Utah Jazz: A case for Donovan Mitchell as Rookie of the Year
This year’s class of NBA rookies has been arguably the best in the last few years. The top picks weren’t busts and the rest of the draft was littered with surprise talent. Although it was a close race early between some standout rookies, two have separated themselves from the pack. Philadelphia 76ers PG Ben Simmons and Utah Jazz SG Donovan Mitchell are the clear-cut favorites right now to win the award. Even though it looks like Simmons has the lead right now, there’s more to Mitchell’s season that people and the media voters should consider.
One of the biggest factors that separate Simmons and Mitchell is that Simmons, technically in his second year as an NBA player. Simmons broke his foot before the regular season started last year which caused him to miss the entire season. Personally, I feel like that year off gave him an advantage coming into this season. Although he didn’t see the floor, he did everything a rookie would do aside from play. He traveled with the team, worked out in NBA facilities and was equipped with NBA trainers, dietitians etc. He gained knowledge and perks that none of the rookies in this year’s draft including Mitchell were able to have coming into the season. That mental aspect and familiarity with how the NBA grind works is an advantage. No matter how you look at it.
Another thing to look at is the comparison of teammates between Mitchell and Simmons. Due to “The Process” Simmons is gifted with playing with the likes of Dario Saric, J.J. Reddick and of course Joel Embiid who at one point this season was an MVP candidate. It takes the pressure off when you have teammates that can get theirs without any help.
Mitchell is his team’s leading scorer. The next leading scorer on the team is Rudy Gobert who isn’t even an offensive threat. He’s averaging 13.7 ppg and the majority of his points come off putbacks or pick and roll alley-oops. Rodney Hood had been the team’s second-leading scorer at one point. However, the Cleveland Cavaliers acquired him at the trade deadline. Aside from sharpshooter Joe Ingles, there aren’t any other true scorers on the team. Yet somehow Donovan Mitchell is still able to put up great offensive numbers. Averaging 20.4 ppg while shooting 34% from 3 point range.
It also can’t be ignored that Donovan Mitchell and the Utah Jazz play in a much more difficult conference and to a greater extent a much tougher division. There is a possibility that every team in the Northwest Division in the Western Conference could make the playoffs. Each of whom would finish 7 or more games over .500. Although Simmons’ Sixers team has the Celtics and Raptors in their division, they also have the Nets and Knicks, two teams who are in the cellar of the league. Mitchell has led his Utah Jazz team to within 3 games of the 3rd overall spot in the West. It would be quite a feat for a rookie, especially a non-lottery pick rookie, to lead a team with no other all-star talent on the roster to home court advantage at least through the first round of the playoffs.
When Gordon Hayward chose the Boston Celtics over the summer during free agency many thought the Jazz would be on the cusp of rebuild mode after losing their superstar. Nobody expected that the 13th pick in the draft would be leading them to a potential 3 seed in a division that has Russell Westbrook, Damian Lillard, and Karl Anthony-Towns. This article was in no way to diminish the accomplishments and on-court performance of Ben Simmons. However, when looking at the Rookie of the Year award I feel the league should include other factors. It appears that this year’s the award will come down to the best offensive rookie vs the best all-around rookie.