By: Jonah Sprinkel
Earlier this week news broke that Philadelphia 76ers star rookie, Joel Embiid, had been shut down for the year due to a meniscus tear. Until this news was made public it was widely assumed throughout the league, and among fans, that Embiid would run away with the Rookie of the Year award. Knowing what we know now this could very easily not come to fruition. It seems to me that we must ask ourselves, who is now the favorite to win the Rookie of the Year award?
As I said above, Embiid was the favorite, and for excellent reason. "The Process" appeared in a mere 31 games while logging just over 25 minutes a game. This is his only black spot on his application for Rookie of the Year.
In those 31 games Embiid averaged 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 2.5 blocks on 46.6 percent shooting from the field and 36.7 percent from deep. All of this alone is absolutely mind blowing. Those are All-Star level numbers from a rookie on a minutes restriction.
However, let's put this in perspective. In the 1999-2000 NBA season Shaquille O'Neal won the league's MVP award. The playing style of these two players is obviously different but that's not what we're here to discuss. We are simply discussing on court production. In terms of Per 100 possessions Shaq's numbers for his MVP season were as follows: 38.1 points, 17.5 rebounds, 4.9 assists, and 3.9 blocks. On the other hand, Embiid's Per 100 possession numbers stack up quite nicely against the all time great; 38.9 points, 15.1 rebounds, 4.1 assists, and 4.7 blocks. Though Embiid didn't showcase the durability needed, the potential to dominate the game is there.
Embiid doesn't just put up the flashy numbers, he greatly improves his team every time he checks into the game. When "The Process" is on the floor the 76ers offensive rating sits 105.6, good for 26th in the league. On the flip side, when Embiid sits that number drops to 101.7, dead last in the league by a mile. This by itself is impressive, but let's not forget the defensive side of the ball. When Embiid is on the floor 76er opponents post a 102.0 offensive rating, which would be last in the league. With Embiid on the bench that number skyrockets to 111.3, making the opposing offense the 8th best in the league. By himself, Embiid turns the 76ers into a competent NBA team.
Now that we have the lofty comparisons out of the way let's turn our attention to the other NBA rookies who could possibly win this award.
First off we have Joel Embiid's teammate, power forward, Dario Saric. At 22 years of age the Croatian is older than most NBA rookies and played professional ball in Europe from 2009 until this NBA season. Throughout the year Saric has been constantly overshadowed by Embiid though he has shown the ability to be a force in the NBA one day.
In 51 appearances, 14 of which were starts, this year Saric has averaged 25.1 minutes, 11.3 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 1.9 assists on 40 percent shooting from the field and 31.5 percent from beyond the arc. Admittedly, these per game averages, especially the shooting percentages, are not overly impressive. Part of the reason for Saric's consideration for Rookie of the Year stems from a weak rookie class. However, let's continue to take a look at Saric.
Saric, unlike Embiid, doesn't have a meaningful impact on the game. The 76ers offensive rating rises from 102.6 to 102.9 with Saric on the floor. The 76ers opponents actually improve on offense with their offensive rating rising from 108.2 to 109.4 when Saric is in the game.
All of this does not make a great case for Saric to win the award. However, there is one thing working in Saric's favor; his recent play.
Since February 8 Saric has put together an impressive run of games while trying to keep the 76ers afloat. In nine games, four starts, Saric averaged 19.2 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 3.2 assists while shooting 48.2 percent from the floor and a putrid 29.2 percent from three. As I see it, if Saric can keep up this level of per game production for the remainder of the season he should have a good shot at claiming the Rookie of the Year award.
Next on the list is Denver Nuggets shooting guard, and the guy the Timberwolves should have drafted, Jamal Murray.
The Kentucky product came into the league being praised for his shooting ability and it hasn't quite translated yet. Through 60 games Murray is averaging 38.7 percent from the floor and 33.3 percent from downtown. He's also averaging 8.9 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists.
Though praised for his shooting, Murray has actually helped Denver's defense, which is terrible. When Murray is on the floor opponents post a offensive rating of 111.6, When he's off the floor the Nuggets allow opponents offensive rating to rise to 114.3. It's not anything drastic but it is a positive. The same cannot be said about the Nuggets offensive rating however, which rises by 1.2 when Murray is off the floor.
Murray has struggled with consistency all year, as well as making meaningful contributions, all of this will hold him back from even competing for this award.
Finally, we have the dark horse candidate, the 36th overall pick for the Milwaukee Bucks, combo guard Malcolm Brogdon.
At 24 years old Brogdon is as old as most rookies get. This has helped him however as he has shown poise and consistency on the basketball court.
Brogdon has appeared in 59 games, 13 of which were starts and has averaged 9.8 points, 2.6 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.2 steals on 44.4 percent shooting from the field and a shiny 42.3 percent from three point range. Brogdon has been the perfect backup point guard and has demonstrated an ability to be a high level rotational player. At 24, it might be that he is what he is, and that's not a bad thing.
Not only has Brogdon shown that he can produce efficiently, he's also proving that he can impact the game as a whole. When Brogdon is on the court the Bucks have an offensive rating of 112.0, a drastic improvement over the 107.4 rating when he's off the floor. Switching gears to defense, the Bucks opponents post a 107.9 offensive rating when Brogdon is on the floor. When he's on the bench, the opponents offensive rating skyrockets to 112.2.
Not only is Brogdon an efficient individual, he's also bringing value and productivity to his team's overall performance.
Now, you might be thinking, "What are we talking about here? We have an injury prone center who's shown flashes, an inefficient power forward who has had a nice month, a shooter that's not shooting well, and a second round pick. Why should any of these players win Rookie of the Year?"
The answer is simple. There are no other options.