 16-7 Orlando Magic (2nd in the East) He's firmly tethered to this role in Jamahl Mosley's rotation and he's given the green light to command as much usage as he wants in the second unit. If Orlando continues to wildly exceed expectation, I can see Anthony representing that team success in awards voting.

Malik Monk +750 (Kings) - 14.7 PPG | 4.7 APG | 42.4% 3PT | 16.8 PER

Monk has the spirit of a sixth man when he plays. It's like sixth-man Godfather in the NBA, Jamal Crawford. Monk excelled in this role enough last year that he finished 5th in the voting for award. He now has a reputation. If Sacramento once again proves to be amongst the top four seeds in the West, he's can win this award with his numbers and moments in crunch time.

The Middle Class

Cam Thomas +2000 (Nets) - 23.7 PPG | 3.5 RPG | 2.3 APG | 16.9 PER

This guy is a scoring machine and plays for another surprise team this year in the Nets. He unfortunately, may end up in the starting lineup before the season is over.

Bogdan Bogdanovic +2500 (Hawks) - 16.1 PPG | 3.4 RPG | 2.2 APG |16.2 PER

Bogey is a very deserving candidate, but is likely going to be hurt by his team. Atlanta has not been good this season. They currently sit 10th in the East with a 9-13 record.

Russell Westbrook +2500 (Clippers) - 11.5 PPG | 6.6 RPG | 4.9 APG | 15.2 PER

Westbrook is the most intriguing name in this class. He's the biggest star. The Clippers have played much better after he selflessly volunteered to move to the bench. He's going to have his moments. If you think the Clippers can end up with a top-3 seed in the West, this might not be a bad correlating bet.

The Longshots

Naz Reid +5000 (Timberwolves) - 12.6 PPG | 4.5 RPG | 36.0% 3PT | 17.3 PER

Minnesota has the best record in the league. They're going to get some postseason recognition. Reid has the highest Player Efficiency Rating of any of these candidates. I love this longshot bet.

Isaiah Joe +6600 (Thunder) - 10.0 PPG | 2.4 RPG | 44.2% 3PT | 15.2 PER

Joe ranks 2nd in the NBA in +/- (+8.8) sandwiched between Derrick White and Anthony Edwards.

Al Horford +10000 (Celtics) - 7.7 PPG | 6.8 RPG | 2.8 APG | 14.0 PER

The biggest of longshots, if Boston ends up with the best record in the NBA far and away it is the team that produced last year's winner.