Donovan Mitchell – Our Rookie of the Year

There's no doubt that Ben Simmons has had a great season, but he does not deserve the Rookie of the Year award.

This season’s Rookie of the Year award appears to be a battle between two young stars, Australia’s own Ben Simmons, and excitement machine Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz.

While both men are a joy to watch and appear to be destined for successful NBA careers, only one can be named the Rookie of the Year. That man should be Donovan Mitchell.

Now before you call us “un-Australian” and bombard our Facebook page with your unconditional love for Ben Simmons, we must admit that we are also Ben Simmons fans, and are proud to see a young Aussie baller doing so well on the big stage. But the truth is, he does not deserve to be named Rookie of the Year.

There’s no doubting that Simmons is a star, and who knows, he might have a statue next to Rocky in the city of Philadelphia one day, but ladies and gentlemen, your NBA Rookie of the Year is Donovan Mitchell. Below are a few reasons why.

 

The Jazz and their surprising playoff run

After losing Gordon Hayward to the Boston Celtics in the off season (who suffered a sickening injury during his Celtic debut in the season opener), many expected the Jazz to struggle this season. But with the help of Mitchell and an exciting young team, Utah are storming into the playoffs and have the potential to go deep in a very tough Western Conference.

In the middle of January, the Jazz were 17-26 and sat five games out of the playoffs. They now head into the postseason as the fifth seed in the west, with an impressive 48 wins and 34 losses.

Thanks to hard-working squad featuring Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert and Australians Joe Ingles and Dante Exum (who missed most of the season through injury), this exciting Jazz team is gearing up for a mouthwater match-up against OKC Thunder in the first round.

Mitchell was a genuine focal point of the Jazz team (Gobert only played 55 games during the regular season), while Simmons had Embiid beside him for 63 games. Embiid is a genuine top 15 player in the NBA.

Mitchell’s form along with his team’s never-say-die attitude and stunning second half of the season will give the Jazz and their long-suffering fan base plenty of belief when they take on a Thunder team boasting Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George.

 

The 76ers “trust the process”

Now it would ridiculous if we did not mention the Philadelphia 76ers’ outstanding year, where they secured third seed in the Eastern Conference (just above Cleveland) by winning their final 16 games of the regular season.

However, don’t forget what the 76ers and the whole city of Philly have been telling us for a long time now, “Trust the process”. The 76ers unashamedly tanked and embarrassed themselves for years to rebuild a competitive NBA team, and like it or not, the “process” is finally paying off.

Ben Simmons (pick one), Joel Embiid (three) and Markelle Fultz (one) were all top three draft picks who landed in Philly thanks to their tanking process, and despite some serious injuries, the 76ers’ careful, long-term plan means they should be genuine contender.

 

Simmons should not even be eligible!

Let’s cut to the chase, Ben Simmons should not even be eligible for the Rookie of the Year award. Therefore, us, Stephen A. Smith, and even the two stars at the centre of this discussion could have saved themselves a lot of time instead of debating who deserves this award.

After being taken with the number one pick in the 2016 draft, Simmons was forced to miss the entire 2016/2017 season due to breaking his foot in his first NBA preseason. While the injury was a devastating blow for all concerned, it did give Simmons a year on the sidelines to prepare for his first full season in the NBA.

This allowed the Melburnian to learn and perfect his craft while becoming familiar with life in the NBA (and Philadelphia), without even playing a game, and gives Simmons a huge advantage over Mitchell, and any other rookie in the running for this season’s award.

Although he did not make his debut until the beginning of this season, he really should not be considered as a rookie, and hence should not eligible. Mitchell was taken with the 13th overall pick in the draft, and has immediately proved that he should have gone a lot higher.

Still not convinced? Take a look at what Mitchell wore prior to his side’s 30 point win over Golden State.

(Photo courtesy of Utah Jazz)

After Simmons surprisingly claimed that no other rookies had impressed him this season, the Utah star cheekily sported an Adidas hoodie that contained the definition of the word “rookie” across the front.

“Rookie (noun): An athlete, playing in his or her first season, as a member of a professional sports team." Well played Donovan!

 

Three-Pointers are important

Both candidates have impressive stats, with Mitchell averaging 20.5 points, 3.7 assistants and 3.7 rebounds per game, and Simmons providing 15.9 points, 8.2 assists and 8.2 rebounds per game,

Mitchell also has a +14.8 rating since the All Star break, and a +15.9 and +23.9 rating in March and April respectively, when rookies are supposed to tire and wane.

Simmons has also performed out of his skin in March and April, but has had another year in the system.

Mitchell's .440 FG% (1339 FGA) is pretty impressive, while Simmons only made 992 FGA. It’s no secret that Ben Simmons needs to work on his jump shot, and basically avoids them at all costs.

What’s even more concerning is the Australian’s lack of three-point attempts. They say practice makes perfect, but the only time Simmons even thinks about attempting a three-pointer is when the clock is about to expire. And quite frankly, most of those “attempts” are embarrassing.

 

 

On the other hand, Donovan Mitchell has now broken the all-time record for three-pointers made by a rookie in one season, with his 187 surpassing previous holder Damian Lillard who made 185 threes in 2012/2013.

It doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out that Mitchell has 187 more three-pointers than Simmons this season. In an era where three-pointers are more important than ever, the 76ers will be praying Simmons is not forced to take a long range, game winning shot.

 

We love both guys

Regardless of who wins the Rookie of the Year award, we love watching both Simmons and Mitchell, and both guys have made a huge impact during the regular season.

As the playoffs are about to begin, we can’t wait to see what both the Philadelphia 76ers and Utah Jazz can do in the postseason, with Ben Simmons, and Rookie of the Year, Donovan Mitchell leading the way.

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