Photo Courtesy: USA Today

Who Will Be the Rookie of the Year?

Ben Simmons or Donovan Mitchell?

April 11, 2018 - 9:53 am

By Austin Medina

With the NBA regular season ending Wednesday, a number of teams are gearing up for a postseason push. Of course an NBA Championship is the ultimate goal, but individual awards aren’t far behind.

The NBA Rookie of the Year is always a compelling honor. Over the past 10 years, players such as Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, Kyrie Irving, and Damian Lillard have brought home the award. The idea is that Rookie of the Year is given to a player who not only had the best rookie campaign, but has plenty of potential for years to come.

The latter has been true for the players above and this year there truly is a two-man race. Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers appears to be a 10-year veteran in just his first season. He’s averaging 15.9 points, 8.2 assists, and 8.2 rebounds on 54.4% shooting. These incredible numbers have the 76ers in the playoffs for the first time since 2012.

Typically numbers of Simmons’ nature would automatically get the honor. However Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz has taken the league by storm. As just the 13th overall pick, Mitchell was supposed to be a great talent, just not in his first season. He’s averaging 20.5 points, nearly four assists, and just became the leader in three pointers made as a rookie, passing both Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard.

The argument for Mitchell is that Simmons was drafted in the 2016 NBA Draft. Simmons was hurt in his first season and technically never qualified as an NBA player until this season. Therefore, in technical terms, Simmons’ rookie campaign was set back a year.

If Simmons were to have played in 2016, there would be no debating that Mitchell is the Rookie of the Year. However we don’t live in a world of hypotheticals and when it’s all said and done, both Mitchell and Simmons are rookies this season.

Both players have led there teams to an NBA Playoffs berth. Both players have made a mockery of the term “rookie” and all the other words ("inexperienced" and "not ready") that go with it.

Both players have gone out of their way to make the cases for themselves to win Rookie of the Year. In an interview with ESPN, Simmons stated that he was “100%” the Rookie of the Year winner. Mitchell responded by walking into Tuesday’s game against the Warriors sporting this sweatshirt. It displays the true definition of a “rookie.”

Both players have recently uttered the old cliché that “individual awards are great, but team success is more important.”

Sure this is true. But one can’t help but wonder who the winner this year will be. With such a great draft class, these two players are the clear headliners.