April 11 (UPI) — Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell thinks he is the NBA Rookie of the Year, and he has the sweatshirt to prove it.
The 21-year-old who was the No. 13 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft is averaging 20.5 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists per bout, with one game remaining in his rookie campaign.
Ben Simmons, 21, is averaging 15.9 points, 8.2 rebounds and 8.2 assists per game this year for the Philadelphia 76ers. He has started 80 games this year for the Sixers and did not appear in a single contest in 2016, the year he was selected as the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft.
Simmons is still the favorite to win the award. NBA rules specify that you cannot be considered a rookie if you play in one game during a previous season.
Mitchell walked into Vivint Smart Home Arena Tuesday wearing an Adidas shirt with the definition of rookie printed on the front of it. Mitchell later scored a team-high 22 points in the Jazz’s 119-79 win against the Golden State Warriors.
“I’m blessed to be in this spot to even be in consideration … why not have fun with it,” Mitchell said after the game.
Mitchell leads all rookies in points per game, while Simmons leads in rebounds per game and assists per game. Mitchell also hit an NBA rookie record 186 shots from 3-point range this season.
“If his argument is I’m not a rookie, and that’s the only argument he has, I’m in pretty good shape,” Simmons told reporters after the Sixers’ 121-113 win against the Atlanta Hawks. “There’s a rule in the NBA for a reason. I’m not going to wear a sweatshirt tomorrow though.”
Blake Griffin won the award in 2011 after not playing in his first season.
“Like I’ve said before, we’ve got the Coach of the Year and the Defensive Player of the Year on my team so I’m not really worried about this award,” Mitchell said Tuesday. “I’d rather get two than one selfish award. So, you know, but it’s great to be in a conversation like that. But at the same time, I’m cool with where we’re at as a team.”
The NBA Awards show is June 25. Malcolm Brogdon won the award last season and Karl-Anthony Towns achieved the honor in 2016. The last Jazz player to win the award was Darrell Griffith in 1981. Michael Carter-Williams won the award in 2014, while playing for the Sixers.