It's no secret, this year's draft class was absolutely loaded. Unlike last year when Malcolm Brogdon brought home the award, the 2018 rookie of the year race is looking much more entertaining. We've seen standout debuts from guys like Jayson Tatum, Dennis Smith Jr., Lauri Markkanen and Kyle Kuzma, all while two guys separated themselves from the pack. The two prospects I'm talking about are the only real contenders for this year's ROY award and their names are Donovan Mitchell and Ben Simmons. Both of these young talents are an absolute joy to watch and either would have easily won last year's award, but lucky us, we get spoiled with a killer 2017-2018 rookie class. Here's how the two match up.
Donovan Mitchell - Utah Jazz (24-28)
31.9 MIN 19.7 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 3.5 APG, 17.7 PER
Mitchell has been outstanding, and after being drafted 13th overall it's plain to see that he is outperforming expectations. Watching this dude jam with authority is a treasure. (I even have a picture of him throwing down over Lonzo Ball as my phone background). It's a thing of beauty. The Utah Jazz have shown their trust in the young gunner as they have given him a lion's share of the minutes on a team that isn't exactly out of playoff contention. Typically we'd see a team on the brink playing their sturdy veterans to give them the best chance of winning but Mitchell has been the exception to that rule. With a usage rate of 28% (2nd among rookies) Donovan Mitchell has been able to produce big time. Over 49 games he continues to shoot 45% from the field and contribute to wins on a nightly basis. As a player who spent two years in college, he is a little more refined than Simmons and his potential is enough to make NBA front offices pee in their pants a little, if they aren't already one of the 12 who shit themselves for passing on him. Mitchell was slated to participate in the skills challenge at All Star weekend but with the injury to Aaron Gordon the fans will get what they really want, Donovan "Spider" Mitchell will be in the dunk contest.
Ben Simmons - Philadelphia 76ers (25-25)
35.1 MIN, 16.7 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 7.2 APG, 18.2 PER
Selected 1st overall in the 2016 draft, Ben Simmons isn't a true rookie. Sure he never played an NBA game prior to this season but he did get a year to adjust to life in the league. The time to acclimate to NBA life and a lengthier schedule did him some good as he has been downright impressive this season. Simmons is filling the stat sheet on a nightly basis and while he doesn't put the ball in the hoops as much as Mitchell, he finds teammates and rebounds unlike many players in the league. At 6'10, Simmons has the vision and passing ability of an elite point guard but the size of your average NBA center. His mobility and body control make him a true unicorn. He has yet to find his shot, which may come, or it may not, but his ability to attack the rim or find the open man makes him a dangerous opponent for any team with a lack of rim protection. Simmons has shown the ability to lead and on a young team who needs to grow together having a steady hand running the ball will prove to be valuable in the long run. His usage is lower than that of Utah's rookie but while playing more minutes he boasts a higher efficiency rating and overall it seems Simmons has a higher upside. If he can develop a jumper he'll soon be one of the league's most dominant forces.
I'll be honest. Before writing this I was really not sure who my pick would be, but after laying it out, re-watching some highlights and looking over team performance, I think I have to go with Ben Simmons. Sure they're in the east but for Big Ben to lead this inexperienced Sixers squad to the playoffs would be a huge accomplishment. I know the season is far from over but for this year and looking forward I have to give Ben the slight edge. If it was about who I preferred watching, it would be Donovan Mitchell but this is about the best overall season. And that has to go to Simmons and his much improved Sixers. There are still plenty of games to be played and enough time for someone to steal the show. All I know is, this year's race has been fun and both of these guys will be stars for years to come. Who is your choice for rookie of the year?