Out of all the award races, the Rookie of the Year award has been the hardest one to decide on. And for good reason. This season has seen some good first year players. Jayson Tatum was better than advertised for the Celtics. Dennis Smith Jr looks to be the point guard of the future for the rebuilding Mavericks, Markelle Fultz shook off an ugly injury fiasco and looks to be back on track in Philly. Lonzo Ball wasn’t the most consistent, but showed that he can put his stamp on a game without scoring. And Lonzo wasn’t even the best rookie on the Lakers as Kyle Kuzma came out of nowhere to be a steady scoring option. But this race for Rookie of the Year has come down to two players: Ben Simmons and Donovan Mitchell. And if you asked this tall guy, my money is on the tall guy, Ben Simmons.
Don’t get it twisted: Donovan Mitchell is an exceptional player. He is skilled offensively and has shouldered the burden of being he number one option for a sneaky good Utah Jazz team. He’s taken and made big shots for his team and is a very deserving candidate. However, Ben Simmons is on another level. He may not be the scorer that Donovan Mitchell is but the scoring differential isn’t huge (Mitchell scores 20 a game vs Simmons’ 16). But remember: the big important factor is that Ben Simmons has nothing resembling a reliable jumper yet. Simmons has been able to score 16 a game without hitting a SINGLE THREE POINTER this year. The defense has this knowledge and still can’t stop him from hitting solid scoring numbers for a rookie.
To add to that, there is the other impact that Simmons provides that Mitchell can’t match. Simmons averaged eight rebounds and eight assists. He’s 6’10” so he has an advantage for rebounding. But his real gift is his court vision. Like Magic Johnson and Lebron James before him, he has unique body frame to have such great passing ability. Now imagine what happens when Ben Simmons gets a reliable jump shot. He could easily average a triple-double.
The major knock against Simmons (if you really want to call it that) is that he isn’t a true rookie. You’ll remember that Simmons lost his first year due to a foot injury. Many skeptics are saying that he was able to get valuable lessons of the NBA game. And perhaps, that’s true. But watching the NBA game and playing one is two different things. There was no guarantee that the information he obtained his inactive year would have translated. Yet here we are: The Sixers are the 3rd seed in the East, with many analysts giving them a good chance at making the conference finals.
Hey, I’ve gone on record saying this is the one of the years where I believe that both players should share the award. But if you’re making me choose, give it to the guy who has a chance to be the next Lebron.