NBA media – reporters, writers, columnists and broadcasters – got the Rookie of the Year award right. Milwaukee Bucks guard Malcolm Brogdon won, as he should have. The award is for the rookie who had the best year, as in a full season. It’s not Rookie of the Half Year. Or Rookie of Third of a Year. Is Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid the most talented? Does he have the potential to be the best player from the 2016-17 rookie class? Yes.
But Embiid played in just 31 games – 10 shy of a half season and 20 fewer than Kyrie Irving when he won the award in 2012. Voters wouldn’t give the MVP award to a player who played 31 games, and the same rule applies to Rookie of the Year.
Brogdon was there, from start to finish, playing in 75 games. Four games into his rookie season, Brogdon scored 14 points and had four assists and four steals, proving early the second-round pick from Virginia was a formidable backup. Brogdon, who is the first second-round player to win this award in the common draft era, averaged 10.2 points, 4.2 assists, 2.8 rebounds and 1.1 steals. He shot 45.7% from the field and 40.4% on threes, which was No. 1 among rookies who attempted at least 190 threes. He was also the only rookie to record a triple-double.
"I want to say, this is a testament to guys that are underestimated," Brogdon said during his acceptance speech at the inaugural NBA Awards show on Monday night. "Guys that are second round picks. Guys that are undrafted every year and get looked over, regardless of the work they put in, regardless of what they do. You can always achieve your dreams if you have faith, if you have sacrifice."
Not only was Brogdon an outstanding backup, but he was also a capable starter, too. In 28 games as a starter, he averaged 12.5 points, 4.7 assists and four rebounds. He had an impact on the Bucks’ success. With Brogdon on the court, Milwaukee, which made the playoffs, scored 109.2 points and allowed 106.5 points per 100 possessions. When Brogdon, who picks up a bonus from Nike for the award, was not playing, Milwaukee had a negative net rating.
In the NBA’s first televised awards show, Rookie of the Year was announced first, similar to the Academy Awards leading off the show with best supporting actor – not the biggest award, but significant enough to attract attention early in the program.
Had Embiid played 50 games, he would’ve won. That didn’t happen, and his Sixers teammate Dario Saric made a solid case for the award, too. But Brogdon deserved it. With Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons rookies next season, a Sixers player has a good chance to win the award a year from now.