Malcolm Brogdon was selected in the 2nd round of the 2016 NBA draft, the 36th pick overall.
That shouldn't matter, but it does. He came from a good basketball program at Virginia, but one that hadn't really made a splash on the national scene. He started at Virginia as a talented player from Georgia who wasn't heavily recruited, but got better every year in high school back in Georgia. His college trajectory would be the same—his minutes climbed up steadily each year he was in school, all the way to 33.9 per game his senior year.
Oh yeah, he stayed in school and graduated from the University of Virginia, one of the nation's best public schools, in four years. For 99% of Americans, that would be a laudable achievement. For someone trying to make it i the NBA, it was like cancer.
Befitting his draft spot, not many teams thought Malcolm Brogdon would be a good NBA player. The second round is reserved for bench players and the once-in-a-while home run, like Manu Ginobili, Draymond Green, or Isaiah Thomas. Most guys drafted in the second round will never start a game in their life—many won't even make it to the NBA, getting drafted under the premise that they'll be sent overseas to toil until they show some signs of promise.
It was good then that Brogdon went to a young Milwaukee team with a head coach unafraid of playing young players. That some injuries to key starters forced him into a bigger role. That his work ethic and ability to contribute in multiple ways made him a mainstay in the lineup,
He started 28 games for the Bucks this season, playing 1,982 minutes (just over 26 per game). In those minutes, he dominated, leading qualified rookies in field goal percentage (45.7%) and thee point percentage (40.4%). He was first in steals, one of the most important box score stats, and also assists. He was the only rookie to get a triple double. Oh, and he's a phenomenal human being.
Brogdon didn't have jaw-dropping talent that fellow contender Joel Embiid displayed on the court—but he did play over 1,000 more minutes. He didn't score as many total points as Dario Saric, who played more minutes for an abysmal Philadelphia 76ers team. No, Brogdon was on a playoff team. He earned those minutes, and those points, in the heat of competition, not garbage time.
If you look at the three players side-by-side, there's no question who the rookie of the year is—it's Malcolm Brogdon. The only reason he wouldn't win is because of all the stuff mentioned at the top. Because he was a second round pick who played four years at a non-basketball school. Because he's not someone you expect to be a star.
Embiid is that someone. Foot injury aside, he has always had that "superstar" label that teams are so willing to heap upon young, unproven players. Saric never had that label, and it's only because of this year's extremely weak class that he's in the running.
Embiid embodies what people want in their Rookie of the Year. He was a one-and-done player at Kansas who took people's breath away on the court. Brogdon took your patience as the Cavalier defense ground to victory after victory.
But Rookie of the Year isn't about potential, it's about what happened this year. And Malcolm Brogdon was the best player. He was on a great team and made an impact. Jeol Embiid's 76ers went on a win streak with him in the lineup, but it still was a bad team. That stuff matters. The stats matter.
What happened this year matters. So don't rob Malcolm Brogdon of this award. He earned it.