* * *
If Joel Embiid doesn’t play again this season, is he still your Rookie of the Year pick? And if he’s not, who is your pick?
(EDITOR'S NOTE: After the publishing of this question, the Sixers announced Wednesday afternoon that Embiid will miss the remainder of the 2016-17 season.)
* * *
Steve Aschburner: Thirty-one games? A mere 20 percent of his team’s available minutes by the end? Nope, can’t do it. Won’t do it. I don’t doubt that Joel Embiid is the best, most impactful player of this NBA season’s newbies, but there is no other award that could be won by such a meager contribution. When Patrick Ewing won the 1986 ROY after appearing in only 50 games, he played more than twice as many minutes (1,771) as Embiid. Almost every other winner played twice as many games as Embiid (or percentage of games, for Vince Carter and Kyrie Irving in lockout years). If the Sixers big man doesn’t finish strong, I’ll probably vote for Milwaukee’s Malcolm Brogdon, who has been a mature addition stepping into a need situation for the Bucks (given Matthew Dellavedova’s disappointing season).
Fran Blinebury: If Woody Allen was right when he said 80 percent of life is showing up, then Joel Embiid can’t win the Kia Rookie of the Year Award for playing just 31 games. But that doesn’t mean the 76ers lose out. Right now, I’m inclined to pick Embiid’s teammate Dario Saric, who is the only other rookie averaging double figures in points, is second among newbies in rebounds and showing that he very much belongs.
Scott Howard-Cooper: Too soon to tell. It's not just whether Embiid plays or not. It's what Dario Saric and Malcolm Brogdon do as well. Embiid is still the front runner. But if he does sit a lot more than he plays in 2916-17 and Saric has another month like he just played in February, there is at least a conversation. These are unique circumstances.
Shaun Powell: He's my pick only because no one else has made a stronger case. Embiid has done more in a sample-sized season than others have done in a full season, further evidence that this rookie crop is one of the shallowest in years. And yes, the Sixers should sit him until October. Nothing else for him to prove, no need to take any risk, given his history.
John Schuhmann: Thirty-one games aren't enough. So it should be between Malcolm Brogdon and Dario Saric. If Saric continues to play as well as he has over the last month, he could eventually be the choice, but right now, Brogdon is the pick. His raw numbers are just a hair behind those of Saric, he's been more efficient and he's been an important contributor for a team that's just a game in the loss column out of a playoff spot. The Bucks have been very good (plus-4.6 points per 100 possessions) with Brogdon on the floor.
Sekou Smith: If his season is over, and it very well looks like that is the case, he's my Rookie of the Year in a class that has seen many of the top picks from last summer's Draft struggle to distinguish themselves. My preseason pick, Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics, seems to be trending in the right direction. And I've certainly been impressed with the work Jamal Murray has done in Denver and Malcolm Brogdon has done in Milwaukee. Dario Saric has opened some eyes with his play as well. But it's hard to see how anyone can top the impact Embiid made in limited minutes, due of course, to injury.
Ian Thomsen: Embiid can’t earn such an important award after appearing in only 31 games. The second-best rookie has been his teammate Dario Saric, who – like Embiid – was drafted in 2014. The real story here is that the 2016 Draft class has produced very little.
Lang Whitaker: I can't vote for Embiid, who played in less than half of Philly's games this season. And with Ben Simmons missing the entire year, it really thins out the options for this year's best rookies. That being said, I have no problem looking elsewhere in the Philly frontcourt at Dario Saric, who hasn't missed a game and has averaged 11.3 ppg and 6.2 rpg. Milwaukee's Malcolm Brogdon has also been great, but to me Saric has played a bigger role.