Sixers’ Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz could also hurt each other’s rookie-of-the-year chances

It’s not surprising that the 76ers didn’t end up with the rookie-of-the-year winner. There’s a great chance the same thing will happen next season, too.

Sixers Joel Embiid and Dario Saric learned Monday night that’s it’s impossible to split vote with an equally deserving teammate and still win the award. As a result, Milwaukee Bucks point guard Malcolm Brogdon was voted the league’s top rookie. And it wasn’t even close.

Brogdon received 414 points from a panel of sportswriters and broadcasters. Saric was a distant second with 266, and Embiid was third at 177.

The Milwaukee player received 64 of the 100 first-place votes. Embiid was awarded 23, and Saric received the remaining 13.

Embiid was the league’s best rookie by a wide margin. One could actually argue his not being chosen for the NBA All-Star Game was a huge snub. As a result, there’s no doubt that Embiid would have been rookie of the year had he played more than 31 games.

In that scenario, he probably would have received at least 80 of the first-place votes. But after Embiid played his final game on Jan. 27, Saric – not Brogdon – replaced the center as the league’s dominant rookie.

So much so that Embiid called Saric the rookie of the year after the power forward’s 29 points led the Sixers to a 118-116 road victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on March 12. But in reality, all Saric’s efforts the final three months of the season did was cancel out him and Embiid from winning the award.

That’s because voters were split between voting for the two. Some recognized Embiid’s dominant performance and didn’t care that he had missed 51 games. Others thought it would be unfair to give the award to someone who played in only 37.8 percent of Sixers games. So they gave their votes to Saric, who appeared to be the next best option.

Saric was named the Eastern Conference’s rookie of the month in February and March after Embiid won the award in October/November, December and January.

Meanwhile, Brogdon remained consistent and gained momentum for always being a key starter on a Milwaukee team that advanced to the playoffs. That led to his getting his share of points while Embiid and Saric split their points.

Don’t be surprised if the same thing happens next season when both Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz will be rookie-of-the-year candidates. The two Sixers will share the spotlight.

Folks will debate over who’s the more deserving player. Some will say that Fultz’s three-point shooting and scoring ability should propel him over other candidates. Others will say that Simmons’ highlight-caliber passes and rim-rattling dunks should give him the edge.

But in reality, one of them might have to struggle for the other to win. If not, they might cancel each other out with split votes.

Meanwhile, a guy such as Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball or Phoenix Suns shooting guard Josh Jackson might get the necessary votes to win.

Follow and contact 76ers beat writer Keith Pompey on Twitter and on Instagram at PompeyOnSixers.

The Philadelphia Inquirer

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