Each year, the NBA is introduced to a fresh crop of talent ready to prove they belong in the Association. In June, we watch a select few walk across the stage and shake the hand of Adam Silver, realizing their dream has come true. Lottery picks earn high expectations, but essentially, all rookies start the race at the same line.
Simmons and Mitchell have separated themselves from the pack
This year, two players have undoubtedly separated themselves from the pack. Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers and Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz. The two have been the most consistent and impactful rookies thus far.
Simmons stands at 6’10” and plays point forward for the 76ers, along with Joel Embiid they have Philly back in playoff contention. He was the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft and sat out his first year due to a foot injury. Simmons was eager to play and is proving to fans exactly why he was worth the wait.
In just his fourth game as a pro, he recorded his first triple-double (21 points, 12 rebounds, & 10 assists) versus the Pistons on Oct. 23rd. He has six in total before the All-Star break, shattering Jason Kidd’s previous rookie record of 4 in 1994-95.
Simmons currently averages 16.4 points and 7.3 assists per game (4th in the NBA). He also averages 7.8 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game, while shooting 52.7 percent from the field. The 76ers are currently 30-25, sitting nicely as the seventh seed in the East.
Mitchell has become a household name
As for his counterpart, Mr. Mitchell has seemingly taken the league by storm. The Louisville product was initially unsure if he was NBA ready, however, The Utah Jazz are glad he stuck to his guns, as he declared for the draft and was selected No. 13. Mitchell possesses a freakishly athletic 6’3”, 210-pound frame for a point guard. Not to mention he also has a 6’10 wingspan along with a 40.5-inch vertical.
He became a household name following his 41-point explosion versus the Pelicans on Dec. 1. Mitchell also had his second 40-point game on Feb. 2nd versus Phoenix. This past weekend he was crowned slam dunk champion in Los Angeles, putting on a dazzling display and proving to the league he will be around for a while. Mitchell leads all rookies in scoring, averaging 19.6 points per game. He has been pivotal for Utah, leading his team to an NBA best eleven straight victories before the All-Star break.
Mitchell has the high flying capability and scoring prowess that has bolted him as the top dog in a guard-heavy draft class. With names like Lonzo Ball, De’Aaron Fox, Dennis Smith Jr., and Malik Monk, the Jazz struck gold with the less acclaimed Mitchell. He already has the cosign of Damian Lillard, Demar Derozan, Stephen A. Smith, and Jalen Rose for ROY.
The Jazz are currently 30-28, 1.5 games behind the Pelicans for the eighth seed in the West.
The NBA has awarded a co-rookie of the year three times in its history:
- Dave Cowens, Geoff Petrie (1971)
- Jason Kidd, Grant Hill (1994)
- Elton Brand, Steve Francis (1999)
Will this be the year they do it again?