Let's not kid each other: this year's NBA rookie class leaves a lot to be desired.
Before his most recent injury flare-up, Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid was the runaway favorite to win the 2016-17 Rookie of the Year award. Now that he's officially out for the rest of the season — and with teammate Ben Simmons in the same boat — the race for this prestigious honor is wide open.
Someone has to win, after all, so why not one of these guys? Here are our five favorites to be named the least productive Rookie of the Year in NBA history.
Brown's numbers don't jump off the stat sheet, and they never will. He just does all the little things to help you win games, as evidenced by how big a part he's playing in the Celtics' success as a rookie.
When the field is this weak and Brad Stevens trusts you that much, you're in our top five for the Rookie of the Year. We can always find someone else to get buckets.
Speaking of buckets, Saric seems like a clear choice if the voters prize counting stats above all else and don't want to give Embiid the award. He'll have every opportunity to score, score and score some more now that Philadelphia has absolutely nothing to play for the rest of the season and could boost his average as high as a lofty 13.0 points per game!
... seriously, what is wrong with this rookie class?
Brogdon offers the most mediocre of both worlds with Brown and Saric: (almost!) double-digit scoring on a team in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff hunt. Brogdon gets more minutes per game than any rookie other than Brandon Ingram, and that trust from Jason Kidd has to count for something.
Speaking of Ingram, quick note: he's not on this list, but he could theoretically win the award with a thermonuclear final month of the season. Given that he's shooting 37 percent on the year, I decided to rule out that possibility. Sorry, Lakers fans.
This one's simple: the NBA Rookie of the Year award should recognize the most outstanding first-year player in a given season. Embiid is that player in 2016-17 even in just 31 games and 786 total minutes played. He was the only rookie to make a significant impact on the game on a nightly basis, regardless of the ridiculously small sample size.*
*There doesn't appear to be a rule preventing Embiid from winning the award, to the best of my research. The NBA requires a player appear in 58 games to qualify for per-game awards like the scoring title, but Patrick Ewing won it despite playing in just 50 games.
Yet I don't think the voters will agree with that logic, so here's a bold prediction for this lackluster process ...
I understand how ridiculous this seems on the surface, but hear me out for one minute.
Hield scored 16 points off the bench on Wednesday night, including 4-for-6 on 3-pointers. I guarantee owner Vivek Ranadive made his case for his prized rookie to start moving forward — and barring that, to get more minutes at the least. Assuming coach Dave Joerger obliges because he likes having a job, Hield could easily average that same 16 points per game for the rest of the season.
That would lift Hield's scoring average to 10.7 points per game, eclipsing that all-important double-digit milestone. Combined with his late surge and the voters' desperation for any positive narrative, I'm willing to wager Hield comes away with the award in a closely contested four-way race.
I mean, I can't wager on that yet, because no one has odds currently. But when they do, you'll be the first to know, dear reader.