With almost four weeks of the 2016-17 season in the books, it is never too early to start looking at potential candidates for the NBA Rookie of the Year. The first name to come to mind for most followers of the NBA is Joel Embiid. Drafted third overall in the 2014 draft by the 76ers, the seven-footer is seeing the court for the first time after injuries kept him sidelined for his first two seasons.
As of Saturday, Nov. 19, the big man is averaging 17 points per game, the most on the team. With that, he is shooting 46.3 percent from the field and 46.7 percent from behind the arc.
Embiid also averages 7.6 rebounds per game, leading the team in that category. The rookie records 2.3 blocks per game, including big time blocks against LeBron James and Dwight Howard. Defensively, Embiid is an animal, making his presence known.
Statistics like these are essential when looking at the potential Rookie of the Year. Embiid, however, also leads the 76ers in turnovers with 4.4 per game. Embiid’s turnovers have cost the 76ers wins against the Magic and the Cavaliers.
Down the stretch, Embiid needs to protect the basketball to help seal the deal in close matchups. The 76ers want Embiid to be the man with the ball late in the game, and if he keeps turning over the ball, it may cost him the title of Rookie of the Year.
Embiid’s limited minutes also need to be taken into consideration. He averages about 20 minutes per game and is still putting up incredible numbers. If his minutes were not restricted and he wasn’t sitting a game per week, his numbers would be even better.
Embiid’s per 36 minutes numbers are both incredible and promising for the future. He would average 29.5 PPG, 12.4 RPG, 2 APG, 3.6 BPG, 6.9 TO, 48 percent FG and 50 percent 3PT.
The turnovers may seem alarming, but the return of Ben Simmons and his playmaking ability will alleviate a lot of the pressure Embiid carries on his shoulders now.
Every Rookie of the Year winner has logged at least 30 minutes per game except for two players, but if Embiid continues to make his presence known on both sides of the ball, he could be a shoo-in for the title.
Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics is another rookie being looked at for the title. After playing one season at the University of California, Brown entered the draft and was picked number three overall by the Celtics.
A bit of a surprise to fans, general manager Daniel Ainge defended the pick, stating Brown’s versatility, work ethic and skill. About a month into the season, Celtics fans are seeing just what Ainge was talking about. Averaging a little more than 17 minutes per game, Brown makes his presence known when he is on the court, shooting almost 47 percent from the field.
Brown is not afraid to shoot the long ball, converting 31.8 percent of his shots. The variety of shots Brown attempts are not generally shots rookies take, but Brown plays with confidence every time he steps on the court.
Accumulating about seven points per game with 2.5 rebounds, Brown sees a lot of playing time in the fourth quarter. This shows that coach Brad Stevens is confident in Brown’s ability to play on both sides of the court. An explosive player, Brown hustles up and down the court in transition and reacts quickly to mistakes.
Timberwolves’ Kris Dunn has an opportunity to make noise with an injury to Ricky Rubio keeping him sidelined. The number five pick in the draft, Dunn has not fully capitalized on his increase in minutes.
Going from 17.5 minutes off the bench to starting and playing almost 26 minutes, Dunn has twice as many assists per game, with five, and is shooting 36.7 percent from the field.
Still, Dunn only averages about five points and three rebounds per game. Deemed the most NBA-ready player in the 2016 draft, Dunn got thrown into a situation that the Timberwolves weren’t fully ready for when Rubio went down.
A catalyst in transition, Dunn forces a lot of turnovers and can explode to the hoop. A threat off the dribble, Dunn just needs some more time to acclimate to his role alongside the past two Rookie of the Year winners in Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, to start to shine.
When the 76ers number one overall pick Simmons went down with an injury in the preseason, it opened the door for many rookies to claim the title. Limited minutes can prove to be the difference in who receives the honor.
The frontrunner Embiid has taken the league by storm with huge games against some of the top teams in the NBA. However, his limited minutes and turnovers down the stretch could come back to haunt him.
Brown has capitalized when he enters the game for the Celtics, and his confidence and explosiveness on both ends of the court draw the attention of NBA fans. Dunn has yet to fully capitalize on his increase in minutes, but his ability to shoot off the dribble and play well in transition make him a rookie to watch out for this season.
Samara Rosenfeld is a fourth-year student majoring in communication studies with minors in journalism and Spanish. She can be reached at SR806559@wcupa.edu.