Throughout the 2017-18 NBA season, the competition for Rookie of the Year has been a back-and-forth race between Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers and Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz. Considering each rookie’s play during the regular season, along with other factors, the player who is more deserving of the award can be determined.
Simmons, the first pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, has put up stellar numbers all season. He averaged 15.9 points, 8.2 rebounds, 8.2 assists and 1.8 steals per game. He led the league in assists, rebounds and steals among all rookies. He is also an elite play-maker, and has even been compared to LeBron James.
Along with these impressive numbers, Simmons is a triple double machine. He had 12 triple-doubles in his rookie season, second only to Oscar Robertson who recorded 26 triple-doubles in his 1960-61 rookie season. He was also third in triple-doubles this season behind LeBron James and Russell Westbrook.
To further support his case for ROTY, Simmons and the 76ers ended the season on a 16-game winning streak, the most in 76ers franchise history. During this winning streak, the 76ers propelled themselves to the third seed in the Eastern Conference and reached 50 wins for the first time since the 2000-01 season.
Mitchell is the only rookie this season who has been able to rival Simmons in this year’s race for ROTY. Mitchell, the 13th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, was an underdog coming into the season, but his amazing play shows that he has a bright future ahead of him.
This season, Mitchell averaged 20.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 1.5 steals per game, and he led all rookies in points per game. He also broke the record for most three-pointers in a rookie season with 168, and averaged 2.4 three-pointers per game on 34.3 percent from beyond the arc.
Due to the absence of star defensive player Rudy Gobert, many were doubtful about the Jazz making the playoffs. Mitchell stepped up for the Jazz to lead them to the fifth seed in the challenging Western Conference. During the season, the Jazz went on to win 48 games with winning streaks of 11 and nine, led by Mitchell.
Freshman Yashwanth Velayudham says, “Donovan Mitchell has surpassed expectations this season by leading the Jazz to the play-offs, even after losing Gordon Hayward. He is a natural scorer and leader and will definitely have a great future in the league.”
The main argument against Simmons winning ROTY is the fact that he was drafted in 2016. He sat out the whole 2016-17 season, but still traveled, trained, and watched tape with the 76ers in his “first” season.
Mitchell believes this gives Simmons an advantage, saying, “So, let’s say you have an exam to take on June 1 and you have a whole year to study for that exam, you’re going to get a pretty good grade on it, aren’t you? But some people may not have all that time to prepare for that exam. So, that’s how I look at it and I hope that puts it in perspective for people.”
Although this is a fair argument, Blake Griffin won ROTY in the 2010-11 season after sitting out the previous year because of injury. At the time, he was not questioned about being a rookie. The only difference is that Griffin had little competition when he unanimously won the award, unlike Simmons who is in a close race with Mitchell.
A big difference between Simmons and Mitchell is that Simmons is an all-around player, while Mitchell is just a scorer. Simmons has a much greater skill set due to the multiple ways he contributes to the game. In fact, Simmons had more rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals per game than Mitchell this season, while Mitchell only beats Simmons in points per game.
After looking at both Simmons’ and Mitchell’s rookie seasons, in the end, Simmons comes out on top. Simmons and Mitchell both contribute a lot to their teams, but Simmons affects his team in more ways than Mitchell. This is mainly due to the many ways he controls the ball on both ends of the floor as a scorer, passer, rebounder, shot-blocker, and defender. Mitchell will have a successful career in the NBA, but Simmons’ potential is through the roof because he is such a versatile player.
Freshman Justin Siochi says, “Ben Simmons should be Rookie of the Year this season. He contributes so much more to his team on both ends of the floor compared to every other rookie and can make plays for his teammates. He has put his team in championship contention and will have a great future in the NBA.”
Who do you think will have a more successful future in the NBA, Simmons or Mitchell? Why?