To say the NBA’s 2017 Rookie of the Year race was underwhelming is an understatement. At first, it was a complete runaway, with Joel Embiid not only asserting himself as the dominant rookie, but one of the league’s best bigs, period.
After the 76ers’ budding star went down for the year with an injury just 31 games in, the race opened up for merely above-average rookies to have a shot.
Now Dario Saric and Malcolm Brogdon have emerged as the favorites. “Above average” is not a knock against those players. Saric has done what the Sixers asked of him this season. Before Embiid went down, he provided a nice boost off the bench; he gained a more expanded role after the All-Star break, averaging an impressive 17.3 points and 7.3 boards per game.
If he’d managed that output over the entire season, no one would have any problem giving him the honor. Yet as it stands, he’ll finish the year averaging fewer than 27 minutes per game, which would be an all-time low for a Rookie of the Year winner.
Obviously, if you’re knocking Saric for his minutes, then you’re not in Embiid’s corner either. After the 76er duo, you have to look to Brogdon as the biggest ROY threat.
Like Saric, Brogdon has also seen his role increase over the season and is now playing about 30 minutes a night on a playoff-bound Milwaukee team, while averaging 12.6 points, 4.5 assists, and 3.0 rebounds. But again, thanks to a slow start to his career, Brogdon would have the lowest points per game of a ROY, as well as the lowest minutes per game.
Some sort of historic low is going to be hit this year, whether it’s from Embiid’s games played, Saric’s minutes, or Brogdon’s points (etc.). Yet, they remain the best candidates in a rookie class to forget, and someone has to win the award.