Dario Saric

Westbrook, Harden, Leonard MVP top three as NBA announces award finalists

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We are not going to know who is MVP — or any other NBA award winner, outside of the All-NBA Team — before the June 26 award ceremony. That’s after the Finals, and after the Draft.

But we do know who the top three finalists are in the major individual categories, those were announced on Friday on TNT. Here are all the finalists (listed in no particular order).

Most Valuable Player
Kawhi Leonard
James Harden
Russell Westbrook

Defensive Player of the Year
Draymond Green
Kawhi Leonard
Rudy Gobert

Rookie of the Year
Joel Embiid
Dario Saric
Malcolm Brogdon

Sixth Man of the Year
Andre Iguodala
Eric Gordon
Lou Williams

Coach of the Year
Erik Spoelstra
Mike D’Antoni
Gregg Popovich

Most Improved Player
Rudy Gobert
Giannis Antetokounmpo
Nikola Jokic

Remember, the votes were turned in before the playoffs started.

I don’t see any real surprises in there. Certainly not with MVP where Westbrook/Harden/Leonard will be the top three vote getters, with LeBron James fourth, then a pretty wide open race for fifth. Some people will argue LeBron was snubbed, but while he had a strong regular season his Cavaliers took the month of March basically off, particularly on defense, and in a close race that matters.

On down the list, those likely are the top three vote-getters in each category, and while you can try to make a case for people outside this group to be included (was Isaiah Thomas one of the most improved? Scotty Brooks for Coach of the Year?) there are no shockers in there.

Drake will host the NBA’s first ever awards ceremony on June 26, shown live on TNT from New York City. I doubt they do it, but the NBA should treat this like the Golden Globes, with big round tables and flowing alcohol for the nominees and others in the audience. It would make a more lively show.

Joel Embiid: I should be Rookie of the Year

Mitchell Leff/Getty Images
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Joel Embiid endorsed 76ers teammate for Dario Saric for Rookie of the Year.

But apparently Embiid has backed another candidate – himself.

Jackie MacMullan of ESPN:

Embiid believes he should be crowned NBA Rookie of the Year.

“I think so,” Embiid said. “I mean, no disrespect to other guys. Dario [Saric] is my teammate and my friend, and I love him. And I know Malcolm [Brogdon] from when I was visiting schools. When I made my visit to Virginia, he took me around. They both had great seasons.

“I know people are saying about me, ‘Oh, he only played 31 games.’ But look at what I did in those 31 games — averaging the amount of points I did in just 25 minutes.

“I’m not sure why people want to punish me for that. Even going back to the All-Star Game. I didn’t get chosen for that, and people were killing me because I didn’t play 30 minutes a game. But here’s what I don’t understand: If I put up those numbers in less time than another guy, what’s the difference? Doesn’t it mean I did more in less time? Wait until I play as many minutes as those guys, then you will see what I do.

“But people have their own ideas about how they vote for things.”

Embiid was, by far, the best rookie when he was on the court. That’s why he’s in the Rookie of the Year race.

But, as the cliché goes, availability is the most ability. Embiid was often unavailable.

Did Embiid provide more value to the 76ers in his 786 minutes than Malcolm Brogdon did to the Bucks in his 1,982 minutes?

I gave Brogdon the narrowest of nods. (Dario Saric, inefficient and weak defensively, made a strong late push but never seriously entered my race.)

2017 PBT Awards: Rookie of the Year

AP Photo/Morry Gash
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Kurt Helin

1. Malcolm Brogdon, Bucks

2. Joel Embiid, 76ers

3. Willy Hernangomez, Knicks

The vote on this comes down to one simple question: Is 31 games enough? Because undoubtedly Embiid was the best when he played, but he only played in 37.8 percent of his team’s games and he played nearly 1.200 fewer minutes than Brogdon. That’s not enough for me. I went with the Bucks’ rookie because he became a steady part of the rotation for a playoff team, making a bigger contribution than his peers. Also, no Dario Saric — he put up a lot of numbers for two months after Embiid went down because the Sixers needed someone to take shots, but he wasn’t terribly efficient and was more of a gunner.

Note: Helin has an official ballot this year.

Dan Feldman

1. Malcolm Brogdon, Bucks

2. Joel Embiid, 76ers

3. Dario Saric, 76ers

The question for me with these awards: Who contributed most to his team this season? Obviously, a player can’t contribute when he’s injured. So, did Joel Embiid contribute more in 31 games or Malcolm Brogdon in 75 games? It was close – extremely close. Embiid was so good when healthy and the rest of this rookie class was so weak, when he got hurt, I thought he’d deserve this award. But Brogdon had a big enough March to help lift Milwaukee into the playoffs that his steadier production overtook Embiid’s far-higher peaks.

Dane Carbaugh

1. Malcolm Brogdon, Bucks

2. Dario Saric, 76ers

3. Joel Embiid, 76ers

I was just like you at the beginning of this season, dear reader. I wanted to give Rookie of the Year to Joel Embiid even on a minutes restriction, and even if he started the season late. But, even if he was still the best player of this rookie class, I cannot in good conscience do that. So we turn to Milwaukee, a team with their own budding superstars who Malcolm Brogdon has had to work around. He gets the edge over Saric thanks to a playoff appearance, but mostly because I can’t trust the process much longer.

Report: 76ers haven’t discussed trading Dario Saric, who appeared on Magic board

AP Photo/John Raoux
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“SARIC (FOR AG?)”

That appeared on the exposed Magic whiteboard under the heading “HYBRID TRADE.” Orlando general manager Rob Hennigan called the list “simply listing options, including some of which other teams have inquired about.”

But lest you think a Dario Saric-for-Aaron Gordon trade is in the works…

Jessica Camerato of CSN Philly

the Sixers have not discussed trading Saric with the Magic or any other NBA teams, according to a source.

The 76ers haven’t even discussed Saric trades with other teams? That seems pretty irresponsible by Philadelphia, which could be gaining information about Saric’s value.

More likely, the 76ers are just trying to silence noise the front-runner for Rookie of the Year in order to keep their fans, hungry for hope, happy.

Philadelphia might eventually trade Saric. His fit with Ben Simmons is questionable. But that’d likely be a ways off, so why indulge the rumors now?

The 76ers are trying not to let Orlando’s mistake become theirs.

Did photo accidentally leak Orlando’s summer free agency, trade targets?

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On Monday, the Orlando Magic signed Patricio Garino for the rest of the season, they want to take a look at the guard wing out Argentina and see how he might fit with their young core.

As is common, a photo of Garino signing his contract was Tweeted out by someone close to the player… except in the background of the photo there is a whiteboard that seems to have a list of all Orlando’s summer targets. Here is a closeup of the board (the original Tweet has been taken down, as you would expect).

Interesting names on there. Andre Iguodala for one, he could get pushed out as the Warriors have to spend a lot to keep Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry this summer (it will mean Iguodala and/or Shaun Livingston could be on different teams next season). Paul Millsap could leave Atlanta, but for Orlando?

Dario Saric? Good luck getting him out of Philly.

Every team has a board like this, and this particular one looks like an early list, more brainstorming than detailed planning. Nothing earth shattering. Still, you’d prefer doesn’t go public.