The Great Debate: Mitchell or Simmons for Rookie of the Year?

The Mitchell vs. Simmons Rookie of the Year debate is coming to a head. When the season started, most experts agreed that this was a particularly deep and talented rookie class, but Simmons was widely viewed as a lock to win the award.  Mitchell was an afterthought as the 13th overall pick. Now, as we reach the home stretch of the season, the media and experts seem evenly split. Simmons has been as good as advertised. He is a freakish athlete with an knack of setting up his teammates, has great court vision, and is virtually unstoppable in the open court and at the rim. Mitchell has energized an entire Jazz fan base that was devastated by the departures of its top two scorers including its best player. Mitchell now has the Jazz on the brink of returning to the Playoffs after being left for dead in mid-January. So, who will walk away with the Rookie of the Year trophy at the end of the season?

Traditional Stats

Case for Simmons:

16.2 PPG

7.7 RPG

7.6 APG

1.7 SPG

7 Triple-Doubles

Case for Mitchell:

19.7 PPG

3.6 RPG

3.6 APG

1.4 SPG

32 20+ Point Games (two 40+ point games)


Advantage: Simmons


Advanced Stats

Case for Simmons:

PER 19.0

Win Shares 6.5

Offensive Rating 108

Defensive Rating 103

Usage 22.7%


Case for Mitchell:

PER 16.4

Win Shares 4.0

Offensive Rating 106

Defensive Rating 103

Usage 28.6%


Advantage: Simmons



Case for Simmons:

Simmons is a driving machine.

53.6 FG%

53.6 eFG%

0.0% 3PT%

57.9% FT%

55.2% True Shooting Percentage

0-for-10 3PT

According to, Simmons shooting 69 percent of his shots inside of 10 feet and his average shot is 5.7 feet.


Case for Mitchell:

Mitchell is a long range threat.

43.6 FG%

50.9 eFG%

34.8 3PT%

83.6 FT%

54.6% True Shooting Percentage

156 3PTM

His average shot is 14.6 feet. Shooting 41 percent of his shots from three point range, he leads all rookies in both attempts and makes.

Advantage: Mitchell


Team Success

Case for Simmons:

Simmons has the Sixers currently sitting in 6th place and headed to the East Playoffs with a record of 36-30. Philly had a season high seven-game winning streak in February. The Sixers have been a league doormat for years while stockpiling high draft picks as part of “The Process.” Simmons is helping to change that losing culture.

Case for Mitchell:

Mitchell has the Jazz currently sitting in 8th place in the West with a record of 38-30. The Jazz own one 11-game win streak and are in the midst of winning 19 of their last 21 to get them in the Playoff picture. The Jazz won 51 games last season but were trying to replace its top two scorers who left in free agency. The Las Vegas line for the Jazz pre-season was 38.5 wins. East teams have won 490 games this season to the West’s 526. The West is much tougher than the East and what the Jazz have done to get to into the Playoff hunt has been historic.

Advantage: Mitchell



Case for Simmons:

Simmons is such a superior athlete that he makes the game looks easy. He is a natural passer with elite court vision who tends to make his teammates better. His ability to finish at the rim is truly elite, shooting 74.5 percent from 0-3 feet. For comparison, in his rookie season, Lebron James shot 60.1 percent inside of three feet and this season James Harden is shooting 67.8 percent inside three feet. As a poor free throw shooter, he can become a liability late in games where opposing teams can foul him and put him on the line to contain the Sixers offense. Because he doesn’t even look to shoot the three, he must be surrounded by players who can in order to maintain spacing. Despite his shooting limitations he has remained a dominant force getting to the rim and finishing with either hand and regardless of contact. Embiid is clearly the leader on the Sixers and takes the bulk of the scoring load throughout the game and in clutch moments. Still, Simmons has figured out a way to dominate without a jump shot, which is not an easy task in today’s NBA.

Case for Mitchell:

Mitchell’s Usage Rate this season is 0.2 percent higher than Lebron James’s Usage Rate in his rookie season. Mitchell has been looked to as the Jazz’s number one offensive option, leading the team in points, minutes, shot attempts, and makes. he is also the number one point of emphasis on every team’s scouting report. The last time a rookie guard led his team to the Playoffs, while also leading the team in scoring on an Effective Field Goal Percentage of 50%? Michael Jordan. The last rookie to lead a team in scoring during at least a 10-game winning streak? Wilt Chamberlain. The last rookie to have multiple 40-point games? Blake Griffin, the last rookie to average 20-plus points per game. Averaging 20 points as a rookie is not something that happens very often. Only 13 rookies in the last 30 years have done it: Blake Griffin, Kevin Durant, Tyreke Evans, Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony, Elton Brand, Tim Duncan, Allen Iverson, Glenn Robinson, Shaquille O’Neal, Alonzo Mourning, David Robinson, and Mitch Richmond. Of those 20-point scorers, only Carmelo (lost to Lebron), Glenn Robinson (lost to Grant Hill and Jason Kidd), and Alonzo Mourning (lost to Shaq) didn’t win Rookie of the Year. If Mitchell can get his scoring average up over 20 points per game (which looks like a certainty at this point), it’s almost a guarantee that he wins the award. If he doesn’t and the pattern holds, that would mean that Ben Simmons would become a first ballot Hall of Famer and this rookie class will go down as one of the best classes ever.

Advantage: Mitchell



Simmons and Mitchell are future stars. Both are deserving of the award. The question comes down to whether the voters are more inclined to vote based on stats or everything else. Based on pure stats, it is tough to see anyone but Simmons winning the award. Simmons’ seven triple doubles matched Magic Johnson’s rookie total and they, along with his impressive overall stat line, illustrate how he does everything. Mitchell is a natural scorer, a charismatic leader, and a clutch closer. Mitchell has been asked to carry a heavier load than Simmons and is thriving in the stronger conference. Anyone who says that this is an easy decision, is biased because this is a very, very close call. This seems like a good year to name Co-Rookies of the Year, which has happened only twice before. Jason Kidd and Grant Hill shared the award in 1994-95 and Elton Brand and Steve Francis shared the award in 1999-2000. While it’s close, if I had a vote I’d be casting it for Mitchell. He has been so good for the Jazz and stats alone do not tell the entire story.

One thought on “The Great Debate: Mitchell or Simmons for Rookie of the Year?

  1. Mitchell wins…He has the intangibles that no other rookie has at his age…winning games because he is clutch at times when his team needs him to be clutch. Besides, Ben Simmons is a good player, but he had his chance to be ROY last year. Why should we give someone two chances to win this award when one is what’s needed.

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