Who's the better player?
Kyrie Irving or Kawhi Leonard? Damian Lillard or Anthony Davis? Trae Young or Luka Doncic? Michael Carter-Williams or ... Giannis Antetokounmpo?
Those are the decisions that have faced NBA Rookie of the Year voters going back to 2012, and this year the question came down to the Hornets' LaMelo Ball or the Timberwolves' Anthony Edwards.
The voters picked Ball, but Edwards and the Wolves can take comfort in the fact that over the past 10 seasons some of the best players in the world have been passed over for Rookie of the Year — including Antetokounmpo, who won MVP in 2019 and 2020, and Nikola Jokic, who won the award this season.
Jokic finished third in Rookie of the Year voting in 2016 when the Timberwolves' Karl-Anthony Towns won the award.
Towns received 650 points in the voting (including every first-place vote) after he finished his rookie season averaging 18.3 points, 10.5 rebounds, 2 assists and 1.7 blocks per game.
In second place was Kristaps Porzingis with 363 points, far ahead of Jokic in third place (59 points) and Devin Booker in fourth (49 points).
While Jokic was just named MVP, he was bounced from the Western Conference playoffs by Booker and the Suns.
There's no doubt that Towns was the best rookie in 2016. It's harder to say if teams would rather have Towns on their roster currently or Jokic or Booker.
It's even harder to say how that view may change if Towns, surrounded by a talented young cast next season, takes his team to the kind of places that Jokic and Booker already have.
The 2012 Rookie of the Year voting provides an even deeper argument.
Whose career has played out better: Irving or Leonard?
Both are vital pieces to two teams pushing for an NBA title this season, and both are dealing with serious injuries.
Leonard has averaged 30.4 points, 7.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists in these playoffs for the Clippers — and he has two NBA Finals MVP awards, one with the Spurs in 2014 and with the Raptors in 2019 when he led that franchise to their first championship and hit one of the greatest game-winning shots of all-time.
Meanwhile Irving has averaged 22.7 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.4 assists for the Nets — and he made one of the most iconic shots in NBA Finals history when he hit a three-pointer to help the Cavs win Game 7 of their series with the Warriors in 2016.
They have had incredible careers, and while odds are that many would pick Leonard's career over Irving's, Irving was your Rookie of the Year in 2012.
There are other great debates in recent ROY history.
Would you rather have Lillard, the 2013 winner whose devotion to Portland and his playoff frustrations are reminiscent of Kevin Garnett's time with the Wolves — or Davis, the second-place finisher who became a star in New Orleans, split for the Lakers and won a title last season?
In 2014, the 76ers' Carter-Williams was a runaway victor while way down in the rankings, tying for seventh in votes, was a little known Greek player who averaged 6.8 points and 4.4 rebounds in 77 games for the Bucks named Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Andrew Wiggins won the award for the Wolves in 2015 and while his career hasn't been as meteoric as some of the other winners and close finishers, that choice remains fair six years later when you look at the other options.
The 2017 results were controversial when they came out, with the steady, reliable Malcolm Brogdon of Milwaukee winning the award with 64 first-place votes while Joel Embiid — who played just 31 games for Philadelphia — finished third but received 23 first-place votes.
Brogdon has remained a steady, reliable player, first with the Bucks and now with the Pacers. But Embiid is a four-time All-Star, one of the most dominant players in the game and averaged 28.5 points and 10.6 rebounds per game this season. Of course, those injury concerns remain and he's only averaged 52 games per season for his career.
The past three seasons are no different — even if it's too soon to say if one of these players is really going to breakaway from the others.
In 2018 Ben Simmons won the award with the 76ers while Donovan Mitchell finished second for the Jazz and Jayson Tatum was third for the Celtics. All three made the All-Star Game this season, with Tatum being named a starter. Mitchell, meanwhile, averaged 36.3 points in the playoffs last season and has seen that number dip, ever so slightly, to 32.9 this season.
A year later, the award went to Doncic, who has posted numbers unheard of for a player his age — he's averaging more than 25 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists per game for his career. So his Rookie of the Year award in 2019 is perfectly fair, but Young, who finished second, is having a star-making season (averaging 25.4 points and 9.4 assists per game) and playoffs for the Hawks.
And while Doncic has posted the better numbers, the Mavericks have yet to win a playoff series. Young won his first playoff series with Atlanta in his first postseason trip this year, topping the Knicks 4-1. Now the Hawks are up 3-2 on the 76ers after an incredible rally on Wednesday night and one win from the conference finals. Rumblings out of Dallas are that Doncic and the front office have not seen eye-to-eye of late.
It doesn't mean Doncic wasn't the right choice for the award, or won't have the better career, but it's what makes sports arguments so joyous. The Wolves have to hope that in a few years it's the kind of argument they're having when it comes to drafting Edwards over Ball.
Because while the voters picked Ball — who averaged 15.7 points, 6.1 assists, 5.9 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game — Edwards' second half was the stuff franchise dreams are made of.
Everything clicked for him from March 11-May 16, when Edwards was he one of the best players in the league. He started 36 games and averaged 23.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.4 steals per game while shooting 45% from the field and 35% from three-point range.
The only other players to average 23/5/3/1 over that stretch were Antetokounmpo, Tatum, Doncic, Jokic, Stephen Curry, Julius Randle, Russell Westbrook and James Harden.
And even if Doncic is the only one in the group to have ever won the Rookie of the Year award, it's not bad company.