Rookie of the Year voting comes to a close this week as the last regular-season games will be played by Wednesday. There have been two clear-cut runaway finalists for the award all season: 76ers’ baby LeBron, Ben Simmons, and Jazz super hero Donovan Mitchell.
When he arrived for Utah’s second-to-last game of the season against the Warriors, Mitchell took matters into his own hands. He wore an Adidas hoodie with the definition of “rookie” on the front.
His outfit of choice was a clear shot at Simmons, who had slighted Mitchell in a recent interview.
Mitchell and Simmons have made the Rookie of the Year race very interesting
Simmons appeared in an interview with ESPN’s Chris Haynes, and when asked which rookies other than himself have caught his attention, he said, “None.”
Then on Tuesday, Mitchell wore his rookie hoodie. The definition: An athlete, playing in his or her first season as a member of a professional sports team. It was a shot at Simmons, who missed his first year with a broken foot.
Well, who’s gonna win?
At this point, you could flip a coin and choose heads or tails to decide who you’d use your vote on this season. That’s how close the rookie race has been this year.
Mitchell has been absolutely outstanding in his first season with the Jazz, averaging 20.5 points, 3.7 assists, 3.7 rebounds, and 1.5 steals per game. He’s been a force in leading the Jazz to a playoff appearance in a post-Gordon Hayward era. He’s also become the first Jazz rookie ever to lead the team in scoring, and the first rookie since Darrell Griffith in 1980-81 to average 20 or more points per game.
Griffith won Rookie of the Year that season. He also didn’t play in a league where Simmons existed.
If Mitchell has been absolutely outstanding, Simmons has been equally as incredible. The 76ers rookie is averaging 16 points, 8.2 assists, 8.1 rebounds, and 1.7 steals per game. He somehow does this without shooting threes and is currently averaging a triple-double through Philly’s 15-game winning streak.
Only six players have had the numbers Simmons has had in a season: Wilt Chamberlain, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, Magic Johnson, and Oscar Robertson, and only Robertson posted those numbers as a rookie.
The main knock against Simmons? Well, he’s not truly a rookie. He was drafted in 2016 but missed his own actual rookie season after he broke his foot.
We won’t know who wins Rookie of the Year until the first round of the NBA playoffs. Will we get co-Rookie of the Year recipients, like when Grant Hill and Jason Kidd shared the crown in 1995? It’s possible.
But as long as these two guys keep throwing shade at each other like this, the Rookie of the Year race will continue to be fun to watch.