This time last year, Malcolm Brogdon was hoping to carve out a role in the big leagues after the Milwaukee Bucks selected him in the second round of the 2016 NBA draft. Now, he’s the NBA’s Rookie of the Year.
The 24-year-old guard out of Virginia, a four-year standout in the ACC who lasted until the 36th pick in last June’s draft, came out on top in a three-man race with a pair of Philadelphia 76ers standouts — center Joel Embiid and forward Dario Saric — to become the lowest-drafted player ever to take home the honors as the league’s top rookie at the inaugural NBA Awards show in New York on Monday night.
Here’s how the voting shook out:
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) June 27, 2017
Brogdon averaged 10.2 points, 4.2 assists, 2.8 rebounds and 1.1 steals in 26.4 minutes per game as a rookie, making 75 appearances and 28 starts for the Bucks, who bounced back from a tough 2015-16 campaign to make the playoffs and give the Toronto Raptors a tough series in Round 1. The rookie played a significant role in that turnaround; Milwaukee outscored opponents by 2.7 points per 100 possessions with Brogdon on the court, whether on the ball or spotting up away from the action, and got outscored by 1.7 points-per-100 when he was on the pine, as he solidified the backcourt and gave head coach Jason Kidd another big, versatile, steady hand to slot in alongside rising superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, stellar swingman Khris Middleton and the rest of the young Bucks.
There were valid arguments to be made for both of the other finalists, too.
After missing his first two NBA seasons, Embiid finally took the court and was an absolute game-changer in his arrival for the 76ers. The Cameroonian center averaged 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.5 blocks and 2.1 assists in just 25.4 minutes a night — per-minute marks that evoked comparisons to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Shaquille O’Neal, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, Walt Bellamy and Anthony Davis. However, preventative minutes restrictions and an eventual season-ending injury limited Embiid to just 31 games and 786 total minutes — half as many minutes as the lowest number of any Rookie of the Year in history (1,558, Kyrie Irving, 2011-12) and nearly 20 fewer games than any ROY in an 82-game season ever (50, Patrick Ewing, 1985-86).
Saric, meanwhile, came on strong late in the season, averaging 12.8 points, 6.3 assists and 2.2 assists in 26.3 minutes per game in Philly while serving as a primary playmaker and offensive focal point for the scuffling Sixers. Ultimately, though, Brodgon’s steadier contributions to a playoff team seemed to make the promotional case that he refused to have the Bucks make on his behalf, making him the first player taken outside the first round to win top rookie honor since 1966.
Not bad for a guy viewed by some draftniks as having maxed out his development potential and prospective value as a four-year college player without the runway to reach elite status down the line.
“This is a testament to guys that are underestimated,” Brogdon said from the stage. “Guys that are second-round picks. Guys that are undrafted every year, that 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 sacrifice for what you want.”
– – – – – – –