Why Ben Simmons is the Rookie of the Year

Brian Szipszky

Though The Friar’s Lantern typically does not cover local sports outside of Malvern, this was something I felt obligated to write.

If you scroll through the comments of any ESPN or Sportscenter Instagram post related to 76ers point guard Ben Simmons, you will find the same set of comments every time. “But he isn’t a rookie”, “Sophomore of the year”, “Has he made a single three?”, “Mitchell for ROY”. These comments aggravated me to the point that, one day, I found myself explaining why Simmons is the rookie of the year to my mother on the way in to school, who hasn’t watched a single game all year. I had to find a way to let out my frustration.

Occasionally, when I come across any of these comments, I’ll come up with a counterargument that never seems to get a response. Perhaps they found no way to combat my reasoning. Either that, or they actually have better things to do besides engage in NBA disputes with a stranger over the internet. But regardless, I’m going to lay out every argument I’ve seen on social media and debunk every single one of these arguments, beginning with the most common and the least substantiated.

1. Ben Simmons isn’t a rookie.

But he is. That should be the end of the argument right there. But people are dumb. By the NBA’s rules, as soon as you step on the floor for the first time, that is your first year of eligibility. If you break your leg that game, that’s it. Your rookie season consisted of one game. In Simmons’ case, he did not play at all until this season, therefore he is eligible for the award. I don’t care what your definition is, or what Donovan Mitchell’s sweatshirt’s definition is. A rule is a rule.

2. Ben Simmons shouldn’t be a rookie.

This argument actually advocates a rule change in the NBA, but the rule makes sense. Imagine for a second if it were the other way around. Ben Simmons misses his entire first year due to injury, and therefore is ineligible for the award. The sentiment would be wildly different. We would be calling the NBA cruel for punishing players for suffering season-ending injuries. Then there are those who say Simmons has a year of experience under his belt, whatever that means. He was learning the “do’s and don’ts” of the NBA, giving him an unfair advantage over other players. If this was such an egregious violation, why was there not an outcry when Blake Griffin won ROTY in 2011 after missing his first season? The NBA shouldn’t have to compensate for unfair advantages. If a player’s dog dies in the middle of the season and his stats drop, would we give him the MVP for facing such a disadvantage?

3. Donovan Mitchell has outplayed Ben Simmons

This is the only respectable argument of the bunch. Donovan Mitchell, the other leading candidate for Rookie of the Year, is a terrific player, and no doubt deserves a ton of credit for leading the Utah Jazz to the playoffs after losing Gordon Hayward to free agency. But Simmons is still a better player. One argument I see is that Mitchell was playing much better competition in the Western Conference all season long. It has been the assumption ever since Lebron went to the Heat that the East is significantly weaker than the West. Everyone repeats it, but is it true this year? The East contained more 50+ win teams. And, by the way, the 76ers’ record against the West was BETTER than the Jazz’s record against the East. Simmons also ranks far ahead of Mitchell in a variety of metrics. ESPN’s Real Plus Minus calculated on-court value, where Ben Simmons ranks as the 32nd best player in the league, Mitchell comes in at 50. Now, no stat is perfect, obviously, but Simmon also ranks higher than Mitchell in Win Shares, Value Above Replacement, and Box Plus-Minus (he also has a higher 2k rating, so case closed). When Ben Simmons put up 27 points, 15 rebounds, 13 assists, and 4 steals in a late season game against the Cavs, which gave them a 0.5 game lead over Lebron, people criticized Benny for – his three-point shooting? What? Players have different strengths and weaknesses. Mitchell can score, sure, but is he as effective a passer? Rebounder? Is he even as efficient offensively as Simmons? No. You can’t look at one aspect of a player and judge him solely on his skill level in that area. When Simmons had a double double in a 20 point win against the Heat in Game 3 of the first round, people knocked him for scoring only 19 points, 8 less than Mitchell did the night earlier.

So there you have it. Ben Simmons will probably win the Rookie of the Year, as he should, but people will still find a reason to think he was undeserving. And while no one typing those comments will ever read this article, I needed some way to vent my frustration.

Please don’t hesitate to use my arguments to refute anything you see or hear from anyone regarding Ben Simmons and his case for some meaningless award. Thanks.