BOSTON – The Boston Celtics asked Malcolm Brogdon to learn a new role. He mastered it quickly.
Brogdon was honored Thursday night as the NBA’s sixth man of the year, after a season in which he came off the bench exclusively and helped the Celtics finish with the second-best record in the NBA.
It’s the second major individual award of Brogdon’s career: The 30-year-old guard was rookie of the year in 2016-17.
“This is such an honor. It has definitely been a transition for me, coming from Indiana to Boston,” said Brogdon, who had started every game the past four years in the NBA before embracing his role to come off the bench when he was acquired by the Celtics. “My last two seasons, they weren’t super successful, so for me that was another gut check for me in understanding that maybe I’m not a No. 1 guy but I can be a great No. 2, 3 or 4.”
Brogdon beat out fellow finalists Immanuel Quickley of New York and Bobby Portis of Milwaukee, receiving 60 of 100 first-place votes and 408 points overall from a media panel. Quickley was second at 326, getting 34 first-place votes. Portis had six first-place votes and 97 points.
Brogdon averaged 14.9 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists; among those who played primarily off the bench this season, only the Los Angeles Clippers’ Russell Westbrook finished with better averages in those three categories.
The Celtics sent a significant package — five players and a first-round draft pick — to Indiana last summer for Brogdon, with this specific off-the-bench role in mind even though he had started in each of his last 210 regular-season appearances. He played in 67 games for the Celtics, all off the bench.
And he was still third on Boston in points per game, behind only All-NBA candidates Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. When Brogdon made at least 50% of his shots from the field, the Celtics were 26-9 — and 13-0 when he shot at least 63%.
“Coming to Boston and playing behind JT, behind JB, these guys are proven All-Stars and soon to be All-NBA guys,” Brogdan said. "It’s definitely a good fit for me.”
Sixth man was the fourth individual honor announced by the league so far this season, following the reveals of Memphis’ Jaren Jackson Jr. as defensive player of the year, Sacramento’s De’Aaron Fox as the inaugural winner of the clutch player award, and Kings coach Mike Brown as a unanimous pick for coach of the year.
Still unannounced by the league:
— Most Valuable Player. Two-time reigning MVP Nikola Jokic of Denver is a finalist again, along with Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid.
— Most Improved Player. New York’s Jalen Brunson, Oklahoma City’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Utah’s Lauri Markkanen are the finalists.
— Rookie of the year. Orlando’s Paolo Banchero, Utah’s Walker Kessler and Oklahoma City’s Jalen Williams are the finalists.
— The All-NBA, All-Rookie and All-Defensive teams.