Rookie of the Year voting is over, but it seems like the debate will rage on over who deserves to win the award for years to come, even after Ben Simmons or Donovan Mitchell gets the honor next month. Both players have been sensational this year, but the debate surrounding the two has basically turned into whether Simmons’ one year in the league that was spent on the sidelines should disqualify him for the award.
Those who disagree with that assertion point out that Simmons was sidelined with a broken foot, and he did not willingly sit out during his first year in the league. On the other end of the spectrum, the argument is that spending a year existing in the NBA and getting a taste of the coaching, training, and lifestyle that comes with being a professional basketball player is an invaluable experience.
Ultimately, those who vote on awards will determine whether Simmons should be, for lack of a better word, disqualified for “redshirting,” or if he and Mitchell will be judged on their numbers and impact on their teams. Should it be the latter, while Mitchell has been great, Simmons has a résumé that is hard to beat.
But for Scottie Pippen, that year getting used to life in the NBA while Mitchell was at Louisville is too much for Simmons to overcome. Pippen spoke to Dime while he was attending a video shoot for House of Hoops’ “Off the Record” series, and after explaining why he doesn’t view Golden State as a dynasty and why he’d re-sign in Cleveland if he was LeBron James, the Hall of Fame member got into how he views the Rookie of the Year race.
“I would probably go with Mitchell just because he didn’t live the NBA culture,” Pippen said. “I think both players are definitely deserving of it. But I think just the fact that this is Mitchell’s first year, he didn’t live the lifestyle, he didn’t do the traveling. He just didn’t live basketball. He was in school last season while he was trying to make basketball a part of his life, so it plays out a little different.
“If I had to pick one, I would probably say Mitchell is a little more organic,” Pippen continued. “Ben Simmons has been working with NBA coaches, trainers, for the last year or so, whether or not he was on the court or not, he was still tied to an organization, whereas Mitchell has sort of came in and just did everything on the fly, bonding with his teammates, played well enough to be considered Rookie of the Year. Now this team is playing well enough to be a four seed. It’s just been amazing to watch these young players carry their team.”
Pippen is certainly right that both players have been outstanding this year — Mitchell has turned into a bonafide No. 1 option for Utah, while Simmons is one of the league’s most unique and devastating two-way players, even if he doesn’t have a jump shot in his game right now. Both players are certainly worthy of getting the award, and it’s not an indictment on one if the other takes it home.
But it still is interesting that Pippen believes Simmons is, essentially, not a rookie. The current definition of the award states that he is, and detractors will argue that it’s something of an endorsement of Simmons when the argument against him is “he’s great but should be disqualified.” Regardless, if Pippen were given the power to award the Rookie of the Year to the player of his choice, the award would be headed to Utah.