Get past the slow start. Break down the preconceived notions. Look at it objectively and realize that Donovan Mitchell is following up his incredible rookie season with an even more impressive sophomore campaign. Donovan Mitchell is having another historic season.
“He’s just a chucker, he’s inefficient, etc…” Look, I get it. Mitchell did not start off his second year very well. Through the first 3 months of the season, he had looked every part of those now-inaccurate statements. After 33 games, he was shooting just 41% from the field and 29% from three. Sure he was scoring 20+ a game, but many times on 20+ shots as well. For example, he had games where he shot 1/10, 5/26, 3/14, and 7/23 in those months. But don’t let that balloon into calling this a sophomore slump.
On New Year’s Eve, Donovan made his New Year’s Resolution known to the world.
New year, new me.
— Donovan Mitchell (@spidadmitchell) January 1, 2019
He’s lived up to that and more in 2019. In fact, I’d argue he is being vastly underrated at this point. Don’t believe me?
Look at the Stats
Since January 1st, he is averaging over 27 points, 4 rebounds, and 5 assists per game. There are only 5 players to be performing at that level on the season: Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, and LeBron James. For 29 games now, Donovan has nearly been on an MVP level.
Not impressed yet? Ok how about this: on the season he is now up to 23.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 4.1 assists, and 1.5 steals. Only a handful of NBA players have ever done that in their first or second year in the league (and this has only happened 4 times since 1990). Here’s the full list of players:
- LeBron James
- Dwyane Wade
- Vince Carter
- Allen Iverson
- Tim Hardaway
- Isiah Thomas
- Ron Harper
- David Thompson
- Walter Davis
This is a ridiculous list to add your name to. And no Mitchell isn’t the least efficient scorer on that list. He currently sits 9th out of the 11 players, but is likely to be even higher by season’s end based on his current level of play.
Limited Offensive Help
From that list, Donovan is also only one of four players (LeBron, Vince, and Harper) to not have another 20+ point scorer on the roster. In fact, Rudy Gobert at 15.3 points per game is the lowest 2nd leading scorer. Donovan is being asked to do so much at such a young age. This is true in today’s NBA as well.
Among current playoff teams, only Giannis (9.6 points), Kawhi Leonard (10.6), and James Harden (19.4) have a greater discrepancy as leading scorer to the 2nd leading scorer than Mitchell at a difference of 8.2 points per game. Every one of the other players have multiple teammates scoring 15+ a game, whereas Donovan only has one. His offensive load is just insane. This is even more pronounced in the 4th quarter, where Donovan scores 6.9 points per game. That’s good for 9th overall in the league when it matters most.
Breaking More Jazz Records
On March 6th, just 139 games into his career, Mitchell broke the milestone of 3,000 points. No Jazz player has reached that mark faster. The record was previously held by fellow Louisville alum Darrell Griffith at 150 games. Add that to the list of already broken records and certainly future records to be broken by the young guard.
Thanks to some research by Andy Bailey (@AndrewDBailey), we also know this was an impressive feat in NBA history, not just Utah’s. Through 140 regular season games, Donovan had 3,049 points, 543 rebounds, 543 assists, and 203 steals. Only LeBron James and Michael Jordan hit those marks in their first 140 games. LeBron James and Michael Jordan! And only Damian Lillard (348) made more threes in his first 140 games than Donovan Mitchell’s 328. Once again, he finds himself in rare and elite company this year.
The Amazing Spida Man
So, did Donovan Mitchell get off to a slow start in 2018-2019. Absolutely. But don’t let that cloud your judgement of his current season. There’s a reason that NBA.com has him in their top 10 for the MVP race. Building on his impressive rookie season, he’s been even better in year 2 and is carrying his team to the playoffs again. Can you imagine how he would look with another legitimate scorer by his side? Hopefully we get to find out after this offseason…