NBA Rookies

Tristan Batiste, Writer ; Photographer

The 2017 rookie class has been nothing short of superb. Players like Jayson Tatum, a player who had an impressive resume at Duke University and has continued to shine for the Boston Celtics all year and stunning crowds with his ball handling and ability to get to the basket. Or Kyle Kuzma, a 22nd overall pick in the draft who has quietly became the steal of the draft to many due to his ability to be a dangerous scorer, especially from the three point line.

However, two “rookies” stand out more than other talented players of the 2017 class; Donovan Mitchell, the 13th overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft by the Utah Jazz, and Ben Simmons a former number one pick out of LSU in 2016 by the Philadelphia 76ers. For those who don’t know, Simmons is technically not a rookie but what would have been his first year in the NBA was halted by an ankle injury that kept him sidelined for the whole season.

Simmons however, is still eligible for the Rookie of The Year award similar to Blake Griffin, another rookie who was sidelined his whole first year and Griffin actually won the award the following year. Will Simmons follow in Griffins footsteps?

My fear is that Simmons will, as I am an all out supporter of Mitchell being the true rookie of the year. However, I believe the selection committee will overlook Mitchell due to Simmons ability to load up the statsheet. Simmons on the year averaged 15.8 PPG, 8.1 APG and 8.2 RPG, while Mitchell averaged 20.5 PPG, 3.7 RPG and 3.7 APG. Simmons may have more court vision ability and his sheer size as a 6’10 point guard makes him dominant in the rebound game. But when it comes to the ability to truly lead a team to victory, I believe Mitchell is more valuable.

While Simmons is obviously able to involve his teammates and put up large number of assists, he is also supported by an assortment of developing and veteran talents that the 76ers are loaded with, including superstar Joel Embiid, a formidable veteran JJ Reddick and many others. Mitchell on the other hand, plays with a supporting cast of zero other all star players.

With that in consideration, Mitchell has led the Jazz into the playoffs after previously being eight games below .500 and not even being in the playoff picture in a very competitive western conference. He also is one of few rookies who have led their team in scoring their first year, and since 2000 only one other rookie has led their team in scoring and made it to the playoffs that being Carmelo Anthony when the Denver Nuggets squeezed into the playoffs in 2004.

Mitchell is also a consistent performer. He has had 46 20 point games this year and set the NBA record for three pointers in a rookie season with 186 beating out Damian Lillard and Steph Curry. Finally, there is one stat that I think prevails above all of these. Per36 (A calculation of the average every 36 minutes played in a quarter) in the fourth quarter of games, Mitchell is averaging nearly 30 points which is averaging ten points every fourth quarter. To put that in perspective, when Boston Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas was considered “Mr. Fourth Quarter” last year, he was also averaging 10 points.

Rookie of the year should be an award presented to someone who has the heaviest impact on their team. Although Ben Simmons has put up impressive numbers, Donovan Mitchell’s capability to lead a team in clutch time and be the outright leader is something that can’t be ignored, and I believe that is what earns him outright Rookie of The Year.