Joel Embiid is going to win Rookie of the Year and if you try to argue otherwise, please don’t.
He’s just running away with it right now. The Philadelphia 76ers big man is averaging 20.2 PPG and 7.2 RPG while no other rookie is currently averaging double-figures in scoring on the season.
Reigning third overall pick Jaylen Brown never really had a shot to win this because of the situation he was drafted into. While 11 rookies are averaging over 20 minutes per game right now only one of them – Oklahoma City center Domantas Sabonis – is on a team currently in playoff position while Brown got taken by a good team and had to battle for small forward minutes with Jae Crowder and Gerald Green.
But despite never having a true opportunity to Rookie of the Year, Brown – who is averaging 15.0 MPG at the moment – there is still a chance he finds his way to earning First or Second Team All-Rookie honors.
This is a wide open field after Embiid with nobody else standing out. Philadelphia 76ers power forward Dario Saric and Milwaukee Bucks shooting guard Malcolm Brogdon are the only other two rookie averaging over nine points per game and a strong finish to the season would really put Brown in the mix, with the fact that he’s playing on a competitive team a factor that could help him out a bit with voters.
Just look at how disappointing the players taken around Brown have been this year. Top pick Ben Simmons hasn’t played yet due to injury, Brandon Ingram, Buddy Hield and Jamaal Murray are all getting heavy minutes on crappy teams but their shooting percentages are all below 40% while Brown’s is currently sitting at 42.6%, and many people assumed that Dragan Bender would be more of a project player and his lack of production is almost expected.
A second half serge from a rookie wouldn’t be anything new to the Boston Celtics. Brad Stevens has seen a few rookies take off during the second half of the season. Both Marcus Smart and Kelly Olynyk were named Second Team All-Rookie under Stevens even though it didn’t seem likely during the first half of their respective rookie campaigns.
Smart was getting blocked by Rajon Rondo early in his first season and he was used sparingly out of the gate but he took off once more playing time came his way thanks to Rondo getting traded. He was averaging just 6.8 PPG heading into the All-Star break that year but things had been looking upwards for him ever since he was given the starting job that he kept it even when the Celtics traded for Isaiah Thomas at the deadline, averaging 9.1 PPG after the break and being the only rookie that year to start a playoff game for any team.
Olynyk took a completely different path in his successful rookie campaign, as he had a solid amount of playing time from start to finish with the Celtics not doing much at all that season and limping to a 25-57 record. He averaged 6.9 PPG during the first half while shooting just 42.8% from the field and 28.3% from beyond the arc but he would almost double his scoring average after the break that year by shooting over 50% from the field and 42.6% from three.
Signs of this serge are already starting to show with the All-Star break only a week away. Brown was inserted into the starting lineup in place of Marcus Smart following a recent three game losing streak and the team has responded by going a perfect 7-0 since with the former Cal Golden Bear stepping up and averaging 9.4 PPG during that stretch.
It’s highly likely that Avery Bradley takes that starting spot away from Brown when he’s finally healthy but Brown has already won playing time for himself regardless of his status as a starter. Terry Rozier has oddly been averaging less minutes since the Bradly injury compared to what he was averaging before it due to Stevens using less three guard lineups and Gerald Green has averaged below 12 minutes per game during the Celtics current seven game win streak, leaving Brown with a few more minutes to scoop up when everybody is healthy.
All draft night booing aside, this was a great pick by Danny Ainge and it easily could become justified by finishing the season strong and earning some postseason honor. He’ll try to stay hot when Boston takes on the Sacramento Kings tonight.