Who is your pick to take home this season's NBA Kia Rookie of the Year Award?
The Shadow League brings you a summary of the top three candidates. While each is uniquely different regarding their respective strengths and weaknesses, it goes without saying that they have shown flashes of brilliance that could help push their teams into contention down the road.
Dario Saric, Forward, Philadelphia 76ers
If someone would have told me that Dario Saric would have come off like Larry Bird revisited at certain times during his rookie year I would have told them that they were out of their minds. Okay, before we go any further I have to admit that I'm still a bit biased against European draft picks despite their being many examples of European born players that have come to the NBA and balled out.
Also, the fact that Saric was drafted in 2014 yet chose to stay overseas in the Adriatic league led me to inaccurately believe he simply wasn't ready from a physical point of view.
However, upon further review, it appears as if his delayed decision to play for the Philadelphia 76ers had more to do with a honing of skills rather than a total lack of them. He averaged only 9.9 points per game on the other side of the big pond the year after being drafted and that led many to believe he was simply not about "that life".
But he was only 20 years old when he was drafted. According to DraftXpress, Saric led all rookies in total points and rebounds since Jan. 1. He was also fifth in assists. Considering he’s played in every game this season, it shouldn’t bother anyone if Saric wins Rookie of the Year over his uber-talented teammate. He’s been that good in becoming the first rookie in NBA history with more than 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 150 assists.
Malcolm Brogdon, Guard, Milwaukee Bucks
You can't front on the fact that Malcolm Brogdon had a really good rookie year, but did you really think he was going to be in contention for rookie of the year? Don't even fix your face to lie! Yes, he averaged 18 points and four rebounds per game as a senior for Tony Bennett's Virginia Cavaliers team. The Milwaukee Bucks drafted him in the second round with the 36th overall pick.
Coming out of college, many scouting experts tabbed him as a defensive stalwart with an inconsistent outside shot that had too many moving parts, no shiftiness off the dribble thus limiting his ability to get past NBA guards.
Brogdon proved the "experts" wrong and averaged 10 points and four assists over 75 games. He only started 28 game but he showed and proved in critical portions of the season and upped his average to 13 points per game during the Bucks' exciting but ill-fated playoff series versus the Toronto Raptors.
Listed as a shooting guard, Brogdon performed admirably at both backcourt positions as a consummate combo guard.
Joel Embiid, Power Forward/Center, Philadelphia 76ers
Joel Embiid isn't just the most intriguing player to be considered for Rookie of the Year, but one of the most fascinating talents to come along in quite some time.
Athleticism, great range, handles, footwork, defensive intensity, rebounding and a mean streak that simply isn't there in many foreign-born players; who tend to be a lot more reserved due to cultural influences. He also has a personality and comedic wit that has all of Philly enthused and optimistic.
Drafted with the top overall pick in 2014, a litany of leg and foot injuries have prevented fans from seeing the man who many are comparing favorably to Hakeem Olajuwon on a consistent basis. This season, Embiid only played 31 games for the Sixers before injury shelved him once again.
He only averaged 25 minutes per contest in limited action, but his production was remarkable. The Cameroon native, whose nickname is "The Process", averaged 20 points, eight rebounds and three blocks per game.