For the first time that I can remember, an NBA award will come down to the definition of the word “rookie.” Sure, there’s always a discussion of whether the “valuable” in MVP means the best player in the league or the player most valuable to their individual team (Personally, it is crazy to me to think that the MVP could go to someone other than the best player in the league, even though it pretty much always does. But that’s beside the point). But the word “rookie” is something that should not warrant a great deal of debate, right? Apparently, not so.
In case you’ve missed the drama of the past week, Utah Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell has launched an aggressive campaign arguing that he should win Rookie of the Year for this NBA season. His main competition, of course, is Philadelphia 76er’s star Ben Simmons. Instead of focusing on his own stats and accomplishments versus Simmons, though, Mitchell has instead decided to attack Simmons for not being a rookie. Bold strategy, but I get it. Simmons’ numbers this year really make it a moot point. He’s just flat out better than Mitchell by most accounts. However, Simmons was drafted in 2016 and was on track to be a rookie last season. Due to injury, though, he did not play last season and, in fact, did not record a single stat. That is not compelling to Mitchell, though, who rocked this hoodie over the week:
If you can’t tell from the picture, the hoodie displays the definition of the word “rookie,” defining it as “an athlete playing his or her first season as a member of a professional sports team.” Mitchell apparently believes that that definition somehow proves that Simmons should be ineligible for the award which would make him the heavy favorite. Like I said, though, Simmons did not play a single minute for the Sixers last year. Does sitting the bench with an injury really count as “playing”? I’m not buying it.
Plus, there is a good deal of precedent against Mitchell on this one, as well. His only argument is literally “you were drafted in a different season than you played your first game so you’re not a rookie.” Well Donovan, David Robinson was drafted in 1987 and did not take the court for the Spurs until 1989 because of his commitment to the Navy. In his first season of action, he unanimously won Rookie of the Year. Also, did you forget Blake Griffin? Blake was drafted in 2009 but, also due to injuries, did not play until the following season. He took home Rookie of the Year, as well. There just isn’t much backing up his argument here.
Ben Simmons is also personally unconvinced about this one.
Ben Simmons isn't fazed by Donovan Mitchell's "rookie" sweatshirt. pic.twitter.com/3mXWqBRw1R
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 11, 2018
Personally, I’m not a big Ben Simmons fan. I’m not sure why, but I found myself pulling hard for Mitchell to bring this one home this season. However, the stats just aren’t there for him and to try and argue semantics to make up for what he didn’t do on the court just isn’t gonna play. He’s gonna have a great career it appears and there will be plenty more chances to bring home some hardware, but this just isn’t a good look. Simmons is a great player and there is no shame to be felt here whatsoever. Live to fight another day, Donovan.