As the NBA season is getting to the last legs, the media has started to lean towards Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz as their rookie of the year. While the Sixers Ben Simmons has been a great player, the new talk has everyone saying that he’s not really a rookie, since he sat out last year. I don’t see the difference. If he didn’t play, then he’s a rookie and the award is for the best first year player.
When you look at Mitchell, he’s a very good player for that team, but who else does he have? Ricky Rubio? Rudy Gobert? Derrick Favors? He should be scoring 19 points per game with that team. I get that they’ve had a great win streak of late, but their winning percentage is lower than the Sixers. The other aspect is that the Sixers were supposed to still be tanking. They’re not supposed to have been putting together a good season. Embiid was hurt too much. Simmons was hurt. Saric wasn’t as good as he’s played. Covington was a role player. They’re all clicking and working together and as the season has gone on the team has become a better more cohesive unit.
Looking at the Sixers roster, you can see what The Process was all about. Winning was going to take about 6-7 years. That seems to be the course they’re on now. The Sixers won’t be winning the NBA title this year or next. There’s not a chance. But, as they continue to grow and develop together, then there’s no reason that they couldn’t be competing for a title in the 2020 season.
AS for the Rookie of the Year award, it shouldn’t really matter, but not getting it, for Simmons, would be a slight. Simmons is the leader of this team and as he gets better, so will the Sixers. People talk about his lack of a jump shot. Why does he need it? At 6’10” he’s bigger than every point guard in the league. He has the handle, size and speed to dominate the smaller point guards defending him. If opposing teams stick a big guy on him, his speed will beat them every time. He’s a matchup nightmare. So, why does he need to shoot jumpers? He doesn’t.
Looking at a statistical point of view, Simmons is the better player overall.
Michell: 19.6 PPG 3.5 RBS 3.5 AST 1.5 STL 0.4 BLK
Simmons: 16.4 PPG 7.8 RBS 7.3 AST 1.9 STL .9 BLK
Simmons shooting percentage is higher and he also shoots 3.5 less shots per game than Mitchell. Given his shooting percentage, if he took three more shots per game, Simmons would be right around the same as Mitchell. Mitchell has a better three-point percentage because Simmons hasn’t attempted a set three pointer all year. His ten attempts have been, end of the quarter, heaves. But, again, why does he need to? He has shooters on his team. He makes the right play and gets those players the ball in the correct position to be effective.
Mitchell is a very good player. He’s a very good player on a team that needs him to be that player. Simmons is playing his role on a team that has Joel Embiid averaging 24 points a game and JJ Reddick averaging 17 points. We’re not forgetting Dario Saric who’s been averaging close to 17 points a game over his last ten and continuing last years trend of getting more involved and shooting better at the end of the year. Simmons is the facilitator of the offense and it shows in the stats of the guys around him. He’s averaging more touches than any other point guard in the league, but the time the ball is in his hands, for a point guard, is one of the lowest. He’s sees plays and movement well before anyone on the floor can and it allows him to contribute as he has. Without Simmons, the team would have been stuck with Jerry Bayless and TJ McConnell as their points, so who would you rather have?
I understand that I’m a “Philly Guy” and that I’m biased because of the coverage of the Sixers, but I’m actually looking at it realistically. The other day someone offered the opinion that if the Sixers were to call the Jazz and offer them Simmons straight up in a trade for Mitchell, the Jazz wouldn’t be able to get Mitchell on the plane to Philly quick enough. It was a good observation that should tell you all you need to know about Ben Simmons and his play this year.
Mitchell is the current media darling and the only way that it will change is if Ben keeps leading the Sixers to wins, as they’ve been doing lately. There was a time, at the start of the season, that everyone was talking about Lonzo Ball and how great he was and that he would be the rookie of the year. That, even though Simmons was putting up better numbers, Lonzo Ball was doing more. That faded away real quick.
On a final note, regarding the voting for Rookie of the Year. Last year, Dario Saric had better stats, overall, than Malcolm Brogdon of the Milwaukee Bucks. He was the better player, flat out. But, the argument was that Brogdon was on a playoff team. Brogdon played on a team with Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo. They were a good team, but at 42-40 they were the sixth seed in a weak Eastern Conference. As it sits now, the Sixers are the 7th seed in the East and the Jazz are the 10th in the West. Does it matter who makes the playoffs? Not in my opinion. The award is for the best first year player. This year, there’s not a question that that player is Ben Simmons.
Mandatory Credit: John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports