• Matt Peoples

Stop Overthinking It: Ben Simmons is the Rookie of the Year


Ben Simmons is, fairly demonstratively, the NBA Rookie of the Year. Thank you for reading!

That obviously can't be the summation of the argument (says my editor) so I'm happy to elaborate on what has been one of the more debated award races of the past few years. The Sixers fan base seem to embody a Drake lyrical paraphrase as they "only love their Ben and their mama, and they're not sorry.” If you cringed reading that just know I cringed writing it, but we're here for a good time, not a long time — okay, I'll stop. Yet, Philadelphia's claim of having the Rookie of the Year on their squad is as accurate as can be.

When it comes to the R.O.Y., the primary candidates are down to two outstanding rookies in Donovan Mitchell and Ben Simmons. Ignoring Mitchell's candidacy to advocate for Simmons doesn’t do the high level of basketball we are seeing from the first year players justice. In order to show why Simmons is the superior player, we should evaluate each player skill by skill to and a measured argument in favor of the 6'10” point guard.

Scoring

If you haven’t heard, Ben Simmons is not a good jump shooter. Once you picked your jaw up off the floor, we can dive into the scoring aspect of Ben’s game. The Australian is averaging 16.2 points per game on 53% shooting and very few of those points are coming from outside of the paint. Simmons has displayed something between a reluctance and an inability to take conventional jump shots. Instead, he finds cracks in the defense or exploits the immense amount of sagging teams do against him to find ways to the basket. Crafty floaters and dunks are a large portion of the young Aussie’s scoring portfolio and despite his skillful array of finishes, it has limited his scoring ability and forced him into traffic, leading to turnovers.

Mitchell, however, is a three-level scorer capable of operating in the pick-and-roll, catch-and-drive, and isolation situations — leading to his 20 points per game. If Ben is ever able to attain some semblance of a jump shot he should be able to hover around Mitchell's scoring output, but the edge goes to the (currently) more capable Jazz guard.

Passing

Mitchell is a decent passer as an off-guard, but wilts in comparison to Simmons in this regard so this sentence will be his lone mention in this category. Ben Simmons is one of the best passing rookies of the past few decades. The point guard — and yes, he is a point guard — has displayed a preternatural feel for the game: finding passing lanes and creating mismatches to be exploited by his distinct ability. Simmons is averaging 7.9 assists and is in the top 5 for secondary assists. These statistics show his passing is leading directly or secondarily to points as he functions as an unnaturally large primary initiator at 6'10”.

At his height, Simmons is able to see over the defense as a menace moving the ball out of the post. If you double team, JJ Redick, Robert Covington, or Marco Belinelli is open — and that's not fun for the other team. The Sixer point excels in transition as he is lightning quick running and advancing the ball to open teammates. A recent 15 assist, 0 turnover performance was the cumulative representation of his passing brilliance. Apologies to everyone outside the City of Cheesesteaks and Rocky, but he's only getting better.

Defense and Rebounding

Simmons and Mitchell are both rarities as NBA rookies who help their teams on defense. Both post solid defensive ratings of 104 and 105, respectively, showing that they are capable of being part of above-average defenses. Mitchell is a pesk on that end, using his wingspan and lateral quickness to torture opposing lead- and off-guards. His defensive timing for steals and ability to get over screens are already solid, yet ever-improving.

Ben Simmons is just better.

Simmons is already one of the most versatile defenders in the NBA. He primarily begins the game guarding the others team’s point guard while capably switching from guards to bigs to Colin Cowherd and his heinous record predictions. Simmons is one of the league leaders in steals as his timing is beyond his years and he displays elite quickness laterally as he gets into passing lanes. The point guard is a key cog in the 5th best defense in the NBA, helping Joel Embiid anchor an elite, modern defense. As Simmons becomes even more comfortable with NBA defensive schemes, he'll show he can be a potential All-NBA defensive player.

All this is said without mention of how much of a dog Simmons is on the defensive glass. He sports a 18.6% defensive rebounding rate which is second of point guards to Russell Westbrook, former NBA MVP and annually angry person. Some may attempt to disparage this elite stat by clamoring that someone his size should naturally be privy to rebounding. Although this bears some truth, it's outweighed by the fact that Simmons is crashing the defensive glass from the perimeter where his defensive assignment typically is. This makes the rebounds he's corralling generally more difficult to get to, but Simmons is still finding nearly 8 of them a game.

Ben Simmons, ladies and gentlemen, is your Rookie of the Year as he has put together a fairly historic rookie campaign highlighted by 9 triple doubles, second to only Oscar Robertson for rookies. Mitchell has been a terrific rookie in his own right, but just falls short to Simmons in too many categories. Ben Simmons receiving the Eddie Gobliett trophy is music to the ears of Sixers fans although Jazz fans will probably be shuffling for a different tune.

STATISTICS: basketballreference.com

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