The race for the 2017-2018 NBA Rookie of the Year award featured quite the two-way battle, with Philadelphia 76ers forward Ben Simmons and Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell squaring off head-to-head for the entire stretch run of the season. The back-and-forth featured Mitchell not-so-subtly insinuating that Simmons shouldn’t qualify as a rookie, calls for co-Rookie of the Year honors, and even a prompt that forced commissioner Adam Silver to declare that the league wouldn’t change its current policies.
In the end, though, the award was (finally) handed out during Monday’s NBA Awards Show and Simmons emerged victorious. It isn’t a huge surprise that the former No. 1 overall pick claimed the award, simply because he was the leader for most of the early portion of the season and his across-the-board performance was quite impressive.
Despite the apparent animosity they showed in campaigning for the award, Mitchell and Simmons dapped each other up after the announcement.
Simmons finished the season averaging 15.8 points, 8.2 assists and 8.1 rebounds per game, posting impressive efficiency (20.0 PER) despite the well-chronicled absence of a floor-spacing jump shot. Beyond that, his defensive impact greatly exceeded that of Mitchell and Simmons also held a significant edge in analytically driven statistics such as win shares, value over replacement player and ESPN’s real plus-minus (RPM).
Still, Mitchell’s accomplishments were undeniably stellar and, in a “normal” season, both first-year standouts would have been relatively easy selections as NBA Rookie of the Year. For 2017-2018, however, only one could bring home the hardware and the nod went to Simmons.