Odds to Win The NBA Rookie of The Year Award for 2018
Greatest rookie classes in league history usually boils down to this:
- 1984: Hakeem Olajuwon, Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, John Stockton
- 1996: Allen Iverson, Stephon Marbury, Ray Allen, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Jermain O’Neal
- 2003: LeBron James, Darko Milicic (kidding of course), Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh
Each of the three groups produced at least seven All-Stars and 50 All-Star appearances. That’s not an easily-duplicated feat, but the 2017 class is deep enough to join their company in the not-so-distant future.
Both Lonzo Ball (already one of the game’s best assist-men) and Kyle Kuzma (averaging a team-high 15.5 points per game) have burst onto the scene in Los Angeles. Jayson Tatum is on the verge of becoming the first Celtic to start every single game since Larry Bird. Chicago’s Lauri Markkanen is showing shades of Kristaps Porzingis. Dennis Smith is on a one-man mission to dunk on everyone in Dallas.
However, no one’s star is shining brighter than Donovan Mitchell. His playmaking on offense has quickly healed the wounds left by Gordon Hayward, leading Utah to wins in 18 of their last 20 games. He’d been the runaway Rookie of the Year if not for “pseudo-rookie” Ben Simmons.
Of course, Simmons was drafted first overall in 2016. But after an injury sidelined him his whole “real” rookie season, he’s been bunched into this group. That extra year in the NBA might’ve given him an upper hand because Simmons has been nothing short of extraordinary.
Three-quarters into the season, it’s Mitchell vs. Simmons going the distance in the ROY showdown. Let’s compare and contrast the budding stars to see who has the stronger case to emerge the victor.
The 21-year-old phenom introduced himself to the non-NBA world during the slam dunk contest, flying over Kevin Hart and paying homage to Vince Carter en route to a title. However, the Louisville product has been turning heads all season long.
Mitchell is averaging 19.7 points per game, which not only leads Utah, but all rookies. Matter of fact, only eight players have averaged at least 19 points in their debut season. Each of those players were selected in the top-4 picks whereas Mitchell went 13th overall.
That scoring pedigree is Mitchell’s clear advantage over Simmons. Mitchell’s game is highlighted by off-the-charts athleticism and versatility on offense. He’s on pace to break Damien Lillard’s rookie mark for most three-pointers made.
You know you’re doing something right when you’re drawing comparisons to Magic Johnson. Simmons has six triple-doubles on the year — one shy of tying the rookie record set by Johnson. Ultimately, that do-everything style is what sets Simmons apart from Mitchell.
The oversized point guard is averaging 16.4 points, 7.6 assists, 7.7 rebounds, and 1.7 steals — a stat line that’s unrivaled by not just rookies, but most of the league. That all-around efficiency (22.83) is 14th best in the NBA, whereas Mitchell ranks 48th in the same category.
Watching Simmons play sometimes feels like being stuck in a time warp. The Magic-like style clashes with today’s style of basketball. Simmons is 0-10 on three-pointers all season long and shoots an abysmal 57.4 percent from the charity stripe. In spite of those flaws, Simmons gets to the rim seemingly at will.
Both players have a rock-hard case for Rookie of the Year. When it’s this close, team success usually becomes the tiebreaker. However, it’s not glaring here as Utah and Philly have near identical records — the Jazz’s one extra win is hardly a difference maker.
Here’s the caveat: improvement from last season. Utah was a second-round team a year ago. Sure, Hayward left them high and dry, but the cupboard wasn’t bare. On the other hand, the 76ers were the fourth-worst team in the league in 2016. Surely, voters will credit Simmons for much of that turnaround.
We hate to say it, but hype will also be a deciding factor. Salt Lake City is hardly the market that Philadelphia is. Simmons also entered the league with much more fanfare and expectations, living up to each and more. No one should be surprised when Simmons wins the award at season’s end.
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