Sixth Man of the Year: Jamal Crawford, Clippers

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No one has ever won this prize three times.

San Antonio's Manu Ginobili, amazingly, has won it only once.

But Jamal Crawford has an excellent chance to become the first three-time hoister of the Sixth Man Award trophy -- after years and years of rampant casting off the bench -- because he made a major contribution to the Los Angeles Clippers during their stubborn 30-15 success without Blake Griffin ... and frankly also because Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was too late in transforming Hassan Whiteside into a Kevin McHale-style big man off the bench.

Even the affable Crawford would have to concede that the trophy would be Whiteside's if he had enough games off the bench to qualify. The problem: Whiteside started 40 games and can only max out at 32 as a reserve, which renders his monster averages of 16.6 points, 12.7 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game when he doesn't start ineligible for this conversation.

League rules state that you have to appear as a sub in more than half the games you play to be eligible here. Crawford, on that basis, strikes us as having the best overall résumé among the contenders who indeed meet the qualifications, edging past Golden State's Andre Iguodala, Oklahoma City's Enes Kanter and Boston's Evan Turner.

In games Griffin has missed, Crawford ranks as the Clippers' third-leading scorer at 15.6 PPG. And in fourth quarters all season, Crawford scored more points than any other Clipper. In February alone, Crawford averaged 19.5 PPG. Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan are massively responsible for L.A.'s ability to maintain a top-four seed with Blake out so long, but let's not gloss over the consistent scoring Crawford provided.

We'll see how many voters agree. From this seat, though, Crawford appears to have a fine shot, at 36, of breaking away from the other two-time winners of this award: Detlef Schrempf, Ricky Pierce and, of course, McHale.

Iguodala undoubtedly ranks as the most influential sixth man in today's game, no matter what his pedestrian stats say, given the reverence with which Golden State's players and coaches speak of his calming influence and invaluable versatility. He means as much to the Warriors' Lineup of Death as anyone not named Steph or Draymond.

I'll leave it to my pal Tom Haberstroh to enlighten you further on how much Curry specifically values Iguodala's passes, but the 17 games he missed on top of those pedestrian numbers make it a bit tougher to say Iggy's had the best 2015-16 season of any sixth man.

Second is as high as I can place him on this ballot.

Which leaves one spot for Kanter -- who offsets a Twitterverse full of jabs about his defense with truly historic offensive efficiency -- or Turner. Those are the only two candidates I considered with my third-place vote, since I'm most definitely one of those nagging sticklers who keeps pointing out that we haven't seen a Sixth Man Award recipient from a non-playoff team since Charlotte's Dell Curry prevailed in 1994 in my maiden season as an NBA beat writer for the 41-41 Hornets.

With apologies, then, to prolific reserve scorers from lottery-bound teams like Denver's Will Barton and New Orleans' duo of Jrue Holiday and Ryan Anderson, Kanter and Turner enter the steel cage.

And Kanter prevails.

Make all the jokes you want about his defense, but Kanter's robust PER of 24.68 is on course to be the highest in league history for a player who started fewer than 10 games. He's an eye-popping 10th in the league in that category, narrowly ahead of a behemoth like DeMarcus Cousins, while likewise bidding to become the first player in NBA annals to average 12-plus points and seven-plus rebounds in less than 21 minutes per game.

I know, I know: He'd get more minutes if his defense wasn't such a punchline. But Kanter simply does too much damage offensively not to barge his way onto the ballot.

Stein's official ballot: 1. Crawford; 2. Iguodala; 3. Kanter.

October prediction: Isaiah Thomas.