This year’s Kia NBA Rookie of the Year Award could go to a number of young stars. 2018’s race for best rookie will be one of the closest ones in recent memory. Jayson Tatum has become a go to scorer for the Boston Celtics. Kyle Kuzma has emerged as the “steal of the draft” and is playing better than anyone could have imagined. Dennis Smith Jr. and Lauri Markkanen have proved skeptics wrong.
However, two players stand out above the rest. Ben Simmons, who was drafted in 2016 and sat out his first year due to a foot injury, and Donovan Mitchell, who has been a huge boost for the Gordon Hayward-less Utah Jazz, are the front runners for the Rookie of the Year award.
Both youngsters are of paramount importance to their team’s success this year. Ben Simmons is leading the charge for the youthful Philadelphia 76ers, who look like they have positioned themselves to make the playoffs this season after years of tanking. Donovan Mitchell has been a revelation for the Utah Jazz, who are currently on a smoking 11 game win streak.
Ben Simmons is a 6’10 point guard. Yes, you read that right. He is a 6’10 tank handling the ball and running the offense for the 76ers. After sitting out his first season because of a foot injury, Simmons has come back better than anyone could have predicted. He is averaging 16.4 points, 7.8 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 1.9 steals and 0.9 blocks. No other player in NBA History has ever averaged these statistics for a full season. If Simmons can keep these numbers up, he would be the first to do so.
He already has 6 triple doubles on the season. That places him third for most triple doubles by any player this season as well as third for most triple doubles in a season by a rookie. He needs one more to tie Magic Johnson, who Simmons is most often compared to.
Along with Joel Embiid and Dario Saric, Ben Simmons has revitalized a franchise that seemed stuck in mediocrity for so long. With him on team, the 76ers and their fans should expect them in the playoffs for years to come.
Donovan Mitchell has been a nice surprise for the Utah Jazz to say the least. Mitchell was drafted 13th overall in 2017 by the Utah Jazz. Gordon Hayward had announced he was leaving Salt Lake City to team up with his old college coach, Brad Stevens, and would be joining the Boston Celtics. Donovan Mitchell was drafted to be a piece of a team that had to play without the face of their franchise. No one expected that he would take Hayward’s mantle and become a young star they can build around for the future. The 6’3 dynamic guard is averaging 19.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.5 steals on the season. He is nailing 2.3 threes per game at a 35% clip and is shooting nearly 44% from the floor.
Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert are keeping the Jazz in the playoff race, only a few games back from the 8th seeded New Orleans Pelicans. Very few thought the Jazz were going to be this successful without Gordon Hayward. Now, Donovan Mitchell has become their focal point.
Both of these players are playing amazing in their rookie seasons. Both will be competing in this year’s NBA Rising Stars Game and Mitchell will also be taking part in the Dunk Contest. Simmons, who was 3rd in fan voting for Eastern Conference guards and 6th in player and media voting, just barely missed the mark to be a All-Star in his first year. Either of them has a shot at being the Rookie of the Year. Fans, media, and even players are constantly arguing and debating about who is better than who. No matter who you have winning the Rookie of the Year Award this season, I think we can all agree on one thing. Ben Simmons and Donovan Mitchell will both be superstars for years to come.
Mandatory Credit: John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports