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Rookie of the Year Controversy: Simmons or Mitchell?

Utah+Jazz+Player%2C+Donovan+Mitchell%2C+had+a+great+season.
Utah Jazz Player, Donovan Mitchell, had a great season.

Utah Jazz Player, Donovan Mitchell, had a great season.

Courtesy of Sports Illustrated

Courtesy of Sports Illustrated

Utah Jazz Player, Donovan Mitchell, had a great season.

Charlie Finn, Sentry Staff Reporter

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The single most controversial National Basketball Association (NBA) award being given out this season is the Rookie of the Year award. Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz and Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia Seventy-Sixers are widely regarded as the last two contenders for this prestigious award, which recognizes the best player in the league from the class of first year players. Joining a list of athletes such as LeBron James, Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, one of these two will almost surely have the privilege of becoming known as the best rookie from the 2017-2018 season.

Having been compared to the fight between Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, the race between Donovan Mitchell and Ben Simmons for the title is highly debated. Both are outstanding players who have elevated their teams to new heights and shown they can play at the level of seasoned veterans such as Chris Paul or Russell Westbrook. The factors that separate them are not only their statistics, but the situations they have been thrown into. Donovan Mitchell has had to fill the role of Gordon Hayward (the Jazz’s star player before being traded to the Celtics) while Ben Simmons has helped lead a long struggling Sixers team to their first playoff berth since 2012. Many believe Simmons has locked up the award with his far superior statistics; however, Mitchell has shown he has the team leadership skills along with the drive and love for the game that being a great player takes.

Mitchell should be the rookie of the year for simple reasons: being the leading scorer, he has brought his team to the second round of the playoffs, placed his team fifth in an extremely competitive Western conference and averaged more than 20 points per game. It is safe to say that without Mitchell, the Jazz would almost certainly be one of the last seeds in their conference, mirroring their 2012-2016 seasons during which they never recorded a playoff berth. Mitchell is what some would describe as a star player for his respective team. He is the “go to guy,” someone everyone can rely on to play well. This is definitely a hard job for a rookie; however, Mitchell has filled the role astoundingly well. He is a well-rounded player who most certainly will continue putting up numbers and presenting a threat to other teams throughout his career. He has plenty of room to improve and will always be an exciting player to watch.

Stats wise, Simmons is leading Mitchell in almost everything except point per game, and is doing so marginally. Like Mitchell, he has led his team to a playoff berth and placed his team third in the Eastern conference. He has played as though he is a seasoned veteran and proved he too should be the rookie of the year. But not with Mitchell in the way. Simmons is not capable of being the star that Mitchell is.

The reason Mitchell should be the rookie of the year is because the team he’s playing on is much worse than Simmons’. Mitchell has become the  leader of his team, and he’s done an incredible job in this role. He is the reason that the Jazz did as well as they did this year, he is essentially a game changer. Simmons does not fill this same role for the 76ers. Joel Embiid, his teammate, was an all star selection and was one of the best players in the league this year. Having a player like this has made things much easier for Simmons. He has a player that he can trust to score points and make shots. Mitchell does not have this. He has played a phenomenal rookie year and deserves the award more than Simmons.

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Rookie of the Year Controversy: Simmons or Mitchell?