The race for Rookie of the Year will be interesting, to say the least, but don't sleep on Donovan Mitchell.
Donovan Mitchell might be one of the best draft day acquisitions the Utah Jazz have picked up since they grabbed Deron Williams with the third overall pick in 2005. The impact D-Will made in Utah can’t be understated, but the one thing that sticks out the most for him was when he led the Jazz to their first Western Conference Championship series since 1998, in the 2006-2007 season, where they lost to the eventual NBA champions, the San Antonio Spurs. With that said, Donovan Mitchell echoes that same energy and dominance, but will he have the same impact so quickly? It’s safe to say yes, because he is, in every sense of the phrase, ready for the NBA.
During his freshman year at Louisville, he was coming off the bench and played 19.1 minutes per game. He averaged 7.4 points per game and made nearly half of his 190 shots at .445 a game, but his three-point shooting was atrocious, taking 72 shots and making just 18 of them, good for .250 percent. He was also a better distributor than he was a pest on the defensive end, dishing out 52 assists and 25 steals. His junior year was a different story, however, he averaged 32.3 minutes per game and contributed a solid 15.6 points per game, making .408 percent of the 444 shots he took from the floor and put down .354 percent of his 226 threes. Both his assists and steals numbers saw a nice improvement as well, 93 and 70 respectively.
In his Summer League debut, we got a glimpse of just about everything he is capable of. For starters, he’s fast, blisteringly fast. So much so that he ran the three-quarter sprint in 3.01 seconds, which is reportedly the fastest in combine history. With that kind of speed and his 6’10” wingspan, he can cut off passing lanes quickly. Couple that with his 40.5” vertical, and he can elevate to block some of the taller players in the league and disrupt, if not block overhead passes or lobs to the basket. With his speed and his 211-pound frame, he’s not afraid to cut to the basket, on or off the ball, making him a dangerous threat in the paint. David Locke, radio voice of the Utah Jazz, discussed some of the things he saw from him in his pre-draft workout as well as what he is seeing from him now during a phone interview with Spencer Checketts and Gordon Monson on the Big Show. “He’s just got it, he’s just really good. He’s got a catch and shoot game that is elite level. His catch and shoot game reminded me of the best catch and shoot guys in the league” he later went on to say “this kid, he’s got it all, I think he’ll have a rookie season similar to Damian Lillard”.
With Dante Exum going down with yet another season-ending injury, Donovan Mitchell will play a much bigger role than he or even Quin Snyder were initially expecting. Raul Neto will most likely take the reigns as the backup point guard behind Ricky Rubio, but Donovan Mitchell should see more time on the court because of his abilities on offense and defense. Most rookies see between 11 to 14 minutes per game, but I’m willing to bet that Donovan Mitchell will see substantially more in his rookie year. With the departure of Gordon Hayward (who looks terrible in a Celtics jersey by the way) Quin Snyder had to re-write their offensive scheme to take advantage of the speed and athleticism that this year's roster has, including all of the extra opportunities they’ll have with their defensive stops, and Donovan will play a huge role in all of it. The pre-season was full of lackluster talent for the Jazz to play against, and Mitchell has yet to see the real talent of the NBA, but boy does he look like he’s ready for the gauntlet. There may already be favorites for Rookie of the Year (Lonzo Ball, Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz and Dennis Smith), but Donovan Mitchell has more tools at his disposal than his counterparts, he’s already a complete package. Another advantage for him is every aforementioned player will get most of the attention, whereas the Jazz never get the time on television they deserve, so while ESPN, TNT, and the rest of the basketball community talks about them, he’ll be able to play his game and sneak up on everybody to steal that coveted Rookie of the Year trophy. And now, to leave you ore Donovan Mitchell highlights from the pre-season.