Some say you can only find gold in the 1st round of the NBA Draft. Others go further saying that prime time NBA talent is often found in just the first five picks of the draft. Then there’s the Milwaukee Bucks. With the 36th pick of the 2016 NBA Draft the team selected Malcolm Moses Adams Brogdon and so far, what a pick it has been. Brogdon accomplished enough his inaugural season that he’s put himself on the short list for the league’s Rookie Of The Year award. An amazing turn of events when you consider that the last NBA Rookie Of the Year - taken outside of the 1st round- occurred way back in 1957.
But the word amazing seems to pop up quite a bit when describing the remarkable early life of Malcom Brogdon. Brogdon was born in Georgia and spent most of his formative years in the Atlanta area. He decided to attend the University of Virginia to play basketball but perhaps more importantly, study for five years despite having obvious NBA talent. Brogdon comes from a family that the word education rules the day even more so than silly priorities like um, the NBA. To understand more fully here’s the Brogdon family lineup. Malcolm’s dad is a lawyer, his mom is an Associate Dean in math and science and both of Malcom's brothers are lawyers. Clearly, academics rules in the Brogdon family.
These days when a NBA prospect stays in school a full four years it is exceptionally unusual. Brogdon stayed five years at Virginia in part because a foot injury caused him to redshirt and miss his sophomore season. However, during his stay he didn’t mess around in the classroom. Brogdon completed his major in history and pursued a Master’s Degree in public policy. Oh, by the way - his nickname is ‘The Prez’.
Basketball? Malcolm played under coach Tony Bennett, son of famed Badgers coach Dick Bennett, and was the unquestioned leader of the Cavaliers. By the time he was a senior he was named All-ACC 1st team, ACC defensive player of the year (the only ACC player to accomplish both honors in the same year) 1st team All-American and was a finalist for both the Naismith and Wooden awards as the nation’s best player.
Then came last year’s NBA Draft. And for most NBA Front office types and certain analysts (you know who you are) Brogdon’s name seemed to disappear. Many considered a five-year redshirt senior unworthy of being a 1st round NBA pick regardless of all his honors and accomplishments. NBA scouts and fans throw around words like “upside” when determining the worth of a prospect. Common sense today goes, the older a potential draft pick is, the less UPSIDE they have. Note: Larry Bird was almost 24 when he entered the NBA. I’m pretty sure he had a bit of upside to his game.
Sure enough, when pick #36 rolled around Malcom Brogdon was still standing and the Bucks snagged him. It may turn out to be one of the more important draft picks in Bucks history. Brogdon went on to have a truly standout rookie year and it didn’t take long to show he belonged. After coming off the bench for more than half the season Brogdon got a chance to start and never really looked back. He took Mathew Dellavedova’s job eventually starting 28 games and averaged 10.2 pts, 4.2 assists, and 2.8 rbs in 26 minutes per night. He ran the point guard position with a poise and manner that may have been more impressive than his stat line.
He had some big time highlights, too. On December 31st he came off the bench to record his first career triple double against the Bulls to the tune of 15 points 12 assists and 11 rebounds. Brogdon accomplished another rarity as just one of 22 NBA players in league history to shoot over 45% from the floor, over 40% from 3 while averaging at least 10 points per game. But his biggest splash last season?? It may have been this spectacular dunk over LeBron James.
Brogdon kept up his stellar work in the playoffs starting all six games against the Toronto Raptors even if his performance dipped a smidge. Looking back, it did seem a bit surreal to watch both of the Bucks 2016 draft picks in the starting lineup during the playoffs.
Now Brogdon waits to see if he’ll become part of NBA history. Will he win the 2016 NBA Rookie Of The Year and amaze all of us who watched him last year? Bucks coach Jason Kidd thinks he just might:
“I think he should be rookie of the year, for what he has done being drafted in the second round,” Kidd said. “That’s probably being a little biased. “I think it’s a great story. 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. It makes it fun to come to work when you have the opportunity to coach someone like that.”
Brogdon does have some stiff completion in Philadelphia 76ers Joel Embiid and Dario Saric. But both have some serious holes in their ROY qualifications. Embiid is a tremendous player and would win the honor hands down but he only played in 31 games. Nobody has ever been named ROY playing such few games. Saric played well especially later in the year, but most 76ers games were somewhat meaningless and his shooting percentages lagged behind Brogdon’s. I'm certainly biased, but I like ‘The Prez’ to take home the trophy.
Fun fact reveal: I know all of you are dying to know who the last player NOT drafted in the first round was named Rookie Of The Year. It was none other than the legendary Woody Sauldsberry taken by the Philadelphia Warriors with pick #60.