There are several NBA awards races this season that are either unusually close to call or affected greatly by injuries and none of them have drawn more attention than Rookie of the Year.
That's because the NBA has two worthy candidates in Philadelphia 76ers forward Ben Simmons and Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell. Both are among the best players on teams that have won 48 games or more and are on their way to the playoffs. Both have turned some of the best debut seasons seen in the NBA in years.
The problem for many people is that Simmons is technically in his second year in the NBA. He was the No. 1 overall pick in 2016 and sat out his first season due to injury.
He is eligible for the award because he did not play one game despite the fact he was on an NBA roster. Mitchell, on the other hand, is less than a year removed from being drafted.
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Though the rules are the rules, the technicality has created a quandary for voters. Simmons and Mitchell have made it even more interesting by taking good-hearted shots at each other through the media. Mitchell even wore a hoodie sweatshirt to his game on Tuesday night with the definition of the word 'rookie' printed on the front. It was a clever ploy that went viral immediately.
Mitchell may end up losing out and there are a few guys throughout NBA history who know his pain, none more notable than Wizards point guard John Wall.
Back in the 2010-11 season, Wall finished second in Rookie of the Year voting to Blake Griffin, the 2009 first overall pick. Griffin missed his first NBA season due to a knee injury, came back and edged out Wall despite Wall having numbers that would otherwise have garnered the honor.
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Wall was asked about Mitchell vs. Simmons on Tuesday night and didn't advocate for a rule change.
"That's the NBA rule," he said.
Wall would handle it in a way that is rare, but technically possible. He would give both guys the award.
"In my opinion, it should be co-Rookie of the Year," he said. "I think this year's Rookie of the Year [race] is pretty interesting. Nobody thought Utah would be in the position they [are] after they lost Gordon [Hayward] and those guys. And then Rudy Gobert has been out a lot. Donovan Mitchell is having a heck of a year. Then you have Ben and he's doing what he's doing."
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Co-Rookie of the Year awards have been given out before, it's just been a while.
Not since 2000 has it been done, when Elton Brand and Steve Francis shared the award following the 1999-2000 season. Grant Hill and Jason Kidd did the same for the 1994-95 season. Before them you have to go all the way back to the 1970-71 season when Dave Cowens and Geoff Petrie each got honored. It has only happened three total times.
Wall's point is probably fair, but it doesn't help those out there with a vote who are deliberating over who to pick. Couldn't you just choose one of them, John? Asking for a friend.
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