ATLANTA — Another Rookie of the Year debate is heating up this season.
Utah’s Donovan Mitchell and Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons were in the thick of the discussion last year, but now Atlanta’s Trae Young and Dallas’ Luka Doncic are currently in the spotlight.
After Young’s most recent 32-point, 11-assist performance capped by a game-winning floater to beat Philadelphia on Saturday, Mitchell immediately shared his vote via Twitter.
“ROY,” Mitchell wrote, while retweeting highlights from Young’s performance.
No, their games aren’t similar.
Mitchell is an explosive scorer with freak athleticism while Young is a 3-point marksman and facilitator, but the Adidas cohorts experienced similar situations in Year One.
Like Mitchell, Young got off to a slow start before finding his groove after All-Star break where he’s since averaged 25.3 points, 8.8 assists and 4.6 rebounds on 40 percent shooting from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, Doncic has played more of a Simmons role with all-around statistics of 21.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.7 assists per game.
The 2018 NBA Draft classmates are also linked for being swapped for each other on draft day.
Ultimately, Simmons would get Rookie of the Year while Mitchell finished runner-up.
“I talk about that all the time. I said, ‘Bro, you’re not going to get it.’ He’s playing on a tear, but I tell him, he deserves it if you look at what he’s done but sometimes that’s just the way it is,” Mitchell said of Young. “He’s playing outstanding, him and John Collins. I went to the game where he had 20 and 20 at Oklahoma so I’ve seen it.
“It takes a few to kind of get adjusted to it but he’s had a helluva season,” he added. “My vote would be for him for sure but it’s gonna be tough because Luka is still doing his thing, but Trae is having a helluva second half.”
Young’s unofficial NBA debut happened in Salt Lake City during the 2018 Utah Jazz Summer League. Although Young struggled at times early on, Jazz coach Quin Snyder says he’s admired his commitment to getting better which is why the rookie guard was definitely on their radar ahead of Thursday’s Jazz-Hawks matchup.
Young would go for 23 points and 11 assists to help the Hawks upset the Jazz 117-114.
“He’s a heck of a player and he’s going to be good for a long time,” Snyder said. “Anytime you’re looking at how to guard somebody as a rookie and figuring out schemes and stuff, that says something. It’s been fun to see him get better and continue to improve and establish himself.”1 comment on this story
Hawks forward John Collins is around Young on a day-to-day basis but also shares a friendship with Mitchell that was developed during their pre-draft process. From the outside looking in, he watched Mitchell go from having little fanfare to leading the Jazz into the second round of the postseason as a rookie, and now with Young he sees it happening kind of the same way.
“I feel like Trae is definitely catching fire at the right time which is perfect timing,” Collins said. “It’s really exciting for me to be a part of something like that and to be grouped together with some of the next best young guys in the NBA, the best league in the world.”