Is Ben Simmons In First Place For Rookie Of The Year?
Last night Ben Simmons took over first place in the race for rookie of the year. The Philadelphia 76ers defeated the Miami Heat 104-91 to win the series (4-1). Winning game 5 last night not only eliminated the Heat but also helped Simmons’ case for rookie of the year.
The former 2016 first round pick finished game 5 with 14 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 assists. Throughout the season the 6-foot-10, point-forward has impressed with his court vision, high IQ, and ball handling. The 21-year-old broke the rookie assist record held by Allen Iverson. The former LSU Tiger also became the third person in the NBA to reach 1000 points, 500 rebounds, and 500 assists as a rookie. Breaking this record put Simmons in the lights of Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson.
The point-forward also joined Magic Johnson (1980) by becoming the first rookie to record a triple-double in the playoffs. Last night’s win at home probably put Simmons in first place for rookie of the year. However, the race is far from over because of the show Donovan Mitchell is putting on in Utah. I’m not saying Mitchell is the clear favorite, but he is still in the race for several reasons. I love Simmons game and everything he is doing but don’t sleep on the kid in Utah. At the end of the day, I think that this year both players should share rookie of the year honors.
— Md Azizur Rahman (@azizur655) April 25, 2018
Next Man Up; Donovan Mitchell
Now at the beginning of the season if you would have asked me who would win rookie of the year I would have easily said, Simmons. However, the Utah Jazz rebounded from an unfortunate offseason where they lost Gordon Hayward in free agency. No one expected the Jazz to make the playoffs or remain competitive.
Mitchell not only led the team in scoring this season with 20.5 points per game, he also guided the Jazz back to the playoffs as the fifth seed in the West. This season Utah averaged 104.1 points per game compared to last year’s 100.7 points. The 21-year-old guard fell out of the top ten in the 2017 draft, but would be selected by the Denver Nuggets and traded to the Jazz. Throughout the season the Jazz questioned who would take over the primary scoring role on the team. Mitchell stepped up by recording 28 games scoring 25 points or more and eight games with 30 points or more.
East Coast vs West Coast NBA Playoff Edition
In addition to becoming Hayward’s successor, Mitchell has demonstrated great leadership by how he handles himself on and off the court. The former Louisville guard plays on both sides of the ball. Now on the record Simmons has done a great job of providing leadership and getting his teammates involved. However, he has his Batman in Joel Embiid who had the entire Heat organization questioning what happened to Hassan Whiteside. Simmons was not drafted by the 76ers to be a primary scorer, but the fact that he has Embiid takes pressure off. Some may argue that no one believed that the Sixers would make the playoffs this year but that is false.
The East Coast Story Featuring Philadelphia
Think about it…… With a flattened Eastern Conference and Kyrie Irving taking his talents to Boston, the conference is up for grabs. Ooooh yeah not to mention the Cleveland Cavaliers blew up their whole roster and are suspect on defense. Toward the end of the season, things shifted in the East, to say the least. Irving had season-ending surgery, and the Washington Wizards lost John Wall for a few months of the season. This does not take away from what Philadelphia has accomplished this season but it did factor into their rise in the East.
During the final days of the regular season teams in the Western Conference could fall all the way to the eighth seed with one loss. In the Western Conference, you want to avoid playing the Golden State Warriors first round. After All-Star weekend the Jazz went (18-6) in order to lock up the fifth seed in the west. Now the 76ers did finish the season on a (22-5) record to enter the playoffs which is impressive. However, Philadelphia has a better roster.
The Sixers run a deep rotation that consists of Ben Simmons, JJ Redick, Robert Covington, Dario Saric and Joel Embiid. In addition to the starting line up the bench includes T.J. McConnell, Marco Belinelli, Justin Anderson, Amir Johnson and Ersan Ilyasova. The 76ers averaged 109.8 points per game in the regular season and are averaged 114.2 points in the first round against the heat.
Team closes out series at home, advances to Eastern Conference Semifinals.
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) April 25, 2018
The West Coast Story Featuring Utah
Utah’s roster has changed to say the least from the 2016-17 season. This year the starting lineup includes Ricky Rubio, Donovan Mitchell, Derrick Favors, Joe Ingles and Rudy Gobert. Off the bench, the Jazz have Dante Exum, Jae Crowder, Alec Burks, Ekpe Udoh and Jonas Jerebko. The Jazz averaged 104.1 points in the regular season and are averaging 109.5 against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of the playoffs.
The Case For Donovan Mitchell: ROY or CO-ROY
This season Mitchell has led Utah to the playoffs. The 6-foot-3 guard passed Damian Lillard’s rookie 3-point record in April with 186th made 3’s. Not to mention the former Louisville guard won the slam dunk competition which holds a lot of value in the NBA. Mitchell’s dunk contest win put him in the lights of Vince Carter, Kobe Bryant, Brent Barry, Spud Web, Domonique Wilkins, Michael Jordan and others.
After defeating the Warriors in the regular season in April Mitchell moved to third on Utah’s rookie steals list joining John Stockton and Andrei Kirilenko. In his first playoff appearance, he has become the first rookie guard to score 55 points combined in his first two games of a playoff series. When you compare both of the rookies have had an awesome season. But put this into perspective Mitchell has a usage percentage of 28.8 per game compared to Simmons 22.2 percent. (Embiid’s usage percentage 33.9 percent) It’s clear that Utah relied on their rookie to carry the team.
Donovan Mitchell is the new Mr. 4th quarter. pic.twitter.com/ScYSXAHy8N
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 24, 2018
Oklahoma City Thunder Who?
My last point is the fact that Utah has had their way with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Monday night Mitchell scored 33 points which set a rookie record. Mitchell is the first rookie to score a 30-point playoff game since Brandon Jennings. The rookie passed Karl Malone, who had 31 points in 1986. The Jazz went on to win game 4, 113-96. In this series, the Utah rookie has a 31.5 usage percentage in the OKC series compared to Simmons 21.8 percent against the Heat.
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) April 24, 2018
First Place Goes To…….
Not to mention that the 2018 dunk contest champion is averaging 27.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game in the playoffs. The Thunder have thrown multiple defenders at the 21-year-old rookie but nothing has worked. If Mitchell can defeat OKC it would increase his chances to win ROY. Again no shade towards Simmons in Philly but he didn’t have to face two All-Stars and a future Hall of Famer in the first round. Maybe there is no first place winner and a CO-ROY. It has happened before. (Grant Hill, Jason Kidd, 1995) (Dave Cowens, Geoff Petrie 1971). I am not saying that Simmons does not deserve rookie of the year but it should be shared with Mitchell.
Before you throw your laptop in frustration just think about it Simmons has Embiid and a supporting cast full of sharpshooters. Mitchell is a rookie who had to step up as the leading scorer and lead a team in the West and did just that. The West is different from the East which factors into the equation. Riddle me this who is on the Jazz without using google? Not saying Mitchell is in first place but the argument is there if he wins tonight.
So who do you have in first place? Let us know at @PSN_Philly.
Featured image Blake Rubin via Flickr.
Stats used in this article are from Stats.NBA.com.