Following the 2016-2017 season, the Utah Jazz organization and fans had a lot to look forward to. Winning 51 games, capturing the 5th seed and winning their first playoff series since 2010 was a breath of fresh air for the state of Utah. That excitement continued when the Jazz traded for a veteran point guard in Ricky Rubio. However, that excitement did not stay following Gordon Hayward and George Hill‘s decision to leave Utah to go to Boston and Sacramento, respectively.
The Utah Jazz found themselves with a big hole to fill. Hayward and Hill accounted for nearly 40 points per game throughout the 2016-2017 season. What the Jazz did not know is that Donovan Mitchell, who they drafted just a couple weeks prior, would have the potential to fill some of that hole.
Donovan Mitchell May Be the Steal of the 2017 NBA Draft
Drafting Donovan Mitchell
Going into the draft, the Jazz had a couple of late 1st round picks with the potential to move up in the draft if the opportunity presented itself. Sure enough, the Jazz traded up sending one of their 1st round picks (24th overall) and Trey Lyles to the Denver Nuggets to draft Donovan Mitchell. The second that Hayward and Hill left Utah, Mitchell was presented with an opportunity to contribute right from the beginning.
In Good Company
Mitchell has had his ups and downs this season, but his recent play has earned him a starting position. The aggression and swagger he brings to the court are exactly what the Jazz needed after losing such essential pieces to their success. Some have compared Mitchell to Damian Lillard, possibly because of Lillard’s ties to Utah. However, let us look at a different comparison.
Mitchell in 22 games this season has averaged 15.3 points per game, 3.1 rebounds per game and 3.2 assists per game on 39 percent shooting. These numbers are nearly identical to an NBA great in his rookie season. Dwyane Wade in his rookie season averaged 16.2 points per game, 4 rebounds per game and 4.5 assists per game on 46 percent shooting. However, given the slow start by Mitchell, he has the potential to not only make up the ground but surpass those numbers. To be even comparable to a player like Wade is an amazing accomplishment.
Other Rookies Around the League
With the start of Ben Simmons and the hype surrounding Lonzo Ball, Mitchell has somewhat flown under the radar. Despite being drafted 13th overall, Mitchell is 3rd among rookies in points per game. Is he the best steal of the draft? Only time will tell. At this point, the Jazz should be happy with finding Mitchell.
His potential appears to be higher than his current play. As he gains more experience, his shooting percentage should rise and his knowledge of the game will increase. The combination of Mitchell and defensive stopper Rudy Gobert will be great for years to come. Stars around the league should take note (pun intended) and consider joining these great young players if the opportunity arises.