Malcolm Brogdon did everything humanly possible to make himself a first-round selection in last June’s NBA draft.
The 6-foot-5 guard crafted an amazing collegiate resume at Virginia and, during his senior season, he was unequivocally one of the elite players in the nation.
Brogdon wasn’t only the Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year; he was also the ACC Defensive Player of the Year. Of all the extraordinary players who have ever played in the ACC – a guy named Michael Jordan immediately comes to mind – no one ever won both awards in the same season.
Yet, when draft day rolled around in late June, Brogdon wasn’t one of the 30 players chosen in the first round. In fact, five more players were chosen before the Milwaukee Bucks made him the 36th overall selection.
So, what happened? Why would a player of his caliber, of his impeccable character, of his unquestioned work ethic, plummet so far in the draft?
According to several NBA officials, it was simple: Teams were more than a bit concerned about Brogdon’s left foot, the one he fractured a bone in prior to his sophomore season at Virginia.
“Teams were concerned about the long-term effects of the injury,’’ an NBA executive said recently. “Some teams were very concerned about his foot holding up.’’
Added another front office official: “That (the foot injury) was definitely a concern.’’
Both NBA officials concurred that if the foot issue wasn’t a part of the draft equation, Brogdon would have been chosen much earlier and most definitely in the first round.
In fact, both executives said that based strictly on basketball abilities they had Brogdon rated just outside the lottery – in the 15-to-20 range.
“He’s not a great athlete; he’s a good athlete,’’ an Eastern Conference executive said. “And, if you look at the great point guards now, they’re great athletes.
“But he does so many other things well. He plays hard, he’s smart, he makes the right decisions. And he’s a great guy.’’
Added a Western Conference exec: “His intangibles are off the charts.’’
While the Bucks have played just eight games this season, Brogdon has been playing off-the-charts for a rookie, especially one chosen in the second round. He has played in every game and he’s getting major minutes for an NBA newcomer.
Brogdon is averaging 21 minutes – the third most by any rookie. Only two lottery picks — Minnesota’s Kris Dunn (22 minutes) and the Los Angeles Lakers’ Brandon Ingram at (21.2 minutes) –rank ahead of him in that category.
What’s more, Brogdon is averaging 7.8 points per game, the second-highest scoring output by a rookie. Only New Orleans guard Buddy Hield is averaging more points among rookies at 9.3.
Throw in the fact Brogdon plays quality defense and conducts himself like a veteran on the court and it looks like the Bucks have pulled off a draft coup.
Brogdon said his foot is completely healthy and believes his draft stock was negatively impacted by the perception it wasn’t.
“I think so,’’ Brogdon said. “I had that foot injury back in my freshman year in college and that put me on a warning list of sorts for guys getting drafted.
“It was brought up in pre-draft workouts. The team trainers would ask me about it, the team doctors would ask me about it. But I‘ve never had any problems. None.’’
Despite dropping out of the first round of the draft and not securing a better contract, Brogdon sees a silver lining and is confident everything will work out for the best.
“Honestly, who is to know if I would have gone sooner in the draft; I don’t know,’’ Brogdon said. ‘I just know that I’m in a great position, a great place. I couldn’t have hoped for any better.
“I think this is the best situation for me because I got a coach who believes in me and I got teammates that believe in me and incorporate me and that makes it easier.’’
NBA ROOKIE LEADERS
Name, team, pick in draft, average points
- Buddy Hield, New Orleans, (No. 6) ….. 9.3
- Malcolm Brogdon, Milwaukee, (No. 36) ….. 7.8
- Jaylen Brown, Boston, (No. 3) ….. 7.6
- Domantis Sabonis, OKC, (No. 11) ….. 7.5
- Brandon Ingram, LAL, (No. 2) ….. 6.1
Name, team, pick in draft, average minutes
- Kris Dunn, Minn., (No. 5) ….. 22
- Brandon Ingram, LAL, (No. 2) ….. 21.2
- Malcolm Brogdon, Mil., (No. 36) ….. 21
- Domantis Sabonis, OKC, (No. 11) ….. 20.8
- Wade Baldwin, Mem., (No. 17) ….. 20.8