The rookie of the year of 2017-18 went to Philadelphia 76ers point forward Ben Simmons, the first overall pick of the 2016 NBA Draft. Simmons had an incredible season after missing all of 2016-17 with an injury, and looked the part of a first overall pick. He averaged almost 16 points per game, and collected 8 rebounds and 8 assist per game. Simmons played most of the season as the teams power forward, but spent time as the three and the point guard. Best of all, he picked up his team and carried them through the latter part of the season, a sixteen game win streak, while All-Star center Joel Embiid was out with injuries.
Jayson Tatum with the dunk, Ben Simmons with the response.pic.twitter.com/uQ6YQLm6wA
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) October 7, 2017
The third overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, Jayson Tatum had an outstanding rookie season as well, and pushed into the third overall spot for rookie of the year behind Simmons and Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell. Tatum averaged 14 points per game with 5 rebounds. However, Tatum turned it up for the playoffs, scoring 18.5 points, 4 rebounds and almost 3 assists per game. He even got a chance to be king for a few minutes as he had a spectacular dunk over LeBron James in the Conference Finals.
Now, the NBA has found itself in a very good situation. The NBA is full of young, blossoming stars, playing very well from the moment they step onto the court. Analysts and critics alike now debate on which one of these players will have the better career.
Ben Simmons or Jason Tatum: Who Will Have the Better Career in the NBA?
In order to properly answer this question, we need to look at each players skill set, the state of the teams they play for and assess all of this information to make an accurate prediction.
At the Rim
Ben Simmons is truly special at the rim. He has so many different moves he can perform that make defenders look silly. He has a knack for getting there too, and his drive is among the best in the league at this time already.
Just a remarkable behind the back move from Ben Simmons. Watch how tight he’s able to keep the ball to his body to get to the rim and finish #TwitterNBAShow https://t.co/TrMQmMcVPu pic.twitter.com/sC81i13kq9
— Nate Duncan (@NateDuncanNBA) April 20, 2018
Simmons almost reminds you of Michael Jordan because of the smooth transition he makes from one move to the next. Jordan was known for being snake-like smooth and gliding to the basket almost effortlessly. Simmons seems to have that special skill too.
Tatum can dunk and handle his way to the basket too. He has better handles then Simmons, most likely a result of training with Kyrie Irving, and can use that to make magic happen while going to the basket.
Jayson Tatum’s handles are too smooth. pic.twitter.com/phWZAGJ7zi
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) January 17, 2018
Advantage: Ben Simmons.
Jumper and Range
Jayson Tatum has a beautiful jump shot. His pull up and release move so smoothly together, it looks almost like silk. Combined with his handles and athleticism, he is truly a tough jumper to defend against.
Jayson Tatum’s mid range jumper is so nasty?? pic.twitter.com/ZHr90eKZ4h
— NBA Buckets (@NBA_Buckets) July 11, 2017
Don’t forget about his range either. He hit 17 straight three point shots when he appeared on 2K TV midway through the regular season. Not only is he consistent with his deep range shot, Tatum can hit some deep threes too.
Jayson Tatum knocks down the DEEP three to close out the third quarter! Celtics lead Lakers 63-57. Jayson Tatum has 17 points and 9 rebounds pic.twitter.com/g4KCJqYRDU
— Celtics News (@CelticsNewsNBA) July 9, 2017
Ben Simmons doesn’t have a jumper, nor does he have range. He didn’t even try most of the season, as he went 0-11 from deep. However, Simmons has vowed to work on his range shot, and has shown some progress. Last season’s stats were terrible however, as Simmons hit just 2.8% of his shots from 16 or more feet out, and a measly 17.4% from the 10-16 foot range.
— NBA TV (@NBATV) November 30, 2017
Ben Simmons from 3-point range ? pic.twitter.com/5ET2GKlb5U
— Def Pen Hoops (@DefPenHoops) March 28, 2018
Advantage: Jayson Tatum.
Ben Simmons was very close to a shutdown defender last season. His defensive rating was a 101.4. Simmons averaged 1.7 steals and almost a block per game. He is extremely intense, inside the paint and at the perimeter.
When you watch Ben Simmons guard like this and consider Embiid inside, it isn’t hard to envision the Sixers having the best defense in the league next season. pic.twitter.com/qpJcSZPIZ5
— Dave DuFour (@DaveDuFourNBA) March 25, 2018
Jayson Tatum didn’t have a shabby season on defense either. His defensive rating came out just a point behind Simmons, a 100.4. He averaged a steal per game and came close to having a block per game with that. Tatum has a slight advantage over Simmons in his body because Tatum is slightly longer.
Jayson Tatum’s defense turning to offense! pic.twitter.com/yNcnilLBIM
— Celtics News (@CelticsNewsNBA) October 25, 2017
Both players are extremely athletic. Both play very strong, intense defense, and both are valuable on that side of the ball.
Future Team Outlook
The Philadelphia 76ers are young and built to be a powerhouse for years to come. With Joel Embiid at the center and Markelle Fultz manning the point guard, the Sixers have an explosive core and a very good frontcourt.
Boston doesn’t look shabby either. Tatum isn’t the only young face on the team as shooting guard/small forward Jaylen Brown looks extremely promising in the league as well. If Boston can convince to keep Kyrie Irving beyond 2019, and Gordon Hayward returns from his injury in top form, the Celtics will have a very good team for many years to come.
Tatum and Simmons are going to be long term stars in the NBA, there is no doubt about that. Simmons could be the next LeBron James if he develops his shot. He is the star in Philadelphia and the number one priority.
Tatum is sort of the backburner in Boston. There are so many stars that Tatum is almost forgotten about. Tatum may be a piece that Boston could let walk in the future and get signed by another team to be their center piece.
Even after all of this, Tatum is the more complete player, and while he may not be considered as big of a star as Simmons, Tatum will have the better career in the NBA.
Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images