Should Ben Simmons be considered for the ‘Rookie Of The Year’ award?

“Ben Simmons” by Keith Allison (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Should Ben Simmons be considered for the  Rookie Of The Year honor? A heated debate has broken out across the NBA with regard to the winner of the 2017-2018 Rookie of the Year award. Many people are split between Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz and Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers. But given that Simmons was with an NBA team prior to this season, it is worth asking if he should even be considered for the award.

It should be pointed out that Simmons is indeed a rookie according to NBA rules. The NBA currently states that players who have yet to play in an NBA game heading into a season are considered rookies, even if they were drafted in a year well before their first season of action. That is an interesting rule, and one worth criticizing depending on your NBA rooting interests.

A memorable case of this rule working against a player came with Julius Randle was a rookie with the Los Angeles Lakers. Randle got injured in his first game as a professional after playing just 13 minutes. Unfortunately for him, he stepped onto the court and logged time in an NBA game, so he was deemed ineligible to win Rookie of the Year in the following season when he came back.

By the current NBA rules, a player could theoretically sit out for ten seasons after being drafted and start his 11th season as a rookie in the league’s eyes. In a way, the current rule almost rewards a version of what is known in college basketball as redshirting, where a player can sit out for a season without losing a year of eligibility. That is the path that Ben Simmons took after being drafted first overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2016 NBA Draft.

Simmons is a Future Superstar, but is he a Rookie?

Simmons, to his credit, has been an incredible player this season for the Sixers – a player that should have made the NBA All-Star Game. He has helped rejuvenate the moribund franchise and taken them from being a group of players sent out to lose on purpose to a team that can legitimately compete for a championship while outsmarting defenses around the league. Players like Simmons and Joel Embiid deserve a lot of credit for the turnaround experienced in Philadelphia, but should a player like Simmons really win the Rookie of the Year award?

While this has technically been his first season of action, Simmons is older than a decent number of the rookies playing in the NBA this season. And he is a year more experienced than the rookies that he is younger than. Even though Simmons couldn’t play in 2016-2017, he was able to work with NBA coaching staff in film sessions, rehab sessions, workouts, and other vital tools to NBA success that other rookies were not able to take advantage of at the time. The end result has been a much more polished Ben Simmons, while other rookies have had to figure things out on the fly.

That lack of polish as a result of not having a year to put in the same kind of work that Simmons was able to is what has made Donovan Mitchell’s rookie season all the more impressive. Mitchell has been dynamic as a guard for the Utah Jazz, who went from a team that was expected to fall apart without Gordon Hayward this season to a team that could very well be one of the last few teams standing in the Western Conference playoffs.

True Rookie vs. Red Shirt Rookie

According to, the Rookie of the Year race is down to just Simmons and Mitchell. While Simmons has had the more impressive season and deserves to be favored, it is worth asking if he should even be eligible to win the award. While both players are without a doubt impressive, it can be argued that the NBA Rookie of the Year award should not be something that teams can hold their players back a year to win like overzealous youth sports parents trying to gain a competitive edge.

When all is said and done, Ben Simmons will either win the Rookie of the Year award or he won’t. No matter what happens with the award, though, it is certain that both Simmons and Sixers fans would rather see him lead the team to a deep playoff run than win an individual award.

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