Fri. Jun 2nd, 2023

Who should win the NBA Rookie of the Year Award: Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers or Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz?  This has been the question that NBA coaches, players, analysts and fans alike have been debating for much of the 2017-2018 NBA season. As a 76ers fan, I recognize that I have a strong bias towards Ben Simmons; however, I still believe I can present a very convincing case as to why Simmons will win the award.  My argument is based almost entirely on statistics, so as to not include any personal biases I may have about specific players.

This season, Ben Simmons is averaging 15.8 points per game, 8.0 rebounds per game and 8.0 assists per game. Since the award’s inception in 1952-1953, the only season a player has averaged 15+ points, 8+ rebounds and 8+ assists in their rookie season was Oscar Robertson. Oscar Robertson holds many records, including the mark for the most triple doubles in a rookie season, set at 21. While Simmons has not broken Oscar Robertson’s record, he passed Magic Johnson in the past month for the second most rookie triple doubles in NBA history; he has recorded ten triple doubles so far in 72 games.

This season, Donovan Mitchell has also impressed NBA experts and basketball fans alike. In his first year in the NBA, he is an elite scorer, averaging 20.3 points per game.  Even though as a shooting guard his primary objective is to score, his statistics in other categories are lower than one would expect. Mitchell averages only 3.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game as a guard, which are unusually low for that position. Simmons plays at the point guard position, but as a natural power forward, his skill set would normally be centered around scoring and rebounding. In comparison to Mitchell, Simmons averages only 4.5 fewer points per game but records twice as many rebounds and assists per game.

Since Simmons declared for the 2016 NBA Draft after his freshman year at LSU, analysts have often likened his skill set to LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers, who is widely regarded as one of the best players of all time. The intriguing comparison between these players is that LeBron James is one of two players (the other being Oscar Robertson) to have rookie statistics that are comparable to Simmons’ numbers. In 2003-2004, LeBron averaged 20.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game. In 1960-1961, the aforementioned Robertson averaged 30.5 points, 10.1 rebounds and 9.7 assists per game in his rookie season with the now defunct Cincinnati Royals. Between these two players, Robertson was a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 1980 and James will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer without question once he retires.

As an NBA fan, I want the most deserving player to win the Rookie of the Year award.  To me, the choice is obvious between Ben Simmons and Donovan Mitchell. At the end of the season, I believe that the sportswriters and broadcasters that make up the voting panel will select Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers as the winner of this prestigious award. After suffering through five straight losing seasons, I believe that the Philadelphia 76ers fan base deserves it. More importantly, Simmons does too.

Noah Lessner is a fourth-year student majoring in psychology and women’s and gender studies with a minor in Latin American and Latino/a Studies. ✉

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