Justin Whitner |Staff Writer
During the 2017-2018 NBA season, first-year players took the league by storm.
Numerous young athletes showed unique skills on the floor from opening night and on into the playoffs. Some eased into their roles, while others took charge and led their teams to victories.
This left Rookie of the Year honorable mention players – including Dennis Smith Jr., Lonzo Ball, Lauri Markkanen and Kyle Kuzma – to miss out on finalist recognition.
The top three Rookie of the Year nominees: Donovan Mitchell, Jayson Tatum and winner Ben Simmons were the clear-cut superior players of the bunch. While they all had great rookie seasons, NBA 2K19 played the safe card and ranked all three nominees as an equal 87 overall.
Tatum and Mitchell have different roles and playing styles for their teams. Mitchell was the leading scorer for the Jazz throughout the regular season and grew into the No. 1 option over time. He averaged 20.5 points per game during the regular season then improved it to 24.4 points while shooting 42 percent during the playoffs.
Tatum was drafted by Boston and began the season wondering what type of minutes he would receive. When Gordon Hayward went down opening night, Tatum, 20, stepped up. He improved his regular season to playoff scoring from 13.9 to 18.5 points per game while shooting 47 percent from the field.
Mitchell took 22 shots per game during playoff play in comparison to 14 for Tatum. Playing against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets didn’t make it any easier for Mitchell. Still, exceeding OKC’s trio with no star power scoring help was mighty impressive.
When it comes to Simmons, he hasn’t shown a confident jumper in his game yet. A 6-foot-10 player playing the point guard position is unprecedented. Hall-of-Famer Magic Johnson, who is widely regarded as the greatest point guard to ever play, stood 6-9.
Drawing these comparisons to Johnson has put a target on Simmons’ back, especially after missing his initial first season with a foot injury.
In Johnson’s rookie season, he averaged 18 points along with 7.3 assists and 7.7 rebounds. Simmons averaged 15.8 points, 8.2 assists and 9.1 rebounds.
Hampton University Student Body Vice President and Sixers fan Jonathan Mack was asked why Simmons deserved Rookie of the Year. According to Mack, it comes down to his all-around play style.
“Many say Simmons cannot shoot whatsoever, yet I witnessed several moments last year when Simmons knocked down tough turnaround mid-range shots,” Mack said. “Once Simmons adds a jump shot to his game, it honestly is going to be scary to watch.”
Tatum, Mitchell and Simmons deserve their 87 overalls in comparison to other star players in the league. Mitchell beat some of the best players in the world on the big stage, including Russell Westbrook and Paul George.
Tatum went toe-to-toe with basketball legend LeBron James in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Simmons played so stellar from start to finish that he was widely regarded as an All-Star snub.
Although they are young, they proved they can hang with the best talent in the league in playoff play, marquee matchups and crunch time.