I felt like I had to use some type of lingo that would be used in a court room to start this off, because walking into a Ben Simmons or Donovan Mitchell debate is the next closest thing to one right now. The dialogs, attacks, and defenses from every NBA fan across the country for one or the other have really shown just how tight this race is, and I am going to do my best to make a case for both “rookies”.
Prosecution: I want to start out by giving the definition of a rookie. A rookie is a new recruit. Or a member of an athletic team in his or her first full season in that sport. Im not denying that Simmons is a rookie. Just look up at that stat line above and you can see he’s played in 79 career games. All of them coming from this season. He was “recruited” by the Sixers in 2016 and unfortunately he suffered a broken foot before the season had begun. Technically he never played a regular season game that year. The NBA says if you don’t play at least one second of one NBA season, the following year will still be counted as your first season. Like it or not according to the rule (which I can’t seem to find in text anywhere, if you can send it my way) Ben Simmons is a rookie and eligible to win this award and has a very good chance to. He leads all rookies in APG, RPG, and SPG while putting together 12 solid triple double performances which is the most by any rookie since 1983.
Defense: Lets begin with a couple examples from past cases from two NBA players that have experienced this first hand. Julius Randle was drafted by the Lakers in 2014 and 13 minutes into his NBA debut, he broke his leg. He broke his leg THIRTEEN MINUTES into his first season and Simmons broke his foot 0 minutes into his first season. Tell me how that’s justifiable? The player who played just 13 more minutes will not be able to compete for a rookie award the following year, but the other one will. Next, I present to you Mr. Joel Embiid’s case. He too was drafted in 2014. Not only did he miss his first season, he missed his entire second season as well. Joel was still eligible according to the NBA since he had not played one second in one game yet. He had now gone through two full NBA seasons on the bench of games, with coaches at practice, traveling with the team and getting to see what goes on behind close doors. Something that Ben Simmons got to do for a year. That undeniably has value in it, and should be taken into consideration if you have a vote, no matter what the “rule” is.
Final verdict: As you can see with multiple cases here, the NBA really needs to look this rule over and see what they can do about clearing up some of the grey areas.
Prosecution: If you are comparing stat lines right next to each other they are not going to look as impressive as Simmons’ does. But the effect you have on the court and how good you are as a player all around is not always dictated by the numerical stats that are kept track of. Ask his teammate Rudy Gobert, who has one of the biggest effects on the court defensively, with it often times not reflecting in the box score. Donovan Mitchell now has the NBA record for most three pointers in a single season by a rookie. He surpassed Damien Lillard last night as the Jazz handed Golden state an embarrassing loss. Half way into the 3rd quarter, as Utah held a comfortable 30 point lead, Mitchell drained his 186th three pointer of the season. With the rise of the NBA shot in recent years, that makes that accomplishment worth that much more. Mitchell also holds another NBA record for having the most team wins as the leading scorer of that team as a rookie (48), and he can add one more to that total with a win in the last game of the season against who? Damien Lillard, and the Portland Trail-Blazers. Something else that is interesting to look at is that Mitchell has the most 20 points games as a rookie since Blake Griffins rookie season (46). 46 20-point games, and 48 wins. That isn’t a coincidence. After losing their star player in the off-season prior, the team really gravitated (even the older guys) to Mitchell as a leader of this team and it has been spectacular to watch.
Defense: Just put them side by side. Take everything intangible out of the picture for a second, if you can. Its plain and clear, Mitchell does not compete to Simmons in a number of ways. Simmons has got him in MPG, FG%, REB, AST, BLKS, and STLS. As it was brought up earlier he has 12 triple doubles to Donovan’s 0, and 38 double doubles to his 0. That alone will get Ben many votes. On top of that, just a week ago he carried his team (without Joel Embiid) to defeat LeBron James and the Cavaliers, which eventually helped them take control of home court advantage and secure the 3rd spot in the Eastern Conference standings. Although he does not lead his team in scoring, he is no doubt helping lead this team as they ride the longest current wins steak in the NBA into the last game of the season (7 of 15 wins without Embiid). Whether or not they head into the playoffs on a winning streak, Simmons deserves to be recognized for the work he’s put in this season.
Final verdict: As this is the one of the closer rookie races the NBA has seen in a while, I have to take page out of the 70-71, 94-95, and 99-00 seasons and award the 2017-2018 Rookie of the year to both Ben Simmons, and Donovan Mitchell. Co-Rookies of the year.
Photo credit (stat lines): ESPN.com
Featured photo: clutchpoints.com