Malcolm Brogdon is a Rookie Beyond His Years
“I pride myself on what I do every night, I pride myself on my work ethic and how I carry myself,” Malcolm Brogdon recently told nba.com.
One of the biggest stories of the NBA season so far has been Milwaukee Bucks rising stars Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker, and rightfully so. They are without a doubt the franchise cornerstones and are playing at an All-Star level, but if you pay even closer attention to this Bucks team, it’s hard not to see the contributions of rookie second round pick Malcolm Brogdon. Not only is he older than both Parker and Antetokounmpo, but the 23-year-old has arguably become the steal of the draft as one of the most productive rookies in the NBA over the first half of the season.
Going back to the 2016 NBA draft, a lot of people were so enamored with the pick of Thon Maker at No. 10 overall, but the more intriguing pick came in the second round at No. 36 overall. Sure, the 19-year-old Thon Maker has a chance to be a special player in this league, but getting a guy like Malcolm Brogdon in the second round was like finding gold at the end of a rainbow.
Brogdon isn’t your typical rookie. It’s not like he didn’t have the body of work to be a first round pick. He spent a total of five years at Virginia with a redshirt year in 2012-2013. He was a three-time All-ACC first team selection from 2014-2016 and a two-time ACC defensive player of the year from 2015-2016. Not to mention, he was the ACC defensive and overall player of year during his senior season while earning consensus first-team All-American honors and was national defensive player of the year.
At 6’5”, he was an absolute stud for coach Tony Bennett in his final season, averaging 18.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1 steal per game while shooting 47.4% from the field. So why would he fall to the second round when other four-year guys like Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield and Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine were lottery picks? If I knew the answer I would tell you, but most scouts were still uncertain that Brogdon’s game would translate well to the professional stage.
“My whole career, I’ve been an underdog, I’ve been underestimated,” Brogdon said in an interview with nba.com. “Therefore I’ve had a chip on my shoulder my entire career. Being drafted in the second round when you think you’re supposed to be in the first round, a lottery pick, the chip grows bigger. And you have more to prove.”
Coming into the season, the Bucks had big plans for their second round pick and he has not disappointed. Through 37 games, he ranks third for rookies in scoring at 9.1 points, first in assists at 3.9, 10th in rebounds at 2.7, and fifth in PER at 14.02. He’s done that while playing just over 24 minutes per game behind Matthew Dellavedova. He’s also third for rookies in field goal percentage at 45.4% and first in three-point percentage at 42.4%. If wasn’t for Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid, who qualifies as a rookie due to injuries the past two seasons, Brogdon would likely be the front-runner for rookie of the year.
That being said, his opportunities have increased even more as of late. When Delly went down with an injury in late December, Brogdon was inserted into the starting lineup and has flourished. Over the last seven games, all starts, Brogdon has averaged 14.1 points, 6.4 assists and 5.0 rebounds. In just his second start, he recorded his first career triple-double with 15 points, 12 assists, and 10 rebounds in Milwaukee’s 116-96 win over the Bulls.
When you look at the way he plays and ask his teammates, he doesn’t look like a rookie out there. He looks like a 10-year veteran, which speaks volumes to his character. There’s a reason why he has the nickname of “the president” or “the prez”. His maturity, leadership and high basketball IQ are why he is light years ahead of his time. His athleticism doesn’t jump out at you, but guys like Malcolm Brogdon don’t come around very often. To have the comfort, poise, and tenacity on both ends of the floor similar to that of a Gary Payton already as a rookie shows just how special he truly is.
Malcolm Brogdon has defied odds as a rookie. He made headlines earlier in the season after he dunked not twice but three times over perennial stars in Dwyane Wade, Kyrie Irving and LeBron James in a span of just two games. Even despite that, his playmaking ability and chemistry he is building alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker continues to grow. I hate to say it but the Matthew Dellavedova injury might just be a blessing in disguise. Even with Delly returning and playing the last two games, Kidd has kept his rookie in the starting lineup. With his latest 17-point performance along with six rebounds, and six assists including two clutch threes in the final minutes of the Bucks 109-107 win over the Spurs in San Antonio on Jan. 10, he may have earned a permanent starting role. It’s not a knock to Delly, who has still played respectably in his first season with Milwaukee, but rather a compliment to Brogdon. He’s not just a good basketball player but also a great teammate and leader who fits in extremely well with what Kidd is looking for in a pure point guard. Sure, Giannis may be considered the ‘point forward’ or whatever you want to call it, but Brogdon is the perfect combo guard to play alongside Giannis as he continues to progress in his own right.
Let’s face it; the Milwaukee Bucks got the steal of the draft by selecting Brogdon where they did. The things you hear about him and the way he carries himself makes it insane to think he fell as far as he did. At the same time, it couldn’t have worked out any better for him and the organization. The Bucks still got their high-ceiling prospect with sky-high potential in Thon Maker, but I’m sure the organization is even more ecstatic with what they have in Brogdon moving forward. Of course no one expected this type of play from a second round pick but let’s not pretend we’re surprised it’s turned out this way. Brogdon will definitely make his case to be rookie of the year when it’s all said and done.