This year’s Rookie of the Year race in the NBA is, as in most years, highly contentious.
Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers, the first overall pick of the 2016 draft, missed all of the 2016-17 season with a foot injury, and is thus technically in his rookie season. He’s averaged 22.5 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 11.6 assists per 100 possessions and .162 win shares per 48 minutes on a 22.5% usage rate and 55.7% true shooting percentage. He’s one of three players to average 15, 8, and 8 per game this season, along with Russell Westbrook and LeBron James. He’s lethal in the passing lanes on defense, and is one of the most gifted playmakers in the league. Because of the abnormal size of the Sixers’ starting lineup and rotation, he’s guarded 1-4 this season and done so exceptionally all year, to the tune of a 3.5 Defensive Box Plus/Minus.
Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz, who was selected 13th in the 2017 draft, has put up 30.7 points, 5.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists per 100 possessions and .095 win shares per 48 minutes on a 29.1% usage rate and a 54.1% true shooting percentage. Mitchell has been forced into a lead scorer role for the Jazz with the departure of Gordon Hayward in free agency and an injury to Rudy Gobert, and has stepped up magnificently. He’s practically been a walking bucket all year, is a solid defender at guard, and was integral to the Jazz making it to the playoffs.
The fact of the matter is that Ben Simmons has been a transcendent player in his rookie season. He’s an elite playmaker and defender, and deserves the rookie of the year award comfortably. Mitchell has him beat in scoring volume, but Simmons is comfortably better at everything else. Both men, along with Celtics wing Jayson Tatum, look like they’ll be exceptional NBA players. but for this year, Simmons has been the best by leaps and bounds.