So while Mitchell took home the award from his peers, Simmons takes home the official hardware in the ’17-’18 ROY race. This point of this blog isn’t necessarily to take a look at who was more deserving of the award but rather who will wind up being the better player in the long run based off what we saw from them this season.
Simmons averaged a robust 15.8/8/8 in his rookie* campaign as the centerpiece and catalyst for the 76ers revitalized offense this season. With an attack that can best be described as Lebron-lite (minus the shooting), Simmons took the league by storm during the regular season. Meanwhile, Mitchell didn’t post the same gaudy stat line that Simmons did. He did average more points and guide his team to a western conference playoff berth against significantly tougher competition night in, night out though. Mitchell came almost out of nowhere to be not only a leading scorer, but a leader in general for the Jazz. The Jazz survived two separate Rudy Gobert injury bouts that allowed them to make the playoffs thanks in large part to the outstanding play of Donovan Mitchell.
Where Simmons showed weakness was in the playoffs when his lack of a jump shot was fully exposed by the Celtics. By making it a priority for the big man (usually Baynes) to get back early on transition defense and simply stand at the free throw line, the Celtics were essentially able to neutralize Simmons on offense and take him out of the game altogether. When TJ McConnell is playing you out of the arena, that likely says there are some GLARING holes to your game.
Mitchell on the other hand is a complete and all around scorer who has enough athleticism and is in the perfect system to ensure he isn’t a liability on the defensive side of the ball. Although Mitchell certainly had some games where he struggled in the postseason, he never completely disappeared like Simmons did and was the go-to man in late game situations. Mitchell has proven that at a young age he is already an extremely well rounded player who is unfazed by the moment.
The big question for both of these guys is about their ability to take the next step and what that means for their ceiling. For Simmons, this is basically developing anything remotely resembling a jump shot. For Mitchell, it primarily comes down to his offensive efficiency and consistency.
If Simmons can actually develop a legit NBA jump shot, his ceiling will without a doubt be higher than Mitchell as Simmons will essentially become a 6’10 Lebron. I don’t necessarily think that will happen though. While I think Simmons will obviously develop a shot at some point in his career, I get the feeling that he will never be much of a shooting threat. Even with a guy like Lebron who isn’t necessarily a shooter first, he came into the league with at least something resembling a jump shot. Same goes for the putrid shooter Rajon Rondo, his shit was busted, but at least he could occasionally shoot. The fact that Simmons refuses to even think about a shot anywhere outside of 15 feet from the rim is a bit concerning for his future prospects.
For Mitchell to reach his ceiling, it is much more so about repetition and continuity. The Jazz have a solid core and the benefits that come alongside playing with a defense-first stud like Rudy Gobert cannot be undersold. Mitchell has a fantastic team-first mentor in place, is the top scoring option without being a one-trick pony, and has already shown how deadly an unrefined version of himself can be in crunch time. With more and more time in this solid system, one can only assume Mitchell will become more and more efficient.
Only time will tell if Simmons can round out his game and make himself more of a versatile threat on the offensive end of the court. But from the way things look now, don’t be surprised for the next few years to see Simmons pile up gaudy offensive stats in the regular season only to have Mitchell be the catalyst for deeper playoff runs on regularly better teams.