Philadelphia 76ers swingman Ben Simmons deserves to be leading the 2018 Rookie of the Year award race.
At the start of the season, the Australian point guard looked like a sure thing. He was on another level to all the other rookies while leading Philadelphia's charge to potentially their first playoffs appearance since 2012.
Sportsbet paid out all bets on Simmons to win the award, including a total of $87,000 to nearly 1000 customers. Many experts even predicted he would play in the All-Star game.
Then came the emergence of Utah’s Donovan Mitchell, who has helped his team get their season back on track behind his own stellar season.
The 2018 Slam Dunk champion is averaging 19.7 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game on 43.7 percent shooting from the field and 83.7 percent shooting from the free throw line.
He ranks inside the top 20 for three pointers made, ahead of the likes of Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and even the 2018 Three-Point Contest winner Devin Booker.
Those are outstanding numbers for any player, let alone a rookie, and there is no denying that Mitchell has made up significant ground on Simmons.
However, many have been caught up in the Mitchell hype and just want to create conversation. No matter how you analyse it, Simmons has had the better season.
Simmons is averaging 16.7 points, 7.7 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 1.9 steals and just under one block per game on 53.4 percent shooting from the field. Those numbers jump off the page and remind you of something from ‘MyCareer’ in a 2K video game.
Simmons leads all point guards in field goal percentage and blocks, and ranks inside the top five in rebounds, assists and steals. Heck, this kid has posted more double doubles and triple doubles than MVP-favourite James Harden this season.
Shooting is the only flaw in Simmons’ game, as he averages 56.7 percent from the free throw line and has yet to connect on a single three-point shot.
But this shooting deficiency almost makes it more impressive that Simmons can get his. Opposition defences can swarm the paint and leave him wide open outside, yet he still finds a way to slice through them.
He makes his teammates better on the offensive end of the court, and has transformed Philadelphia into a competitive unit. On the defensive end, he is a nightmare for opposition point guards and can legitimately guard four positions.
When Simmons is on the court, the 76ers have a defensive rating of 101.5, however that number drops to 105.2 when he is off the court. This is a demonstrable example of how much of an impact Simmons has defensively.
Comparably, the Jazz’s defensive rating of 103.3 when Mitchell is off the floor is actually greater than their defensive rating of 104.3 when he is.
Then there is the eye test. Simmons is a 6’10 point guard with extreme athletic abilities who looks like superman on an NBA floor. He is bigger, stronger, faster and more well-rounded than just about anyone.
He is a once-in-a-generation type player that the NBA has not seen since the glory days of Magic Johnson and could go down as one of Australia’s greatest ever sporting athletes.
There is still some water to go under the bridge, but this ship may have already sailed. Simmons is the premier rookie in one of the greatest debut seasons we have ever seen.