The Sixth Man
Andres Nocioni, Bulls
Nocioni is all about gritty (and often infuriating) defense, and setting his feet to drain long jumpers (so far this year, he has made 41 of 106 treys for a 38.7 percent average). And in the seven games in which he has played 30 minutes or more (two of them starts), the Argentine forward has averaged 18.1 points per game.
Lamar Odom, Lakers
Due in large part to a traffic jam of size on the Lakers' front line, the 6-10 Odom has been forced to take on a bench role in his contract year. And while he's arguably the most talented player coming off the bench in the entire league, Odom has been far from the NBA's best sixth man averaging career lows in minutes (27), points (8.6), assists (2.3) and free-throw percentage (61.8). Though his season stats are far from spectacular, he remains a gifted scorer and passer who's basically suffering from a lack of assertiveness.
Lou Williams, 76ers
Though he has a point guard's size (6-foot-1), Williams has shooting guard instincts - the only issue with that being that he lacks a shooting guard's pure outside stroke (despite improved marksmanship in December, he has made just 26.5 percent of his 3-pointers this year). Williams compensates for that notable - but still developing - deficiency with devastating ability to create off the dribble, and lately he has shown a glimpse of his future as a prolific scorer by averaging 17.0 points through his first 10 December games.
Charlie Villanueva, Bucks
The 2008-09 incarnation of Villanueva (12.9 points, 6.7 rebounds) is the epitome of a wild card, which is both a good and bad quality for a sixth man to have. In some ways, it's intriguing to put a player into the game and truly have no idea whether he's going to erupt for 20-plus points (as Villanueva has done six times this year) or score less than 10 (as he's done eight times).
James Posey, Hornets
The 31-year-old sharpshooter can frequently be seen hoisting his patented scissor-kick jumper to jam a knife into opponents with late, game-clinching 3-pointers. Much like the Bulls' Nocioni, Posey makes a living playing hard on defense and waiting to bury a three. He has little in the way of offensive versatility, but even so, there's probably not a single team in the league that wouldn't appreciate having Posey play his limited but extremely effective role.
J.R. Smith, Nuggets
On any given night, Smith can look like one of the premier shooters in the game, featuring an absurdly quick, wild west-style release, tremendous range and the ability to bury one difficult three after another (he has averaged 13.2 points and 1.7 threes). However, on nights when he disappears, Smith goes completely AWOL - he has scored five or fewer points six times, and has nine single-digit scoring games in total. At 23, his career is still very much under construction, but even on his worst nights, the defense still has to honor his shot.
Andrei Kirilenko, Jazz
His machinery slowed by a pileup of small injuries, AK-47 is not the same dynamo who averaged 15.3 points, 8.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 3.2 blocks in 2005-06. Despite diminished stats, Utah's Russian submachine gun remains an unselfish and productive offensive talent who still capably -- if no longer ferociously -- protects the rim (12.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.4 blocks).
D.J. Augustin, Bobcats
The only rookie on this list has been understandably somewhat erratic, but at the same time, he has been undeniably electric. Augustin has performed significantly better as a starter (18.8 points in six games) as opposed to a reserve (11.5 points in 23 games), but regardless of when he has entered the game, he has done so as a significant offensive threat.
Manu Ginobili, Spurs
Armed with a deadly spot-up and step-back jumper, moves off the dribble that give the illusion of no skeletal structure to restrict his range of motion and, perhaps most importantly, a ruthless scorer's mentality, Ginobili should be in the hunt for his second straight Sixth Man of the Year award.
Nate Robinson, Knicks
Robinson plays with the clear exuberance of a child, which is fitting, because with a generously-listed height of 5-9, he's usually the smallest player on the court. Like any self-respecting youthful individual, Robinson enjoys running around and exerting a large amount of energy, and in this case, his playground is Mike D'Antoni's offense (where he is averaging career bests of 16.5 points, 4.1 assists, 2.0 threes and 1.6 steals).
Jason Terry, Mavericks
Quite simply, the man known as "Jet" has been in a different stratosphere than most other sixth men this season. Despite having come off the bench for 23 of his first 28 games, Terry is averaging a career-best 21.0 points (16th-best in the league) with 3.8 assists on 46.8 percent shooting.