Ben Simmons is the Rookie of the Year this year. I said it. There. In the never-ending debate of who will win between Ben Simmons and Donovan Mitchell, Ben Simmons is going to win out. We have to admit that Donovan Mitchell has made it at least a contest this year, but there’s no way he can keep up with Ben Simmons never ending history in the making stats.
Ben Simmons is the first rookie since Magic Johnson to have at least 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, and 500 assists. The other player? Oscar Robertson.
Ben Simmons has had nine triple doubles surpassing even Magic Johnson who had seven during his rookie year.
Ben Simmons has an effective field goal percentage of 53.6% and is averaging 16.1 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 7.9 assists.
Ben Simmons is averaging the most touches in basketball and is a big reason why the Philadelphia 76ers are 41-30 and in 4th in the Eastern Conference.
Yes, Donovan Mitchell can score in bunches, but he just doesn’t impact a game quite like Ben Simmons. Ben Simmons is like a swiss army knife. He does a little bit of everything. Yeah, he doesn’t shoot threes, but even a swiss army knife doesn’t come with a hammer. It’s not for everything but it’s great at many things.
Feels good (or terrible) to read a Jazz blog admitting that Ben Simmons is rookie of the year, doesn’t it? That’s why everything you’ve just read, everything you’re feeling right now, is a complete appeal to your biases. You see, I don’t think Ben Simmons is a clear favorite for Rookie of the Year, nor do I think Donovan Mitchell is a clear favorite for Rookie of the Year. In fact, most you haven’t even read this far. If you’re a Philly fan, there’s a good chance that over half of you have already gone to the comments to claim victory that even Jazz fans get it. If you’re a Jazz fan, you’ve already jumped to the comments to demand for my resignation. It’s how people read on the internet. We stick in our bubbles and don’t escape. We engage in this practice as much in sports as we do in politics.
It’s for that reason we can’t appreciate what’s really going on before our eyes. History. Real history. Not just by one rookie, but by two rookies in the same year, yet all we can do is discredit the other to build our narrative so that our guy is the champion like tribal primitives cheering on our toughest warrior. It’s ridiculous, it’s sophomoric, and I’m done with it.
Have I partaken in this? Oh, you bet I have at the beginning of the season. At that point, Donovan’s rise was fun, and honestly, it was more to prod 76ers’ fans than it was that I truly believed Donovan Mitchell could overtake Ben Simmons in the Rookie of the Year race. Now? It’s a photo finish. Because we can’t see a clear winner, each side resorts to pot shots. It’s like critiquing the statue of David. Are there flaws? Yes. BUT IT’S THE FREAKING DAVID SCULPTED BY MICHELANGELO. Enjoy the art. Enjoy the craft. Partake of the experience.
When Ben Simmons was intentionally fouled by the Miami Heat so he could get to the line with his less than stellar free throw line, there was no shortage of Utah Jazz fans foaming at the mouth for the chance to clown on Ben Simmons. “HOW CAN HE BE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR IF HE CAN’T MAKE A FREE THROW???”
When Donovan Mitchell had a rough game against the Atlanta Hawks and went 1 for 8 from three, there was no shortage of Philadelphia 76ers fans who wanted to point and scream, “HE’S JUST A SHOOTER!!! NOTHING MORE!!!”
How pathetic is it that we’re experiencing the next wave of generational NBA talent and all we can behave like is a biased critic stan’ing hard for what is close and dear to our hearts? It’s dismissive, it’s small, and it reeks off insecurity. If there’s someone else out there doing great things, how can our guy be great?
Opposing fans have liked to take shots at Donovan (even Ben Simmons himself, sadly) saying “he’s just a shooter” despite putting up similar numbers to rookie Michael Jordan and leading his team in scoring for the season.
That “just a shooter” skillset allowed Donovan Mitchell to become the first rookie since Wilt Chamberlain to lead his team in scoring while that team was on an 11 game or more winning streak.
That “just a shooter” skillset allowed Donovan Mitchell to score in a number of ways despite shouldering the biggest offensive load for Utah. While Rudy Gobert bests Joel Embiid defensively, Embiid is lightyears ahead offensively. Donovan doesn’t have the benefit of an all-star talent on offense to play with and has to get creative.
Mitchell has already passed Karl Malone for most 20 point games as a rookie ,and sits firmly in second in Jazz history for most 20 point games as a rookie.
Donovan Mitchell is on pace to become the first rookie since Blake Griffin to average 20 or more points a game. If Donovan Mitchell continues his averages of 20 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists for the season, he’ll become the first guard since Michael Jordan to get the playoffs while averaging those numbers. Think about that, Donovan Mitchell is doing things not seen since Michael Jordan.
Meanwhile, “can’t shoot” Ben Simmons has one of the best effective field goal percentages in the league. He’s breaking rookie records once owned by Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson. This rookie class is insane and it’s being led by two once in a generation players.
And yet ...
HERE WE ARE TRYING TO WATER IT ALL DOWN BECAUSE SOMEHOW IT MEANS MORE IF SOMEONE ELSE SUCKS.
These two are completely different players when it comes to their skill sets, but because one doesn’t do what the other can do, we have to poke holes in their games. We’re building our position that our apple is better than the orange because it’s not an apple and vice versa.
We have to classify one as a redshirt rookie to make ourselves feel better and tear down the counterpoint. We have to point to how Ben Simmons can’t shoot three even though Mitchell has struggled from 3 over the past few weeks because it reinforces our argument. We point to triple doubles as if they’re the only basketball metric of success. We compare and compare and compare, and while that is all going on we could be enjoying it.
It’s ironic that Jazz fans have become vitriolic in this argument against Ben Simmons when Utah has two Aussies on their team. The Jazz have two fifths of the Australian National Team’s starting lineup. Wouldn’t it make sense to cheer on another Australian countryman?
Equally ironic are the Philadelphia fans that have become so vengeful against Donovan Mitchell saying “He’s just a scorer” when hanging in their rooms are vintage posters of Allen Iverson. He was known for being “just a scorer”. That “just a scorer” mindset made it possible for him to drag a pathetic starting lineup to the NBA Finals. Not too bad for a guy known for just being “good at taking shots.”
Honestly, I hope there’s a way that both of them can win the award and tie; not to perpetuate the “everybody gets a trophy” mindset, but because both deserve it. There are two rookies making significant impacts on their teams and helping them get to the playoffs in the same year. This is historic. This is legendary. To try to remove the other out of the argument is to lose focus of how unique of a season this is. Donovan Mitchell’s season is great in a vacuum, but it’s even better in the context of Ben Simmons being just as good in the Eastern Conference.
So put down the red pen. Calm down your twitter fingers. Root for your favorite player to win the rookie of the year award. Just don’t feel you have to Tonya Harding the opposing argument for your player to be better.