MANILA, Philippines – Fans across Facebook lighted up the “angry” reactions for James Harden and Ben Simmons. Were they warranted?
Two whole months after the end of the NBA’s regular season, the NBA Awards Show finally happened in Santa Monica, California on Tuesday, June 26, Manila time.
Houston Rockets superstar James Harden was awarded his first-ever season Most Valuable Player (MVP) trophy while Philadelphia 76ers rising star Ben Simmons put a stamp on his foot injury comeback by nabbing the Rookie of the Year (ROY) award.
While other winners were met with near-unanimous approval, like Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert and Most Improved Player Victor Oladipo, Harden and Simmons received, to put it mildly, a colder reception than usual.
The common denominator between the two talented athletes? A lot of “angry” reactions on Facebook.
Here’s a sample for Harden:
And a sample for Simmons:
The reasons behind the divisiveness are simple, really: LeBron James and Donovan Mitchell.
Unlike the other award winners, this year’s MVP race was a really tight one between Harden and the Cleveland Cavaliers superstar. Harden won the NBA scoring title with a 30.4 points per game average while leading the Rockets to a league- and franchise-best 65-17 record in the wild, wild Western Conference.
James, meanwhile, played more games and averaged more rebounds, assists, blocks and a higher field goal percentage than Harden while also being 5 years older than him. However, his Cavaliers only finished 4th in the weaker Eastern Conference, just below Simmons’ Sixers. Many felt that James provided the most value (hence the name of the award) for a team that basically had no firepower aside from Kevin Love. Harden led to better team success, while James carried a way heavier load.
And speaking of Simmons, his once-unhampered ROY campaign was eventually threatened by the meteoric rise of Mitchell, the reigning Slam Dunk Champion who filled the need of the offense-strapped Utah Jazz. Despite Mitchell’s development, however, Simmons was still on pace to finish far ahead of him in terms of averaged rebounds, assists, steals, blocks and field goal percentage. This spawned the next argument against the 6-foot-10 point guard:
“He’s not a rookie.”
Many fans started to feel that Simmons’ sizeable statistical advantage was due to the fact that it was really his second year in the league. However, due to the previously mentioned foot injury, the Australian sensation did not play a single game in the 2016-2017 season, therefore making him eligible by league rules to compete for the ROY award this year. Mitchell gunned for the trophy straight out of college, which meant less time to adapt to NBA-level speed and scheduling, study game film and get mentoring sessions from NBA veterans. Simmons simply played within league rules, which gained Mitchell an underdog image and a tighter personal following.
But rules are rules. Blake Griffin sat out his 2009 rookie year and won the 2010 ROY award over “true rookie” John Wall. It was the same scenario here.
All in all, LeBron vs Harden and Simmons vs Mitchell was a year filled with long arguments that led to spectacular performances from all players involved.
Only one could win their respective awards, and the jury has spoken. – Rappler.com