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The Complete Guide to Being the Best Sixth Man

The Sixth Man

The Sixth Man is a reserve role who is not part of a team’s starting five, but plays a big role in the outcome of a team’s success. Just because the Sixth Man doesn't start the game, that doesn't mean that they’re the sixth best player in a team.

Often, the Sixth Man is good enough to be a starter, but the Coach feels that by bringing them in later in the game, he can exploit match ups against the other team's second unit.

Do you find yourself being the first one off the bench for your team? Does your Coach look to you to make an impact and keep the energy high with the second unit?

The Best Sixth Man

Toni Kukoc, Manu Ginobili, Jamal Crawford

If you’re answering yes then it’s highly likely you are your team’s Sixth Man.

In this article, we’re going to breakdown the role of the Sixth Man. By the time you’re done reading, you will know exactly what the Sixth Man does on the court and what skill set this position requires to be successful.

What is a Sixth Man in Basketball?

The Sixth Man position is the player who is often the first substitute into the game for their team. This position is a very valuable role for any team because they are relied on to provide leadership along with a consistent and constant effort when they get into the game.

Basically, when the Sixth Man checks into the game the team doesn’t falter, but rather is able to keep their momentum and energy. By coming into the game later, the Sixth Man should be ready to go and already know how they can best help the team after observing from the bench.

The Sixth Man needs to have a number of qualities that help fulfil this role within your team.

    • Bring Energy and Make an Impact on the Game. This role is just as important if not more important than the starting five on your team. The Sixth Man gives the team reliability past the starters that the Coach can put them in and the team will still be able to compete at a high level. This makes a team hard to beat!
    • Mental Toughness. The Sixth Man along with any bench player have to stay in the game mentally, as they never know when their number will be called. They could be the spark for their team when it’s needed the most.
    • Be Reliable and Consistent. As the Sixth Man, Coach is looking for a player that can step up and bring it every game. If you’re able to consistently play your role whether it be scoring points or lockdown defense then that makes you reliable and should solidify your spot in the rotation, especially down the stretch of close games. How important a Sixth Man is to their team could be determined by whether or not they're on the floor down the stretch of close games.

What should a Sixth Man be Good at?

When it comes to the role of a Sixth Man it really depends on what position they are playing; and with this role it could be any position from Point Guard to Center.

So lets break it down between Guards and Post Players.

Guards

    • Ball Handling and Taking Care of the Basketball. Point Guards and all Guards are the main ball handlers for their team. They’re the ones bringing the ball up the court with their dribble and getting the offense started. If they defense wants to apply pressure then the Guards have to be able to handle it without turning the ball over. The Sixth Man can be a big difference maker if they can dribble the ball without errors.
    • Knocking Down Jump Shots. A Guard that can knock down shots is a huge asset to any winning basketball team. If they score a short jump shot or a three-pointer then it helps keep the defense honest and takes pressure off other scorers because there’s another scoring threat on the court. A Sixth Man coming off the bench and hitting those shots is big time!
    • Attacking the Rim. Guards have to use their dribble to attack the rim and make the defense find a way to stop them. By attacking the rim, the Guards can open up the court for the rest of the team. They may be able to score off the attack, but if the defense comes to help then they are able to make a pass out to the perimeter for a shot or dump a pass to a Post Player for an easy score. The Sixth Man with an attack mentality is dangerous!
    • Passing to an Open Teammate. Guards are the main passers for their basketball team. They have to be able to read the defense and make the appropriate pass without turning the ball over. If Guards can make smart, strong passes then the offense should be able to run more smoothly and create scoring opportunities for everyone on the court. The Sixth Man has to keep the offensive operation running with their passing skills.
    • Lock Down Defense. As a Guard, your asked to make life tough for your opponent on defense. You are having to be quick on your feet staying in front of the offense and trying to make it difficult for them to catch a pass or take a shot. Even just contesting every shot makes it hard to score and if the the 6th Man can do that then they will most definitely find themselves on the court during crutch time to provide that defensive stop their team needs.

