BOSTON — Celtics fans had their say on the ongoing Rookie of the year debate during Game one of the Eastern Conference semifinals. A debate not just about which rookie is best (Ben Simmons or Jayson Tatum) but whether one is even a rookie at all. And the verdict was unanimous. Their guy (Simmons) is not a rookie, but our guy (Tatum) is.
Mass Live’s Tom Westerholm and NBC Sports Philly’s Jess Camerato weighed in on the rookie of the year debate on this week’s Celtics Beat on the CLNS Media Network with host Adam Kaufman. Westerholm says, the ‘Not a Rookie’ chants may not be achieving their desired effect.
“The ‘not a rookie’ chants for Ben Simmons – I would almost call them ill advised,” Westerholm said. “That’s the whole problem. Isn’t that kind of a compliment? You’re a rookie doesn’t play like a rookie.”
Simmons brought a lot of this on himself, declaring in an interview that he should 100% be the rookie of the year and that none of the other rookies in this class had caught his attention. Camerato however doesn’t think Simmons cares all that much about the award.
“It doesn’t matter. Ben’s vision line for his career goes so far beyond what he’s able to accomplish in year one,” said Camerato. “If he continues to expand his offensive game, who knows where Ben’s career is going to take him?”
Camerato says Simmons doesn’t care but Sixers point forward definitely looked a bit perturbed when asked about the Garden chants after the game. He may also not have liked the fact that he was clearly outplayed by Tatum who poured in 28 points on 8-for-16 shooting. However, due to the fact that he played on a deep team with so many other scorers Tatum is not really in the rookie of the year conversation.
“I think [Tatum] knows how dominant he would have been as a rookie on a team that just asked him to score all season,” Westerholm told Kaufman. “If they were just like, here go out there develop gets your reps in. And maybe he’ll be better as a result of being on the Celtics, and playing within Brad Stevens system, getting all that development with their excellent player development staff. He would have had a better Rookie of the Year case playing somewhere else.”
Westerholm points out that everyone around the league expected Tatum to be good right away. But this good? After one season it may already be time to readjust expectations.
“Coming out of college everybody was saying, this guy is polished, he’s going to be good right away. Don’t know what his floor is, what his ceiling is, but he will be a talented player right away,” said Westerholm. “But it wasn’t like this. Nobody expected him to be starting a team that starts a game in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.”
So probably not rookie of the year, but is it a stretch to think Tatum may have a better career than Simmons? Maybe not.
“He will be an All Star for many years. There’s some optimism around everybody that he could be the next franchise star. He’s that good. He’s just really showing at this point in his young career that that is his ceiling. He can just do everything.”