Malcolm Brogdon has to be in the running for one of the most down-to-earth players in the league. Look no further than the nickname bestowed upon him by family and friends ever since he was playing for Virginia, Humble Moses. Humble for his modesty and gratitude. Moses for his middle name and, of course ,for the natural connection to the biblical figure who led his people through adversity.
Watch out now as Malcolm parts the Celtic Green Sea en route to the 6th Man of the Year award.
As of All-Star weekend, Malcolm Brogdon is (finally) the odds on favorite to win the 6th Man of the Year award per FanDuel odds. He’s sitting as a -130 favorite, heavily favored over Norman Powell and Tyrese Maxey who are still at plus odds. Those 3 are far and away the finalists according to sportsbooks. For a while we saw Russell Westbrook as the betting favorite, something that blew my mind even when his statistics gave off the deceptive appearance of being solid. It was clearly a time when sportsbooks were trying to cash in on some naive bettors latching onto the “Russ coming off the bench” hype train.
Regardless, here we are in mid-February where Brogdon is leading this race and hoping to add a 6th Man of the Year award to his trophy case to compliment his 2016-17 Rookie of the Year award.
Let’s look at the Malcolm Brogdon rundown before delving into an interesting situation the Celtics find themselves in as we gear up for the stretch run.
Brogdon’s main role for Boston is that of a secondary ball handler and he excels in pretty much every single area on the offensive side of the ball. His traditional per game averages are 15/4/4 in only 25 minutes per game, elite efficiency per minute. He’s sporting sparkling 48/46/89 shooting splits which is good for a TS% of 62.4% (rTS +4.2%). He has an offensive load value of 41.3 which is in the 85th percentile (offensive load being a metric created by Ben Taylor of Thinking Basketball that takes into account assists, FGA, FTA, open shots created, scoring, etc).
He’s portable, a fantastic passer and a great shooter which lends to his high usage as a ball handler in the pick and roll as well as his high usage as a spot up shooter.
On defense he more than holds his own. Despite not being elite, his fantastic positional size (6’10” wingspan for a 6’4” 229 lb. guard) makes him versatile and switchable. Right at home in Boston.
He’s currently averaging 1.20 points per possession as a spot up shooter on about 3.5 possessions per game while shooting 48%, numbers more efficient than his All-NBA teammate Jayson Tatum.
He’s deceptively quick off the dribble too. Here he catches Isaiah Livers flat footed. Once he sees James Wiseman out of the paint distracted by some off-ball action, he makes a quick move and gets the easy basket, a nice heads up play.
He’s also great out of the pick and roll, as mentioned. His efficiency there is on par with guys like Darius Garland and Devin Booker. Here’s another clip of him running a pick with Luke Kornet. He sees a bit of hesitation on part of Bojan and pulls up for a wide open 3 with tons of space.
The passing is elite. Brogdon is a good decision-maker as he watches the play unfold in front of him . In the following clip he attacks the basket hard. The Celtics’ phenomenal movement on offense already throws defenses into chaos so once Brogdon darts towards the paint he easily draws Killian Hayes. Once he sees that Jaden Ivey is too far away to help he slings a bullet to Tatum for the easy dunk.
One thing I want to point out is people may be deceived by his +/- per 100 possession numbers. When he’s on court the Celtics are positive, +2.8 per 100 possessions, but that is 6.1 points worse compared to when he’s off the court (on-off of -6.1).
Looks not great, right? Well, wrong, actually.
Let me tell you why.
Boston’s most common 5-man lineup is Tatum/Brown/Smart/White/Horford which is +11.9 per 100 possessions over 280 total minutes, an absolutely elite number. Brogdon, however, is naturally spearheading the Celtic second unit. His most common 5-man combination is him/Hauser/Kornet/G.Williams/Tatum. Despite only running with one other starter, that lineup is still +3.2. Needless to say you’ll see drop off when you go to your bench yet Brogdon is the main reason the Celtics are still in the green (no pun intended) when the starters hit the bench.
He’s not only capable of spearheading the bench but also of raising the ceiling of starter-centric rotations. The trio of Brogdon/Smart/Tatum is +12.1. When you replace Smart with White that number is still positive, +8.1. Now yes, it does help that Boston is one of the deepest teams in the leauge, but the point stands true. Brogdon is impacting winning in a variety of ways, in a variety of play types and in a variety of rotations. He’s also playing his best ball of the season as of right now. Since Jan. 1 (20 games) he’s averaging 17/4/4 on 49/48/92 splits.
Shoutout to guys like Norman Powell (efficient volume shooting numbers) and Tyrese Maxey (carries the offensive load for the Sixers second unit and is an above average shotmaker despite being a sieve on defense), I think it’s apparently clear that Brogdon takes home the 6MOY hardware.
The question I now pose is how will Boston navigate Brogdon and Derrick White’s minutes as we inch toward the postseason. Brogdon had been a natural PG during his 3 years in Indiana but this year he’s playing significantly more time at SG (52/48 split between PG/SG) because Smart is Boston’s designated PG. Things worked out naturally with White because Smart had been out with an injury since late January but has just made it back for Boston’s last game before the All-Star break vs Detroit.
With all 3 guys healthy, the question is, who closes for Boston and what happens to Brogdon?
Derrick White has been on a tear as of late (20/5/6 on 48/43/87 splits) and is a better defender than Brogdon. Brogdon currently isn’t a part of the Celtics most common 4th quarter lineup this year so far. As of right now I believe that come playoff time we’ll see Boston stick with the Smart/White backcourt to close games but we’ll see. I love what we are getting from White right now, but if he starts looking like a wide-eyed freshman playing on senior night like he did at times in the Finals last year, then Coach Joe would be crazy not to give the 6th Man of the Year a go at it come April.