Evidently, though — after much prayerful consideration and soul searching — JoJo has come to the realization that a different player should win the award. I will give you three guesses which player he’s selected.
Yep, you got it. From Jackie MacMullan of ESPN:
Even though he appeared in less than half of his team’s games this season, Embiid believes he should be crowned NBA Rookie of the Year.
“I think so,” Embiid said. “I mean, no disrespect to other guys. Dario [Saric] is my teammate and my friend, and I love him. And I know Malcolm [Brogdon] from when I was visiting schools. When I made my visit to Virginia, he took me around. They both had great seasons.
“I know people are saying about me, ‘Oh, he only played 31 games.’ But look at what I did in those 31 games — averaging the amount of points I did in just 25 minutes.”
Embiid’s making an argument adopted by many NBA fans and observers, including our own Eric Freeman: that what he accomplished in 31 games and 786 total minutes before being forced to go under the knife to repair a meniscus tear was more impressive, impactful and valuable to his team’s success than what Saric, Brogdon, Willy Hernangomez or any other first-year player up for consideration. That his remarkable production — 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.5 blocks and 2.1 assists in just 25.4 minutes a night, per-minute marks that evoked comparisons to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Shaquille O’Neal, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, Walt Bellamy and Anthony Davis — outweighs the fact that he played half as many minutes as the lowest number of any Rookie of the Year in history (1,558, Kyrie Irving, 2011-12) and nearly 20 fewer games than any ROY in an 82-game season ever (50, Patrick Ewing, 1985-86).
Given just how good Embiid was when he played, and the considerable gap in the two-way difference he made and those offered by Saric and Brogdon, it’s an enticing case. It’s somewhat similar, in fact, to the one forwarded by those who promoted Embiid for a spot on the Eastern Conference All-Star team. The coaches, though, wound up going with Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap, whose statistical production didn’t sparkle like JoJo’s, but who played 22 more games and more than 1,000 more minutes than Embiid did before the All-Star break alone.
Embiid recognizes the similarity, too. More from Jackie Mac:
“I’m not sure why people want to punish me for [only playing 25 minutes a game]. Even going back to the All-Star Game. I didn’t get chosen for that, and people were killing me because I didn’t play 30 minutes a game. But here’s what I don’t understand: If I put up those numbers in less time than another guy, what’s the difference? Doesn’t it mean I did more in less time? Wait until I play as many minutes as those guys, then you will see what I do.
“But people have their own ideas about how they vote for things.”
The counter-argument, it seems, would be to say that while Embiid would rightly be considered for every award under the sun once he can “play as many minutes as those guys” and produced at this level, he hasn’t actually done that yet, and that the award isn’t called Rookie of the 20 Percent of the Year For Which You Were Available. That’s how Brogdon and Saric wind up rising on hypothetical leaderboards and actual ballots, and how the clear best rookie in the class winds up coming in second or third in awards voting.
The question, then, is whether enough of this year’s awards voters opted for quality over quantity, choosing to reward less than 800 minutes of A+ material rather than elevating clearly lesser though still respectable production compiled over a significantly larger body of work. We’ll have to wait until the first-ever “NBA Awards Show” televised on TNT on June 26 to find out. Here’s hoping by then Joel has found the right words to properly apologize to The Homie Dario for so coldly and callously pulling his public support.
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