The Rookie of The Year Award doesn’t matter. As Deandre Ayton and Luka Doncic establish themselves as clear frontrunners this season, we also have to acknowledge that the award means nothing in the grand scheme of their careers. It doesn’t give them an immediate pay raise on their contracts, nor is the award isn’t a predictor. Michael Carter-Williams won it in 2013 over Victor Oladipo. Giannis Antetokounmpo didn’t even make the top three.
Despite that, the 2018 Rookie of the Year race took a largely pointless award and made it matter. It was a perfect storm — here was Ben Simmons, the rookie who was also not a rookie, running away with the honor on a Sixers team that found itself ahead of schedule. Joel Embiid was already proving to be a star, but Philadelphia’s roster was still young and needed time to grow. Simmons stepped in and exceeded expectations immediately, demolishing smaller players and running the break with ease. He could feast down low while Embiid could pop out high, creating one of the NBA’s most unique duos.
From the start of the season, it was clear just how much better Simmons was than the group of rookies against whom he played. Maybe it was thanks to sitting out a year due to injury and getting a chance to take in the game — Simmons had spent a year around the NBA, while the rest of the rookies did not get that luxury. Of course, Simmons didn’t really see that as a major advantage.
“It’s so funny reading comments and stuff like that saying I’m not a rookie.” Simmons told Dime last season before a game against the Magic. “I had an extra year, but at the same time, it’s difficult to come back from an injury and be better than you were before, and having that extra year kinda helped to an extent. At the same time, you don’t really have that preparation until you hit the floor and actually compete against guys in the NBA.”