Despite the outstanding play of Joel Embiid, the fact is that Dario Saric may deserve the Rookie of the Year honors more.
When the season began, all eyes were on center Joel Embiid and his surgically repaired foot. Could he make it through an entire NBA season healthy? How much rust would he have? Would Embiid have the impact on the game many thought he would?
While the jury is still out on many of those, there is no question that yes, Embiid is as good as advertised and maybe even better.
Embiid has transformed the Philadelphia 76ers from NBA joke to a team that is actually mentioned when discussing the playoffs. It’s quite the turnaround for the franchise and most of the credit can be attributed to Embiid. He is averaging 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game while under a minutes restriction which makes it all the more remarkable.
As a result, it is not shocking in the least that Embiid has been the favorite to win Rookie of the Year since day one of the season. The problem is that with his current knee issues keeping him on the bench, the chances are he won’t play in enough games to be considered for Rookie of the Year. He has only suited up for 31 games this season and most think he needs to his at least 50 to be a serious contender for the honor.
However, if the powers that be decide Embiid doesn’t quite qualify for the award, there is always fellow Sixer Dario Saric.
In fact, to my mind, Saric might even be more deserving of Rookie of the Year honors than Embiid.
Sure, Saric’s numbers are not nearly as impressive. He’s averaging 10.7 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 24.3 minutes per game. However, among current rookies he is second in scoring, third in rebounds and fourth in minutes played. USA Today has him ranked third among all rookies in the overall Rookie of the Year race, behind only Embiid and the Milwaukee Bucks’ Malcolm Brogdon.
But all those stats and figures don’t tell the whole story.
Saric has been an invaluable asset coming off the bench for the Sixers. While many players in Saric’s situation might complain, all he has done is come in, do his job and lead this team. With Embiid on the shelf, Saric’s minutes have increased and so has his contributions to the team. He has scored in double figures in his last five games, including a 26 point performance against the Orlando Magic and has proven to be a clutch performer.
All of the has endeared Saric to the Philly fans like few others rookies. The Homie, as he has been called, is a huge reason the Sixers are finding ways to win without Embiid on the floor. And it is for this reason that Saric may just deserve the Rookie of the Year Award a bit more than Embiid.
Of course, the point may be moot. If Embiid does return after the All-Star break, there is no question the Award is his for the taking. He is a transformative player who is out playing and out performing every other rookie this season. If healthy, Embiid not getting the RoY would be a crime.
But if Embiid doesn’t get considered for one reason or another, a strong case could be made for Saric winning the award.
Because in Philly, In The Homie We Trust.