If you want a snapshot of how volatile the race for Sixth Man of the Year has been this season in the NBA, look no further than New York guard Immanuel Quickley’s 38-point outburst in a double-overtime win over the Celtics on March 5.
A 250/1 longshot just a few weeks earlier, Quickley had played his way into serious consideration for the Sixth Man honor prior to that game, thanks in part to what would ultimately be a nine-game win streak that thrust the Knicks into the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. After he went off against Boston, Quickley became a -130 favorite at BetMGM to win Sixth Man of the Year — despite the fact that he started against the Celtics.
Quickley, who’s started 14 times in 69 games this season, got the start because point guard Jalen Brunson was out with a foot injury. Also on the bench for that game was Boston’s own Sixth Man of the Year contender, Malcolm Brogdon, who was out with a sore ankle and was the consensus betting favorite before Quickley eclipsed him.
“I think a lot of the initial flip in odds was Quickley had those big games and one came against the Celtics in a game that Brogdon didn’t play in,” said David Lieberman, Caesars Sportsbook’s lead NBA analyst. “We moved Quickley on that just because we kind of assumed we’d get a lot of action coming in on him. Now that the hype has died down a little, I think the market is back to where it should be.”
Immanuel Quickley’s odds to win Sixth Man of the Year at @BetMGM
+25000: Two weeks ago
+6600: Last week
+175: Before Celtics game
-130: Now pic.twitter.com/AGcj6FXuAV
— John Ewing 🦁 (@johnewing) March 6, 2023
Indeed, a little more than a week later, Brogdon is again the favorite, with odds ranging from -135 at Caesars to -177 at Barstool Sportsbook, while Quickley is now priced between even money at Betfred and 2/1 at FanDuel. A 3-point (1-11 FG) dud at Sacramento has something to do with Quickley’s descent, as does his continued presence in the starting lineup.
“It’s one of those markets that’s hard to gauge and predict,” said Lieberman. “Things can change so quickly with it, no pun intended. It’s such a narrative-driven kind of market and guys can start starting. Brogdon has been a steady, off-the-bench guy. I could see voters voting either way. Quickley, his stats went up when he started starting. I don’t know if they’ll hold that against him a little bit.
“I was looking at past Sixth Man of the Year winners. Traditionally it goes to guys who’ve been strictly coming off the bench, but occasionally it goes to a guy who starts 20-plus games, which I think is going to be where Quickley ends up.”
Traded out of contention
This season has already seen one frontrunner’s Sixth Man of the Year candidacy completely derailed by changes in scenery and role. Russell Westbrook was favored to win the award until early February, when trade rumors heated up and the Lakers dealt him to Utah. The Jazz wound up buying out his contract and Westbrook landed back in Los Angeles on the Clippers, where he’s been starting at point guard. Hence, he is no longer considered a serious contender for the Sixth Man honor, drawing 80/1 odds at Caesars.
With Westbrook out of the running, only Brogdon and Quickley have single-digit odds, while Sacramento’s Malik Monk (16/1 at Barstool, which is where Brogdon was when US Bets identified him as a value play heading into the season) and Milwaukee’s Bobby Portis (14/1 at Caesars and BetMGM) will have to go on a serious tear to have a shot in the season’s homestretch.
“It’s getting close, but they’re obviously both hanging around,” said Lieberman. “Anyone coming off the bench averaging a certain amount of points can stay in the conversation, so if they go on a little run or heater, their odds can drop substantially. When these guys are averaging 14, 15 points per game, any high-scoring run could shift the narrative pretty quickly.”
As for Brogdon (14.7 points per game, 4.2 rebounds, and 3.6 assists to go with 46% shooting from 3-point range) and Quickley (13.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 3.2 apg, 36% from three heading into Tuesday night’s action), their stats are similar, but they are stylistic opposites, with Brogdon the portrait of collected steadiness and Quickley the more explosive player.
“In the past, there’s always been a guy off the bench averaging close to 20 a game,” said Lieberman. “The thing is, with Quickley, he might be averaging 20 lately, but overall, his average won’t get close to there, so I don’t think he’ll get too much benefit from being an explosive, high-scorer type. This year’s kind of interesting in that there’s not one specific guy getting a lot of points. Brogdon’s such a steady guy off the bench that it’s just kind of easy to give it to him.”
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