Donovan Mitchell vs. Ben Simmons – Which NBA phenom deserves Rookie of the Year honors?
Normally every year in the NBA the most heated topic of debate is who will be the regular season MVP. However, two players have come into the league as rookies and have drastically changed the narrative this season.
Meet Ben Simmons and Donovan Mitchell, your Rookie of the Year candidates.
Simmons is a silky smooth 6’ 10” point guard that plays the game with ease. At his size no other point guard really stands a chance when it comes to guarding him. The best defense at this point is to keep him on the perimeter and force a jump shot, but good luck with that.
Due to an injury last year, Simmons is still a rookie and proved that he used the year off to improve his game. He added muscle and IQ that the game hasn’t seen in years. He is drawing comparisons to Magic Johnson and LeBron James and it seems warranted as he amassed 12 triple-doubles in the regular season, a rookie record.
An integral part of the process, Simmons is the glue of the Philadelphia 76ers. Along with Joel Embiid and a cast of NBA veterans, the Sixers secured the three seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs.
Put Simmons and Embiid in the pick and roll or pick and pop and it is a matchup nightmare. Simmons has the ability to dive to the rim where he is hardly phased by forwards that switch on to him. His combination of size, speed and dribbling ability is rare.
His best asset is arguably his passing ability. He can thread the needle if Embiid rolls to the rim for an easy alley-oop or throw a bullet pass to an open shooter on the wing due to the fact that every defender is entranced by the capabilities of Embiid and Simmons running a play together.
Simmons averaged 15 points, 8 assists and 8 rebounds this season. A tell-tale sign that his versatility is unmatched, and much like Oscar Robertson and Russell Westbrook he has all the necessary tools to average a triple-double for an entire season.
If that wasn’t enough, his sparkling NBA Playoff debut saw the Philly phenom miss a triple-double by a rebound. No matter, the 76ers breezed to a 130-103 win over the Miami Heat for their 17th straight win.
Simmons’ ability to adapt to the NBA game with such ease is a scary proposition for the rest of the league. He is deserving of the NBA Rookie of the Year and will most likely win it. On the other hand, there is an intense competition thanks to Donovan Mitchell.
Mitchell is an athletic combo-guard that plays the game with a ferocity and intensity that is addicting to watch.
His posterizing dunks are some of the best highlights of this NBA season, but he is much more than a dunker. Highlights from his rookie season have led to analysts projecting a career similar to Dwyane Wade’s.
Mitchell and the Utah Jazz would love it if that is how this story unfolded. The Utah Jazz were picked by many to be bottom feeders in the brutal Western Conference this season. After losing their All-Star guard Gordon Hayward it appeared Utah would have to hit the reset button once again.
The emergence of Mitchell has given the Utah Jazz organization a lot to look forward to in the future. With Donovan Mitchell anchoring the offense and the Steiffel Tower that is Rudy Gobert anchoring the defense, the Jazz battled their way to a five seed in the Western Conference Playoffs.
Mitchell averaged 20.5 points while chipping in 3.7 rebounds and assists per contest as well.
If you thought Simmons had an impressive playoff debut, Mitchell matched it individually by becoming the first player since LeBron James to have at least 25 points and ten rebounds in their first postseason game.
My vote is for Donovan Mitchell, solely because his season was simply more impressive. His ability to maneuver through a tougher conference while maturing rapidly as a viable NBA star was fun to watch in Utah. Highlights of Mitchell playing above the rim are some of the best this season had to offer, rookie or otherwise.
He also had the audacity to wear a sweatshirt that defined the word rookie. A blatant jab at the fact Simmons was able to sit out a year. Although he didn’t play, it can be argued that a year of working on his body and adjusting to the NBA lifestyle was an advantage.
My gut tells me Simmons takes home the award because numbers don’t lie. Simmons had impressive averages in many more statistical categories pointing to his versatility and dominance. The Sixers had a better record, better seed and will likely go further in the playoffs. Voters will say that postseason success doesn’t matter, but with a race this close it could be a determining factor.
Another possibility is these two splitting the award. The last time it happened was in 1995 with Jason Kidd and Grant Hill both being honored.
Either way this seems to be a budding rivalry that NBA fans can look forward to for years to come.