The Sixers Joel Embiid was running away with NBA Rookie of the Year. He still may, but Philadelphia has shut him down for the season due to swelling in his knee, meaning he has played in just 31 games. If he wins the award — and talking to voters, most I know are still leaning his way — he will demolish records for the fewest games played by an award winner.
If not Embiid, then who?
Milwaukee’s Malcolm Brogdon‘s name comes up a lot. He’s averaging 10 points and 4.1 assists per game off the bench for the Bucks, and while he’s had the ups and downs expected of a rookie, he has been a solid part of the rotation. Is that enough to be Rookie of the Year? One can make the statistical case that Brogdon leads all rookies in win shares (2.9) and has the highest three-point shooting percentage of any rookie (42.7 percent). He’s had a triple-double this season.
Jason Kidd made his pitch as to why it should be to the Journal Sentinel.
“I think he should be rookie of the year, for what he has done being drafted in the second round,” Kidd said. “That’s probably being a little biased.
“I think it’s a great story. He’s a student of the game. He works extremely hard, not just on the court but off the court, studying film and asking questions. It makes it fun to come to work when you have the opportunity to coach someone like that.”
Brogdon, the Sixers Dario Saric, and Denver’s Jamal Murray can all try to make a case over the last 20 games of the season why they deserve the honor more than Embiid. But frankly, the onus is on them — despite playing in less than half the team’s games and having a minutes restriction, Embiid had a dramatic and emphatic impact on the games when he did play. A 23-40 Sixers team was 3.2 points per 100 possessions better than their opponents when he played (and -9.7 when he didn’t). Embiid looked like a franchise player, nobody else in this class does yet.
For the record, the Bucks are +4.2 per 100 when Brogdon is on the court and -3 when he sits.
It’s going to be an interesting debate.