Let’s get this out of the way: If Joel Embiid plays, say, 10 more games, he should be Rookie of the Year. Hell, maybe he should be even if he’s done for the season. The Washington Post thinks he still gets it. But the voting panel – writers and broadcasters – have previously let games played, or won, factor into their decision. I don’t see Embiid getting enough votes with his current workload. He’s far and away the best rookie, so there’s a possibility he’ll eek it out, but let’s operate as if he won’t.
With JoJo out of the running, the race basically becomes a two-man sprint: The Bucks’ Malcolm Brogdon facing off against Dario Saric. Both unconventional rookies in 2017 – Saric a veteran in Europe, and Brogdon a 24-year-old, four-year college player who red-shirted his sophomore year – Dario and Malcolm are miles ahead of the rest of the class. Here’s how they compare in rank:
- Points per game
- Saric – 11.1 (2nd)
- Brogdon – 9.5 (tied 3rd most)
- Rebounds per game
- Saric – 6.2 (2nd)
- Brogdon – 2.6 (tied 11th most)
- Assists per game
- Saric – 1.8 (tied 10th most)
- Brogdon – 4.2 (1st)
- Steals per game
- Saric – 0.6 (tied 5th most)
- Brogdon – 1.2 (1st)
And in percentages among qualified players:
- Saric – 40.2% (8th)
- Brogdon – 44.2% (3rd)
- Saric – 31.9% (12th)
- Brogdon – 41.4% (1st)
You could make a very compelling argument for Brogdon based on those numbers, but over the last 15 games – when Dario really started to come into his own – Dario wins in points (15.7 to 9.6) and rebounds (6.9/2.0) by an even wider margin than the season averages, while jumping ahead in field goal percentage (46.3/41.3) and notching four double-doubles.
For better or worse, these awards can also be a bit highlight-driven. While Brogdon lit it up early in the season with a couple of Vine-able dunks, Dario has just recently begun to dazzle:
With increased playing time – and more minutes at his natural PF position in the absence of Ilyasova – his numbers have skyrocketed (limited sample size):
Dario Saric this year…
Game #: 1-48 | 49-58
PPG: 9.9 | 17.3
RPG: 5.8 | 8.1
APG: 1.7 | 2.5
TS%: 48.7 | 53.1
+/-: -192 | +19
MPG: 23.7 | 30.2
— max (@MaxOnTwitter) February 26, 2017
If he keeps up this pace, that ROTY trophy will end up in Camden after all.
And just imagine how good Dario will be when he finally comes over. IF he ever comes over.