By Brian Norris
The 2016-17 NBA rookie class has been a little disappointing at this juncture. The best rookies this year are actually guys who were drafted years ago but had yet to play in the league. This past week was no exception.
Joel Embiid is the league's best rookie even though he sits every other game and never plays more than 25 minutes. At least the 76ers increased his minutes limits recently, allowing the big man to see 28 minutes of action a night.
Despite the chains around him, Embiid has been a star. Philadelphia managed to get an indoor basketball game canceled because of wetness on the court, but in the game he did play, Embiid scored 22 points in a four-point loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. He added in nine rebounds, four assists and three blocks. Embiid has been the Sixers' best player with his minutes limits. As those increase, his star will shine brighter. He, along with fellow rookie who isn't a rookie Dario Saric, gives Philadelphia a young and prominent frontcourt. Embiid is living up to preseason expectations, which saw him as a Rookie Of The Year favorite.
In the Western Conference, the label of best rookie thus far might go to Denver's Jamal Murray, which is astounding considering the start he had to his career. But since Murray began by going 0-of-16 from the floor in his first four professional games, he has been studly. Just recently, he put up three straight 20-point games, two of which saw him play more than 30 minutes apiece. On a Nuggets team filled with depth but few stars, it is nice to see Murray churn out playing time for himself. He's certainly earned it, shooting 41.6 percent from three for the season. That was his go-to skill entering the league, and his outside touch should continue to carry him even if the rest of his game never develops beyond an acceptable level.
Another rookie that has ironed out his own playing time through sheer force is Milwaukee's Malcolm Brogdon. The Virginia product didn't get drafted until the second round because he supposedly lacked upside and elite athleticism. He was a tremendous college player, but staying four years nowadays tends to imply that a player lacks the ability to improve much. Thus far, he's making due. Brogdon has scored in double figures each game this week and has 10 assists to just four turnovers in his last four games. For the season, Brogdon is shooting a sterling 41.7 percent from three and 90.9 percent from the foul line. He also expertly fits the Bucks' M.O. of long and active defensive guards.
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