On June 23, 2016, 23-year-old Virginia product Malcolm Brogdon heard commissioner Adam Silver call his name as the 36th overall pick in the NBA draft. On Monday, a little over a year later, Brogdon heard his name called again — but this time, it was to honour him as the the league’s 2016-17 Rookie of the Year.
Unlike LeBron James and Kevin Durant, who enjoyed otherworldly amateur careers before taking Rookie of the Year Honours, Brogdon was not regarded as a top-tier prospect heading into the draft. In fact, 20 different teams — several teams more than once — decided to take a pass on him before the Milwaukee Bucks finally bit with their second selection of the night.
The Atlanta native rewarded the Bucks’ faith, outdoing every single player chosen ahead of him. While Brogdon wasn’t quite as productive as some of the award’s past winners, considering the circumstances, the achievement is still impressive.
A guard, Brogdon put together a solid season for Milwaukee, averaging 10.2 points and 4.2 assists per game while hitting more than 40 per cent of his three-point attempts. He was also one of just two players from his draft class to average more than 20 minutes per game for a playoff team.
“I think he should be Rookie of the Year, for what he has done being drafted in the second round,” said Bucks head coach Jason Kidd, according to Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “He’s a student of the game. He works extremely hard, not just on the court but off the court, studying film and asking questions.”
Now, just over a year after falling to the second round, Brogdon is at the forefront of one of the most exciting young teams in the league. The Bucks roster includes guards Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker, both of whom averaged over 20 points per game in 2016-17, as well as forward Khris Middleton, who scored nearly 15 per night in an injury shortened campaign.
If those players keep improving, the Bucks could be a scary team next season. They won 42 games in 2016-17, putting together a solid showing against the Toronto Raptors in the first round of the postseason before losing in six games. With so much young talent, this team has a clear path back to the playoffs, and if they can continue to develop unexpected contributors like Brogdon, a deep postseason run won’t be out of the question.
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