Boston Celtics rookie Jayson Tatum was recently named a finalist for the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award. He joins Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers and Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz in what has been one of the most hotly contested races in recent history.
Jayson Tatum has his team on the cusp of the NBA Finals. In his rookie campaign, Tatum averages 18.1 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.2 steals per game in the playoffs. This postseason, he joined fellow rookie Donovan Mitchell as the only rookies since Julius Erving in 1972 to string together seven straight 20+ point playoff games. Tatum also became the youngest player in NBA history to score 200 points in the playoffs, surpassing Kobe Bryant in the process. If the award included postseason accolades, Jayson Tatum is a shoe-in for the award.
— Mid Range Brasil (@MidRangeBR) May 10, 2018
Playoff performances aside, Jayson Tatum is considered by many to be the most complete player of the 2017 draft class. He showcases his ability to score at ease from all three levels. Tatum broke the Celtics’ rookie record for three pointers made in a season with 105 and scored 43% of those attempts. He possesses a smooth as butter shot and the ability to play staunch man defense on the other end. Tatum can also knock down step back shots, and finish at the rim at an efficient rate. Tatum averaged 13.9 points, 5 rebounds, and 1.6 assists during the regular season.
Ben Simmons is the favorite to win the award, as he dominated the league with stellar performances all season long. Simmons averaged 15.1 points, 8.1 rebounds, 8.2 assists (fifth in NBA) and 1.7 steals per game. With 2017’s first pick Markelle Fultz injured on the sidelines, Simmons opened eyes and dropped jaws with his high basketball IQ, stellar passing ability and court awareness, and the ability to finish efficiently at the rim.
As a 6’10” point guard, Simmons’s versatility helped fuel one of the NBA’s top ranked defenses. He was also one of 16 players to get two steals per 100 team plays, and block at least 2% of shots.
Ben Simmons with this between the legs pass
Play this on a loop at my funeral pic.twitter.com/O87NZ76w5P
— Tyler Conway (@jtylerconway) May 1, 2018
Simmons averaged 16.3 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 7.7 assists during the postseason. He led the 76ers past a tough Miami Heat team, where he then clashed with fellow rookie Jayson Tatum and the Boston Celtics. Philadelphia was eliminated in five games.
Donovan Mitchell is considered by many as the fan favorite for the Rookie of the Year award. After Gordon Hayward’s departure, the Utah Jazz looked for Mitchell to step up and provide much of the offense this season. Consequently, Mitchell responded impressively, producing 20.5 points (top among rookies), 3.7 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game. Mitchell displayed a unique ability to create his own shot, getting separation between him and his defender with ease as he used his first step quickness. He was also a difference-maker as part of the NBA’s second ranked defense. Coming into the league known more as a defensive player, Mitchell certainly has overall exceeded his potential.
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Much like Jayson Tatum, Mitchell raised his game when the lights shined the brightest. He led the Utah Jazz into the playoffs, dropping 24.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.5 steals per game. He led his team into the Conference Semis, where the Jazz were ousted by the Houston Rockets in five games.
Though it is a regular season award, it is a sign of something special. Watching each of the three candidates battle in the playoffs this young into their careers is great for the NBA.
The Rookie of the Year award winner will be announced June 25th on TNT.