Sixers don’t win, still winners on NBA Awards Night

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

After months of debate heading into Monday night’s inaugural NBA Awards night, it was not a Sixer, but Milwaukee guard Malcolm Brogdon, who hoisted the NBA Rookie of the Year award in front of Drake and the rest of the basketball public at-large. Brogdon received 64 first place votes, well ahead of Philadelphia teammates Joel Embiid (23) and Dario Saric (13). Saric finished 2nd in the overall vote, as 33 voters left Embiid off their ballots entirely.

Why Brogdon is a particularly mediocre candidate has been rehashed time and time again; his 10.2 ppg average is the lowest ever for a Rookie of the Year winner. It’s also easy to make the argument that his efficiency numbers were better than his fellow rookies because he was rarely expected to create offense on his own.

As expected though, Joel Embiid’s 31 games played were not enough for a significant percentage of the voters to deem him worthy of the award, despite the consensus notion that he was easily the league’s top rookie when he was on the court. Meanwhile, Saric wasn’t the best rookie on his own team, and struggled mightily with his shot for the first couple months of the season before coming on strong as Philadelphia’s main option in the spring. With those two cannibalizing each other’s votes, Brogdon slid in as a winner largely by default.

Still, let’s not concern ourselves too much with a Sixer not winning the award. ROY goes a long way toward helping young players gain recognition and standing within the league, but between his role as central figure of the Process (among players anyway) and social media GOATness, Embiid could hardly be more prominent in league circles already. It also would have been fun for Saric to be the first ever rookie to win the award without coming over to the States, but if we’re really being honest, he wasn’t quite good enough for long enough during the season to make it happen.

Anyway, the night was really positive for the Sixers on the whole! Joel Embiid and Dario Saric were the first teammates to both make the All-Rookie First Team, the first teammates to achieve the feat since Kevin Durant and Jeff Green pulled it off for Seattle (RIP) in 2007-08. I hear that Durant guy turned out pretty good, which bodes well for the Sixers.

Somewhat more unexpectedly, it was a big night for Robert Covington. The former undrafted free agent grabbed 11 points toward an all-defensive team (2 first team votes, 7 second team votes). He also finished fourth in Defensive Player of the Year voting, slotting in behind Draymond Green, Rudy Gobert, and Kawhi Leonard. Covington received one second place vote and one third place vote. Tabulating the point totals for Defensive Player of the Year, Covington is sandwiched between Leonard and LeBron James. Not bad company.

The votes are tremendous validation for the effort put in by Covington and the coaching staff to turn him into one of the top perimeter defenders in the league. At 6’9″, Covington guarded everyone from opposing power forwards down to 5’9″ Isaiah Thomas, leading the league in deflections, while averaging 1.9 steals and 1.0 blocks per game. For a guy who was booed during a shooting slump, and written off by some uninformed hacks as a tool for tanking, this recognition is sweet validation. Now, Bryan Colangelo just needs to work out a deal this summer to ensure Covington is a Sixer for years to come.

When you boil it down, the Sixers have two of the top three rookies from last season (the order of that hardly matters) in Joel Embiid and Dario Saric. They have the fourth-best defender in the league in Robert Covington (that’s according to the voters, not some Philadelphia homerism on my part). And they have the first overall picks from the past two drafts in Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz. I’d say the future is pretty bright.

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