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April 10, 2017

Dario Saric will probably win Rookie of the Year, but should he?

For a few months now, Sixers coach Brett Brown has said that “the Rookie of the Year runs through Philadelphia,” which basically means that if Joel Embiid doesn’t win the award, Dario Saric should. Considering that those are two of his core pieces moving forward, Brown should say this.

We outlined Embiid’s amazing season the other day, but even JoJo threw his support behind his teammate:

The good news for the Sixers is that Saric probably will win the award because counting stats often take precedent in these things (Related: I would be surprised if Russell Westbrook doesn’t win MVP, even though his candidacy has more substance than TRIPLE DOUBLEZZ). In the latest rookie ladder,’s Scott Howard-Cooper writes, “Saric seems to be in the lead. Again, it’s a small sample size, but possibly also indicative.”

“I think there’s something to be said for the upward body of work, what people have done as the season has come to an end,” Brown said. “In that assessment, you can judge improvement. And I just feel like those few things really make Dario’s opportunity to be selected eye-popping.”

Brown is correct that Saric improved after the All-Star break. Whether that has to with becoming more comfortable with the NBA game, receiving more of an opportunity as his teammates dropped like flies around him, or a combination of the two, Saric has played much better down the stretch run.


This is a nice development for the Sixers. They gave Saric a whole lot of responsibility after the All-Star break, and he improved the quality of his play as his counting stats also went up. That isn’t the easiest thing to accomplish, and it bodes well for his future.

Still, I’m not convinced that the Rookie of the Year runs through Philadelphia as Brown likes to say.

This is probably going to anger most of my Twitter timeline, but despite Saric’s improved second half, Malcolm Brogdon has a serious case if Embiid’s 31 games played disqualifies him from the running (And in my opinion, it does). In the case of Saric vs. Brogdon, who averages 10, 3, and 4 per game, it comes down to where you stand on volume vs. efficiency:

•    There is a wide gap in shooting percentages and assist-to-turnover numbers. Brogdon obviously is counted on quite a bit less within the Bucks offense, but the difference is considerable enough to note it. He shoots 40.2 percent from beyond the arc, while Saric is only at 31.2.

•    Brogdon is also a solid defender so Saric doesn’t make up any points there.

The situations aren’t perfectly comparable, but it feels like the argument for Brogdon is similar to the one that Sixers fans made a few years ago for Nerlens Noel. And if we’re going to rightfully poke fun at Michael Carter-Williams’ ROY now that he’s on his third team, you can’t turn around and point to Saric winning Rookie of the Month a few times as evidence that he has to win.

It’s a tricky choice because I’m not certain either player would be as effective if they traded roles. Brogdon’s efficiency would likely plummet as the top scoring option in Philly, while Saric’s shaky jumper might mess with the Bucks’ spacing.

Considering Brogdon is a year and a half older than Saric and playing more in an off-ball role, I think Dario will have the better career as he refines his three-point shot. But if we’re really rewarding the best rookie season, Brogdon definitely has a case if Embiid is out of the running.

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann

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