The Philadelphia 76ers are no longer the laughingstock of the NBA. Despite not making the playoffs since the 2011-12 season the team has officially turned a corner. Years of ‘Trusting the Process’ has finally paid off and it showed this season. It wasn’t so much the wins that stuck out, even though the Sixers went from 10 wins to 28 (April 11th). The increase was great but it was the play and production from their young guys that stood out.
The Sixers were projected to win 25 games this year and this was before anyone knew what Joel Embiid could do. Ben Simmons missed the entire season and the black cloud hanging over Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor’s head for the first half of the season had to take its toll. The team was struggling as players had to adjust to Embiid, Okafor, and Noel as a unit but also had to deal with the influx of new talent playing major minutes.
Coach, Brett Brown made the most of what he was given and in the process may have found a diamond in the rough,
Dario Saric was a mystery to many basketball fans when the Sixers traded Elfrid Payton to the Orlando Magic for his rights. What displeased the fanbase more was the fact that Saric decided to stay oversees instead of coming right. However, when he finally made it, fans were glad he stayed and perfected his craft.
In his rookie season, the 6-10 stretch-four has been outstanding. For the majority of the season, Saric has come off the bench but as soon as the team figured out what to do with Noel and Okafor, the Sixers and Saric’s future forever changed. Saric has played in all games for the Sixers averaging 13 points and 6 rebounds in 26 minutes per. What rookie besides his teammate Embiid can match those numbers?
Scoring-wise and rebounding he leads all rookies. The reason why I can’t give the award to Embiid is due to the fact that he’s only played 31 games compared to 80 for Saric. Although Embiid transformed the team with his play, Saric has been available more often. It would be a disservice to reward a player that didn’t even play half the season with a Rookie of the Year award.
Malcolm Brogdon of the Milwaukee Bucks has been outstanding as their lead guard but his stats are rather thin when you look at the talent he’s surrounded by. Brandon Ingram of the Los Angeles Lakers could be discussed but he’s been up and down this season. Buddy Hield has come on of late for the Sacramento Kings but it’s too late for him to make a strong push for the award.
There is no other rookie in this class that has played meaningful minutes and still has produced like a veteran than Saric. He may not be the face of the franchise but he’s damn sure the face of the Rookies.