Could there be a new Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month in town?
Joel Embiid had been a lock to win the honors every month and sweep the season. That is, until he hasn't played at all in February.
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Embiid last played on Jan. 27. Since then he has missed eight straight games and will sit his ninth on Saturday against the Heat (see story).
Embiid took home Rookie of the Month honors in January after competing in nine of the Sixers' 15 games. This month is different, though. Even if he plays every game after the All-Star break - and that's not given - that would be a maximum of two since he does not play on both nights of a back-to-back.
If not Embiid, then who? Embiid's teammate Dario Saric can make a run at the award.
Saric is averaging 14.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.2 steals per game in February. He leads the conference in scoring and is second among all rookies behind Mavericks guard Yogi Ferrell (15.8). Saric scored a career-high 24 points on Thursday against the Magic and has scored 20 in his past two games.
Saric is second in the East and third overall in rebounding among rookies. Knicks center Willy Hernangomez leads the way with 11.8 boards and Lakers forward Brandon Ingram is pulling down 5.8 this month.
Saric's toughest competition in the East this month will be Hernangomez, who was drafted by the Sixers in 2015. In four games so far in February, he is averaging 11.3 points for a double-double. He is tied with Thunder big man Steven Adams for 12th in rebounding this month. Like Saric, Hernangomez is putting up these numbers off the bench (Saric started in one game).
Brett Brown has attested all season that if not for Embiid, Saric would be in the talks for Rookie of the Year. Saric is posting 10.3 points and 5.7 rebounds on the season.