Post Players

    • Offensive and Defensive Rebounding. A simple rebound can be the difference between a big win and a heartbreaking loss. Post Players need to crash the boards on both ends of the court. Securing rebounds on the defensive end to stop your opponent from scoring and grabbing a rebound on the offensive end to keep the possession alive for your team is one of the most important jobs of this position. If your a Post Player and want to become your team’s Sixth Man, you should build up your strength and work on boxing out and rebounding.
    • Lock Down Defense and Shot Blocking. As a post player, your asked to make life tough for not only the player your guarding but for every offensive player who comes near the rim. Basically, you stand between an opponent and two points. Strong shot blocking, even just shot contesting, from a Post Player is important because it can give smaller players a reason NOT to come into the lane for an easy shot. If the the 6th Man excels at blocking shots, they will most definitely find themselves on the court during crutch time to provide that defensive stop their team needs.
    • Scoring Off a Post Up. This position plays with their back to the basket which means they need to be able to post up their defender. A Post Player has to be able to muscle their way for position, receive the entry pass, and then make a post move. Ideally, the they can make a post move with their back to the basket but they also have the skill set to catch the pass then turn and face up to attack the rim. If you’re a Sixth Man that can score in the post then expect to be a go-to scoring option when you get subbed into the game.
    • Hitting Open Jump Shots. A Post Player that can knock down shots is a huge asset to any winning basketball team. If they can step out and score a short jump shot or even a three-pointer then it helps keep the defense honest and takes pressure off other scorers because there’s another scoring threat on the court. A big Sixth Man hitting those shots is big time!
    • Passing to an Open Teammate. Post Players may be called upon to step outside the three-point line to catch a pass and reverse the ball. When this happens, they have time to read the defense and make the right pass to a teammate that can set up a scoring opportunity. The Sixth Man has to have a passing mentality to help the offense run smoothly.
    • Screening to Get a Teammate Open. Another way to make a difference on the offensive end is setting strong screens to get a teammate open. Ball screens, down screens, back screens - it doesn’t matter what type of screen. A Post Player has to be able to get someone open with their screening game which can open up the floor and lead to scoring opportunities for their team. If a Sixth Man isn’t a strong scorer on the offensive end then they should make screening, passing, and offensive rebounding their main focus on the offensive end because those skills lead to points!

The Sixth Man in the NBA

Guards

Lou Williams

Sixth Man in Basketball

2x NBA Sixth Man of the Year

Manu Ginobili

Best Sixth Man

4x NBA Champion

Jamal Crawford

The Sixth Man Playing Basketball

3x NBA Sixth Man of the Year


Post Players

Lamar Odom

Sixth Man in Basketball

2x NBA Champion

Robert Horry

Basketball's Sixth Man

7x NBA Champion

Toni Kukoc

The Importance of a Sixth Man

3x NBA Champion

Basketball Drills for the Sixth Man

Guards

Jason Otter Finishing Moves


Shooting Off Screens

Ganon Baker Ball Handling Drills


Individual Pro Passing Drills


Post Players

How to Post Up and Get Open


Ganon Baker Post Moves


Mid Post Moves


Post Footwork


Recommended Training Videos for the Sixth Man

Guards


Post Players


Recommended Training Equipment for the Sixth Man

Guards

Basketball Dribble Goggles

The Basketball Dribble Goggles help develop good fundamentals in basketball dribbling by forcing players to dribble without looking at the ball. Having player's heads up allows them to watch opponents and make better passing, shooting, and dribbling decisions.


The Dribble Defender

The Dribble Defender is designed to make every basketball player a better ball-handler! The Dribble Defender basketball training equipment is designed to get the most out of any and all dribbling drills.


Post Players

Grab and Control Rebounding

Basketball players jump, grab the ball and pull it in while opponents attempt to to steal it away. This basketball training equipment teaches you to firmly grab the ball, improving ball handling skills during competition


MVP Vertical Jump Pro System

Build explosiveness in your lower and upper body for your optimal M.V.P. Alan has selected exercises that will make you as explosive as possible on the court. Most athletes using this basketball training equipment will start to see small results beginning around weeks 3-4 and the most results in weeks 9-12.


Learn More

This Complete Guide to being the Sixth Man should cover everything you need to know about this position, but there's always room to grow. To learn more start browsing through our vast selection of DVDs right now.

Our basketball training videos feature the best of the best. From the top coaches in high school, college, & the Pros to the best basketball trainers who teach Pro players we have them all. We have DVDs for rent by mail, downloads available for purchase, and 48 hour rental.

You can watch them over and over, take notes, and then rent another DVD over the same topic and very quickly your knowledge of a specific topic will reach mastery level. Using basketball training videos as a coach can change your entire coaching style.

Jun 14, 2019 Coach Chris

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