Why Malcolm Brogdon Deserves to Win the NBA Rookie of the Year Award
With the NBA's regular season winding down, the Most Valuable Player conversation has continued to build, and rightfully so. Even the Black Mamba himself, Kobe Bryant, recently weighed in to say that this could be the year for co-MVPs in Russell Westbrook and James Harden.
A close MVP race is really great for the league and has created a healthy conversation for the stretch run, but the Rookie of the Year discussion is a completely different story.
Unlike last year, when Karl-Anthony Towns won the award unanimously, there's no one player running away with it. After a ridiculously strong start, Joel Embiid -- the early favorite -- was shelved for the remainder of the season with a torn meniscus. Since then, it's been a jumble of five or so players with lesser but respectable numbers.
According to NBA.com's Rookie Ladder, the top five rookies are Embiid, Dario Saric, Malcolm Brogdon, Willy Hernangomez and Marquese Chriss, in that order. But, in USA Today's more recent Rookie of the Year Race, Saric leads Brogdon and Chriss in the top three. Embiid received consideration, but did not make the top three.
So, it's clear that opinions differ in a big way -- especially as it pertains to Embiid and his injury.
Brogdon vs. Embiid
Less than a month ago, ESPN's Marc Stein wrote that Embiid, despite playing just 31 games, is still his leader in the clubhouse, barring something remarkable from Saric or others down the stretch. But I just can't agree, and history doesn't, either.
According to Basketball Reference, an NBA Rookie of the Year has never played fewer than 50 games. In years past, there have been many first-year players who have posted more win shares per 48 minutes in at least 20 but no more than 49 games. Probably the most notable of those players not to win Rookie of the Year was Kenneth Faried, who, in 46 games during the 2011-12 campaign (a shortened 66-game season), put up similar -- and in some ways, better -- numbers to Embiid's rookie campaign.
Embiid has put up a lot more points, even when we compare them over a 36-minute sample, but he's done so on a much higher usage.
In his 31 games, Embiid used 36.0% of his team's possessions while on the floor, nearly double that of Faried's 18.7% on a Denver Nuggets team that finished 38-28. So, if there was ever a time a player with a limited sample could win it, that should've been it. After all, this year's Sixers squad isn't winning 40 games or making the playoffs.
Brogdon vs. Saric
That last point also goes for Embiid's teammate, Saric. Since the big man went down at the end of January, Saric has led all rookies with 17.6 points and is second only to Hernangomez in rebounds (7.3 per game), according to NBA.com. On an increased usage of 26.7% in his last 28 games -- from 22.7% through his first 31 games -- Saric has accumulated an effective field goal percentage of 50.2%.
That's all great and promising for Philly fans, but Saric has a net rating of -5.4 in those games and has allowed 106.5 points per 100 possessions. And his team is 10-18 in those 28 games.
Brogdon has posted a net rating of 0.3 in the Milwaukee Bucks' 14 wins to 11 losses in that same timespan. On a usage of 19.6%, the 24-year-old has shot to an effective field goal percentage of 53.2% with 12.0 points (fourth among rookies), 4.1 assists (third) and 1.2 steals (T-first) in 28.6 minutes per contest.
Overall, Brogdon is first in net rating (2.2) among all rookies this season who have played at least 50 games with 20 or more minutes per game. For comparison, Saric is a -6.8.
Let's not overlook a guy in favor of another who is benefiting from volume due to a teammate's (the would-be ROY) absence. Brogdon's recent play and overall body of work is better.
Brogdon vs. Hernangomez
In our latest Rookie of the Year update, Willy Hernangomez is number one, with a nERD (our metric that measures a player's overall contributions, based on efficiency) of 1.0. But, where he has the advantage in nERD, player efficiency rating (18.9) and win shares per 48 minutes (.123), Brogdon has the advantage with 3.6 total win shares to Hernangomez's 2.9.
For the same reason that Brogdon's win-share advantage is based on volume, Hernangomez's advantage can be attributed to a smaller sample. He's played seven fewer games and 752 fewer minutes than Brogdon. If we shift our attention to team impact, we can get an idea at how much more vital Brogdon has been to Milwaukee's winning efforts than Hernangomez has been to the New York Knicks' losing efforts.
|Brogdon||Offensive Rating||Defensive Rating||Net Rating|
|Hernangomez||Offensive Rating||Defensive Rating||Net Rating|
Even if Hernangomez was on par with Brogdon, Brogdon's efforts have yielded more for his team, in terms of positive results. Again, the Bucks have 37 wins to the Knicks' 28.
Brogdon vs. Chriss
For Chriss, I wish I could say it's just a matter of too little, too late -- but it's not. Despite averages of 13.1 points (on 49.3% shooting), 5.9 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 27 minutes a game this month, Chriss is still next-to-last (of players to have played in five games with 20 minutes per game) with a net rating of -10.3 in his last 14 games. He's allowed 116 points per 100 possessions to his opponents, which is 17th out of 19 qualified players.
With just four wins in March and 22 on the season, the Suns' lack of success is even more damaging than is the Sixers' to Saric and the Knicks' to Hernangomez's respective performances. Chriss has gotten more aggressive and has showed off his explosiveness of late, but it's all been for not with the Suns in lottery-bound, tank mode.
For that reason, the youngster has just 1.6 win shares on the year and a value over replacement player (VORP) of only 0.1. No matter the production, the value and efficiency hasn't been there.
Brogdon has played a more efficient game and has done so for a winning team. His raw production -- especially points -- isn't on the same level as Embiid, Saric or Chriss, but he's been a consistent producer all year long, and he's the only notable rookie poised to reach the playoffs in his first NBA season.
So, for once, can we set promise and flashy play aside and reward someone for consistency and team success? If we're willing to, Brogdon is a no-brainer.