ONE of the best rookie classes in recent memory is tearing up the league right now. Look no further than the Rising Stars game from the weekend if you want a glimpse of the bright future. That bright future is being led by Donovan Mitchell and Ben Simmons, two rookies who are redefining our expectations from first-year players. The way they are playing it’s going to be tough for any of their peers to catch them and dethrone them as 2018’s best rook. Never say never though…
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FROM day one, Simmons has been a force in the NBA. His playmaking and ability to get to his spots make him look like a vet just 50 games into his career. Scouts, media members and fans (myself included) were sceptical about how Simmons would succeed without a consistent jump shot. In my preseason post, I had him tabbed as the rookie of the year winner, but I didn’t think he would be shooting 52.7% from the field and filling up the box score like a young Magic Johnson.
SIMMONS’ hot start to the season has cooled off in recent months, allowing Donovan Mitchell to enter the Rookie of the Year race. In 20 games since the start of 2018, the Utah Jazz phenom has averaged 22.0 PPG and looking like an accomplished veteran. After slipping through the cracks falling all the way to No. 13 in last years draft he is making everyone who passed on him pay on a nightly basis.
LEADING all rookies with 19.6 points per game, Mitchell is helping to steer his squad towards an unlikely playoff berth. Until last night, Utah was riding an 11-game winning streak with Mitchell leading them to wins over the Spurs, Warriors and Raptors. Gordon Hayward’s departure led to a lot of questions surrounding who would fill the scoring void, but Mitchell has emerged as a star in the making.
Image from thebiglead.com
WITH two favourites ahead of the field the rest of the rookies have their work cut out if they are going to catch their peers. Kyle Kuzma and Jayson Tatum are probably the first-year guys within striking distance. Players like Dennis Smith Jr and Bogdan Bogdanovic probably won’t be able to bridge the gap and for Kuzma and Tatum to make a serious run they will need to do something special.
IT’S not impossible given the talent levels of both players and what they have shown in year one. Tatum might stand the best chance given how well the Celtics have been rolling so far this year. If he can bump up his averages and throw in a handful of big games then he may push himself into the conversation.
Image from hoopshype.com
CONSIDERING how late in the season we are it’s hard to see anyone not named Ben Simmons or Donovan Mitchell walk away with the 2017-18 ROY trophy. The tough question is which amatuer is leading the race right now?
I’M leaning towards Mitchell as the favourite right now, given the small slip that Simmons had in production towards the end of 2017. If the Jazz can keep surging and establish themselves a playoff team then the award is his to lose, should he keep up his level of production. Simmons is a freak of nature though and if he gets hot then there’s no way he is out of the race. Strap yourselves in, it’s going to be tight.