ATLANTA — Some have argued that Ben Simmons is overqualified to win the NBA's rookie-of-the-year award.
The critics point out that the 76ers point guard is sort of a redshirt rookie because of sitting out the 2016-17 season with a broken foot after being the first overall pick in the 2016 draft. They think Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell, the other strong candidate, should get it, because he was drafted last June.
Brett Brown had a message for those people.
"You're really searching for unnecessarily things, in my opinion, that might give pause to the decision," the Sixers coach said Tuesday. "There should be zero pause. As I've said — and I'll say it again — he is the stone-cold rookie of the year. To me, it's not even close. That will be for others to decide, but it's my very strong opinion that. He is the rookie of the year."
Selected media members from around the league vote for the award. Simmons is averaging 15.9 points, 8.2 rebounds and 8.2 assists per game, after the Sixers held off the Atlanta Hawks, 121-113, on Tuesday night at Philips Arena. As a result, Simmons is the first rookie in NBA history to average at least 8.0 assists on a team with 50-plus wins.
The rookie of the year front-runner has recorded 12 triple-doubles this season, the second most by a rookie in NBA history. The Australian native has posted at least 10 points, five rebounds and five assists in 58 games this season. That's third behind Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook and Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James. And he is averaging a triple-double during the Sixers' 15-game win streak, with 14.6 points, 10.1 rebounds and 10.6 assists.
"If you look at it, and you know the game well enough, then you obviously know what I have been doing isn't something many people in the league or have been in the league have ever done," said Simmons, who is the Eastern Conference player of the week.
Mitchell averaged 20.5 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists heading Utah's Tuesday night game against the Golden State Warriors.
"If you are looking at scoring, it's a four-point difference, or whatever the stat is," Simmons said. "But you also look at how many shots that person takes. That's a lot more shots."
Mitchell has taken 1,327 shots in 77 games, compared with 992 in 80 games for Simmons. The Jazz standout arrived at the Vivint Smart Home Arena Tuesday night with a not-so-subtle message about who he thinks should win the award. Mitchell donned a black Adidas hoodie with white letters that read: "rookie [rook-ee] noun: An athlete, playing in his or her first season, as a member of a professional sports team."
"If his argument is I'm not a rookie, if that's the only argument he has, I'm in pretty good shape then," Simmons said.