After a long wait, Joel Embiid made his NBA debut on October 26th, a home game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. He didn’t shoot particularly well and can be forgiven for that but he had 7 rebounds, he made a three showing off his range, he went to the line 8 times, he had 2 blocks and 20 points. From then on Embiid, even on a minutes restriction, displayed all of the skills that made him a prospect that was highly anticipated. Athletic, energetic, passionate and oh yeah, he can score. Embiid has range, can rebound and block shots, is athletic enough for screen and roll, likes to run the floor and he is the only person who could make Sam Hinkie seem normal, embracing the Process. In any other year Embiid would be Rookie of the Year but he shouldn’t be Rookie of the Year this year. He only played 31 games. His last game was three months ago. He didn’t play half the season. Extraordinary as Embiid was, and he definitely passed the eye test as a future star in the league, he didn’t play in enough games. He didn’t have to hit the rookie wall and show what could he do. He didn’t get fatigued. He didn’t have to face desperate teams who were manic trying to win games and get in the playoffs. He stopped playing in mid-January. The All Star game was a month away.
The Vince Carter tagline perfected by Charles Barkley, “Half-Man, Half a Season” because of Carter’s injuries in his prime cannot even apply to Embiid. He didn’t even play half a season.
Was Embiid the best rookie? For 31 games he was. But the season didn’t end in January. Unfortunately for Embiid and his torn meniscus, the season was interrupted, was not complete. It’s not fair to the rookies who completed the entire season for Embiid to receive an award he didn’t fully earn just because when he played he dominated.
The Lakers Brandon Ingram is not in the Rookie of the Year conversation but he played the most minutes. Dario Saric played the most games, scored the most points. had the most rebounds. Malcom Brogdon had the most assists. And that is the problem with just wanting to give the award to Embiid because he is the most likely to be a perennial All-Star. At this point in his very young career, Embiid is a cautionary tale. Two surgeries and 31 games. It makes you wonder if he can be healthy.
If not Embiid then who?
1. Malcolm Brogdon (Bucks). 10.8 points. 4.3 assists. Starting point guard on a playoff team and that means something. Plus Brogdon was a second round pick so he proved a lot of people wrong. He has fortitude. Win Shares: 4.1. 45.7% shooting. 40% from three. Offensive Rating: 112. Defensive Rating: 111. PER: 14.9
2. Dario Saric (76ers). 12.9 points. 6.4 rebounds. Blossomed when Embiid went down and showed off his incredible skills on the perimeter, putting the ball on the floor and driving to the hoop. Has a great motor. Win Shares: 1.1. 41.2% shooting. 31% from three. Offensive Rating: 96. Defensive Rating: 109. PER: 12.7
3. Jamal Murray (Nuggets). 9.7 points. 2.6 rebounds. Shooting guard that has nice athleticism and a decent shot but he did bite on Westbrook which freed Westbrook to hit the three in the game winner on Sunday. Win Shares: 1.2. 40.3% shooting. 32% from three. Offensive Rating: 103. Defensive Rating: 114. PER: 11.8
4. Buddy Hield (Pelicans/Kings). 10.3 points. 4.0 rebounds. The best thing that happened to Hield was the trade to Sacramento. He is averaging 14.4 points, making 47% of his shots and 42% of threes in Sac-town. Hield is the perimeter player all teams seek and he likes physicality enough to get in there and rebound. Win Shares: 0.2. 42.0% shooting. 38% from three. Offensive Rating: 104. Defensive Rating: 113. PER: 11.5.