Final NBA Rookie Ladder: Did Ben Simmons Successfully Fend Off Donovan Mitchell?
All Rookie of the Year odds come courtesy of BetFair and are accurate leading into Wednesday, April 11. While the regular season is technically ending, these awards are not released until later in the spring—usually sometime in May. Some sportsbooks will still allow you to place bets during the time between the regular season’s conclusion and the announcement, so be sure to triple-check these lines before submitting a wager.
3. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics (+460)
In any other year, a rookie campaign like Jayson Tatum’s would be getting more attention. He’s been hyper efficient from beyond the arc and in transition, and he’s shown he can hold his own defending either forward spot.
Even with Donovan Mitchell and Ben Simmons duking it out in historical fashion, Tatum has managed to stand out. And he kind of flirted with a late-season push as well, in the aftermath of Kyrie Irving’s season-ending knee injury.
Through the 13 games he’s played since the All-Star point guard went down, Tatum is averaging 17.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists while shooting 49.7 percent overall and 42.9 percent from deep. Those numbers are patently absurd.
The problem? The Celtics still run the equivalent of a league-worst offense when he headlines the show without Irving or Al Horford. That isn’t too much of a concern given he’s still a newbie, but it leaves him a distance third in this year’s incredibly tough-to-crack Rookie of the Year pool.
2. Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz (+210)
Donovan Mitchell did his best to unseat Ben Simmons. He really did. He’s notching the third-highest usage rate for a rookie in NBA history without sacrificing efficiency, and his role as the frontman for the Utah Jazz’s offense has helped spearhead a playoff berth.
Mitchell’s case isn’t buttressed by those around him either—not by much anyway. The Jazz remain a net plus whenever he plays without Rudy Gobert, and he’s proven to be a polished off-ball weapon, which has been integral in helping him coexist with Ricky Rubio.
His defense hasn’t been as impressive as his offense, but it’s still pretty damn good. Mitchell makes good reads when battling against the pick-and-roll. Even though he checks in at just 6’3″, he will end up guarding small forwards at some point. He’s that deceptively strong.
And yet, none of this is enough to drag him past Simmons. And it doesn’t have anything to do with him. He would be a unanimous Rookie of the Year pick in most seasons. The issue is this isn’t most seasons.
3. Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers (-1000)
A growing number of Donovan Mitchell supporters have tried their hardest to discredit Ben Simmons’ case in recent weeks. They’ve tested out everything from “He cannot carry the Philadelphia 76ers without Joel Embiid” to “He isn’t technically a rookie since he was just injured for all of last year.”
You know they’re grasping at straws whenever that last one comes into play. That’s classic “I don’t have a leg to stand on” territory. And they don’t.
Simmons is past the whole not being able to survive without Embiid thing. The Sixers are now a net plus on the season when he takes the floor on his own, and they’re a whopping plus-6.9 points per 100 possessions during his lone-wolf stints since Jan. 1.
In many ways, Simmons has left his rookie status behind. He’s one of the most unique talents in NBA history, bar none. He’s already keeping pace with the big boys.
To wit: When you factor in the total points he’s scored along with all those he’s generated off assists, Simmons represents about 32 percent of the Sixers’ offense—the sixth-highest share in the league, behind only the Giannis Antetokounmpo, Damian Lillard, James Harden, Russell Westbrook and LeBron James.
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