This race for 2018 NBA Rookie of the Year IS a very close one between Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons and Utah’s Donovan Mitchell. The COMPETITION has brought up an argument of who should really be viewed as a rookie because Simmons missed his entire first season due to injury.
He nonetheless is considered a rookie, perhaps one with an advantage over Mitchell, who is in his true first season in the NBA. Someone who experienced something similar is Los Angeles Lakers forward Julius Randle. Just minutes into his very first game Randle broke his leg, ending his rookie season.
Because he had actually touched the floor, Randle wasn’t granted rookie status in year two, but he still got a full year to rehab, watch film, and learn the game. Needless to say Randle understands the advantages that can come with a lost season, but was hesitant to take any credit away from Simmons.
“I don’t want to take nothing away from Ben because Ben has been absolutely amazing this year,” Randle said in his exit interview. “I think there’s both sides, if you really look at it. I think there’s also an advantage of going to college for multiple years and coming in the NBA.”
While Randle was a one-and-done player, he pointed to teammate Kyle Kuzma, who spent three years in college, as coming in as a more complete player. That being said, for himself, Randle believes that first season helped.
“I would definitely say my mindset after I broke my leg and really knowing how to prepare and train for an NBA season going into technically my second season, but really my first, was a lot better and a lot different,” he explained. “So I definitely think there’s an advantage there.”
Randle has grown a lot since first joining the Lakers and now, as a restricted free agent, the team will have a serious decision to make on whether to bring him back and on what kind of contract.
As far of the Rookie of the Year race goes, he’ll find out who ultimately comes out on top between Simmons and Mitchell when everyone else does. Kuzma’s choice was Mitchell, both because he’s a true rookie and playing in the Western Conference.
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