If Joel Embiid isn’t going to win Rookie of the Year, he prefers it go to Philadelphia 76ers teammate Dario Saric.
Actually, strike that. He believes the hardware should go to Saric no matter what, per Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press (via NBA.com):
“He’s the rookie of the year,” Embiid emphatically said on CSN Philly after the 76ers beat the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night. “That’s the guy.”
If we’re basing our decision off performance alone, Embiid, not Saric, is the guy. He’s posting per-game numbers we haven’t seen from a rookie since Tim Duncan was a young neophyte. The Sixers posted a playoff-worthy net rating with him in the game, per NBA.com. His 31 appearances are enough to know he was this season’s best newbie.
Assuming availability matters, though, Saric enters the conversation, along with both Malcolm Brogdon and Jaylen Brown. He’s come on after a slow start to the season, averaging 14.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.6 assists since Jan. 1. His three-point range is still a work in progress, but he’s knocking down enough of his attempts to keep defenses honest.
Maybe voters will favor Saric as sort of a ceremonial thing—as a way of honoring the Sixers for Embiid’s own efforts. Or maybe this year’s draft class is bad enough for the two top Rookie of the Year options to have been selected two years earlier than everyone else.
At any rate, there’s a better than good chance this season’s most decorated kiddie comes from Philly. And that’s something for Sixers fans to bask in, regardless of who it is.