By Thomas Jeffrey
Before the NBA season even started the Rookie of the Year was Ben Simmons’ award to lose. It was the Aussie’s debut season after a year of rehab and rest, and NBA fans were excited to finally see Simmons in action. Simmons did not disappoint those fans. He seemed to have the award in the bag based on his performance early in the season… That is until Donovan Mitchell burst onto the scene. After the all-star break, the race for the league’s top rookie heated up between these two. Let’s take a look at why both players can capture the award.
There is no doubt that Ben Simmons is a rising superstar and the future of the NBA. In fact, many believe the Philadelphia guard to be the heir to King James’ throne. He is built like and plays like Lebron, and his numbers reflect that. As of the all-star break, Simmons is averaging a silly sixteen points, eight assists, and eight rebounds per game, just slight of triple-double numbers. Also, Simmons is no slouch on defense as he is averaging two steals per game, a team high. Those numbers show that Simmons affects the game in many different ways, and make it hard to believe that he was not an all-star. You might be asking yourself, “How can he not win Rookie of the Year?” Well, let’s take a look.
Ben Simmons is an abysmal shooter, and that is putting it nicely. He has not made a single trey this year. Yes, you read that right. Not a single one. He is no threat from beyond the arc or from the charity stripe for that matter, shooting 57%. Also, there is the argument that Simmons is not even the best or most important player on his team. Many believe Joel Embiid to be the Sixers’ best player and the focal point of the organization. With that being said, Simmons receives a lot of help from his talented teammates. In addition to Embiid and Simmons, Philly boasts one of the most talented rosters in the East with players like Dario Saric, J.J. Redick, and Robert Covington. Although Simmons is definitely influential to the team, it is arguable that the Sixers could survive without him. But that’s enough about Simmons. Let’s move on to his remarkable rookie counterpart.
It’s safe to say that Donovan Mitchell is the steal of the draft. The 13th overall pick is having a sensational debut season, averaging nearly twenty points per game, and has had two 40-point games this season. He has athleticism like Russell Westbrook and speed like John Wall. Many have compared Mitchell to a young Dwayne Wade with a jump shot. Mitchell is shooting around 35% from three, and 84% from the free throw line, much higher than Simmons. Also, unlike Simmons, Mitchell is the center of the Utah Jazz. The Jazz organization felt troubled after losing Gordon Hayward to free agency, but Donovan Mitchell was just what the doctor ordered. Mitchell has put the Jazz in a position to make the playoffs, and he has done this with minimal help. With the two next best players on the Jazz being Ricky Rubio and Rudy Gobert, Mitchell has put Utah on his back this season, contrary to Ben Simmons.
Donovan Mitchell is definitely a great scorer and shooter, but he does not impact all aspects of the game the way that Simmons does. Mitchell only averages about three assists and three rebounds per game, five less than Simmons in both categories. If Mitchell is having an off-night in shooting and scoring, then he is not going to provide a whole lot of production. Mitchell is a great player and a freak athlete, but he is definitely not as talented as Ben Simmons just yet.
This race for Rookie of the Year is going to be fun to watch. Both Simmons and Mitchell are playing basketball that is well beyond their years, and they both have extremely high ceilings. This race may come down to a coin flip, but one thing is for certain when it comes to Donovan Mitchell vs. Ben Simmons: there is no wrong answer.