It seemed unlikely when he was selected 36th overall in last summer’s draft, but Malcolm Brogdon of the Milwaukee Bucks has a very real case to be named Rookie of the Year.
Malcolm Brogdon is making a name for himself. Following a masterclass performance for the Milwaukee Bucks rookie in one of the most unfriendly arenas in the league, the man they call ‘The Prez’ and ‘Humble Moses’ is now looking to pick up another moniker: Rookie of the Year.
Brogdon’s performance at the TD Garden on Wednesday against the conference’s top dog (at the time) is turning heads and re-inserting Brogdon into a race that looked to already have its winner. Brogdon, while not having the large counting stats like his contemporary Dario Saric of the 76ers, is making his own case for Rookie of the Year. A case built on efficiency and clutch performances.
For every 30-point, 8-rebound game put up by Saric, Brogdon has answered with his own impressive, albeit often different looking statline.
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In December, it was Brogdon who notched the NBA’s first (and only, thus far) triple-double among rookies. And in Wednesday’s matchup with the Boston Celtics, The Prez scored 16 points, dished out nine assists and took care of the ball without coughing it up once. But it was the way he stepped up in the clutch, with the game on the line and in front of a deafening crowd that has the rest of the league talking.
Brogdon dazzled in the fourth quarter, scoring six points and sending slick passes to his teammates for easy buckets. Brogdon took a busted play that sent the ball nearly out of the back court and turned it into a coast-to-coast layup. But that wasn’t even the rookie’s shining moment. As the seconds ticked away and the Bucks nursed a one-point lead, Milwaukee put the ball in the hands of their rookie point guard with clear instructions: win the game. A tall task for any NBA player, let alone one playing in their 73rd career game. Brogdon, as always, was unfazed.
After Greg Monroe couldn’t find room to put up a shot he dumped the ball off to Malcolm at the top of the key. Brogdon drove to his right, protected the ball from the sticky fingers of Marcus Smart and put up a step-back prayer against the smothering defense of Avery Bradley — a two-time All-Defense selection. The shot went in.
It’s the kind of clutch performance people have started to expect out of Brogdon. ESPN Milwaukee’s Eric Nehm spoke to Brogdon about the massive responsibility entrusted to him by Jason Kidd and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
"“I think it speaks a lot to Coach Kidd and my teammates to trust me as a rookie to make plays down the stretch,” Brogdon said. “When they put that confidence in you, it’s hard not to try to make plays.”"
Making plays on the biggest stage has reignited the Rookie of the Year debate. Twitter was ablaze with writers and fans weighing in on Brogdon’s case for top rookie honors.
Perhaps the person most impressed by The President’s clutch performance in Beantown — other than Alex Lasry — was CBS Sports writer James Herbert. Herbert, who does a weekly Rookie Power Rankings, slotted Brogdon as number one in his weekly Power Rankings, up from last week’s sixth place. Herbert, like many pundits, earlier called the race in favor of Saric, but Brogdon’s stunning performance on Wednesday has Herbert singing a different tune.
"“I think I was premature last week in saying that Dario Saric had separated himself from Brogdon in the race for ROY,” Herbert said. “He has been a huge part of the Bucks winning five of six games and tying the fifth-place Hawks in the standings.”"
If Brogdon can make Herbert a believer, surely he can change the mind of voters.
As long as he stays near the top in all the important stats — points per game (third), assists per game (first), steals per game (first), 3-point percentage (third) and field goal percentage (seventh) — he has a chance.
And as long as he continues to come up big for the Bucks in important moments, he should.
But for Brogdon, known for his humility, the hardware doesn’t really matter. He’s already proven wrong the teams that passed on him in the draft and he’s already earned a starting spot in the league. Most of all, though, he’s already in prime position to play in the post-season.
And that’s the big difference between him and Saric.