NBA Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon TORONTO, ON – APRIL 18: Malcolm Brogdon #13 of the Milwaukee Bucks drives against Kyle Lowry #7 of the Toronto Raptors in the first half of Game Two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Air Canada Centre on April 18, 2017 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

Although not as high-profile as the MVP debate, the Rookie of the Year race has still been a hot topic of conversation in NBA circles with the 76ers’ Dario Saric and Joel Embiid and the Bucks’ Malcolm Brogdon earning finalist spots. You could make a strong case for any of those three, but, in the end, the ultimate underdog won the award.

Brogdon, who was drafted 36th overall by the Bucks last June, became the first non-1st round pick to win Rookie of the Year in the common draft era, which began in 1966.

He’s also the first rookie regardless of draft position to win Rookie of the Year without winning a single Rookie of the Month award, according to ESPN Stats & Info. (For what it’s worth, Embiid won that award three times and Saric won it twice.)

Brogdon embraced the underdog mentality as he accepted the award. Here’s what he said during the TNT awards show:

“I want to say this is a testament to guys that are underestimated, guys that are second-round picks, guys that are undrafted every year that get looked over regardless of the work they put in, regardless of what they do.

“You can always achieve your dreams if you have faith, if you have sacrifice — you sacrifice for what you want. A lot of the time you’re not going to fit in. A lot of the time you’re gonna have to skip those parties to do things that other people aren’t doing to get to where you want to be.”

Embiid put up insane numbers for a rookie and would have won the award without question had he stayed healthy. He averaged 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks while playing just 25.4 minutes per game due to a minutes restriction. But he played in only 31 games after tearing his meniscus in February. Nobody has ever played fewer than 50 games and won the award. So even though Embiid was a finalist, the conversation came down to Saric and Brogdon.

Although some traditional stats favor Saric, who averaged more points and rebounds than Brogdon, everything else points to Brogdon as the winner. He averaged nearly twice as many assists as Saric while being a far more efficient player on a playoff team. Brogdon finished the year with a 111 offensive rating with a 51.8 effective field goal percentage. Saric, on the other hand, had an ORtg of 96 and an eFG% of 46.8.

Oh, the fact that Brogdon kept posterizing some of the NBA’s best defenders, including LeBron James, probably helped his case as well.

About Jesse Kramer

Jesse is a writer and editor for The Comeback. He has also worked for and runs The Catch and Shoot, a college basketball website based in Chicago. He is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Follow Jesse on Twitter @Jesse_Kramer.