It's no surprise that the Night Shift is growing in popularity and exposure. As the Sixers currently have the 4th best record in all of basketball, their Kings of the Bench are opening national eyes to what kind of depth this team possesses. Most recently, it's an article on the growing importance of the 6th man by Mike Prada over at the SB Nation hub.
Good coaches understand the need to find players who can change the pace of the game during those moments. But there's also a larger sea change at play. Last summer, Thaddeus Young was a restricted free agent. The 76ers could have let him find his market and match any offer. They could have noted that he only averaged 12 points and five rebounds last year and made him an afterthought in their plans. Instead, they moved quickly to lock him up to a five-year, $42 million contract extension that pays him like a starter. The 76ers recognized how many games he changed coming off the bench and rewarded Young's sacrifice with a new deal.
While I still take issue with paying Thad that much money to come off the bench and be below-average at several crucial aspects of basketball, Prada is right in his assessment of how the Sixers approached things. Rod Thorn and Doug Collins know they don't have the talent or, as of now the interest, to claim an all-world superstar and beat teams by going to them again and again. So they opted for depth, youth, and a defensive system that has made everyone look good.
Between Young, Louis Williams, Evan Turner, and Nikola Vucevic (and a growing case can be made for Lavoy Allen), the Sixers have the best bench in the league. I'd argue that between the four of them and Jodie Meeks, they've got five 6th men. Grammatically that doesn't make the most sense, but so many guys on the team play with the attitude that they're only going to be in for X amount of time - they need to make the most of it. In some cases, that means fadeaway Boss three-pointers with 20 seconds left in the shot clock.
But in the case of last night, and so many other times when Thad or Evan et al have put the team on their backs, having that many sixth men is the biggest reason why the Sixers have punted themselves into legitimacy.