A sophomore out of Louisville, Donovan Mitchell wasn’t talked about as a sure-fire first-round pick talent until his unusual build garnered attention as the draft crept closer. He stands 6-foot-3 with a 6-foot-10 wingspan after all.
Mitchell wasn’t a true point guard in college though, instead gaining reputation as more of a 3-and-D option. That made his NBA potential unclear.
Could he ever see the court like a true point guard? Were his ball-handling skills tight enough to sustain pressure from top-level talent?
Mitchell had been answering those questions slowly as his role within Utah’s offense continued to expand as injuries hit Rudy Gobert, Joe Johnson and backup point guard Raul Neto. Then he finally exploded and had The Game.
The gaudy point total finally brought the No. 13 overall pick the attention he deserves among the league’s best rookies. But in reality, this type of game has been in the works for anyone who had been watching.
In just three December games, Mitchell has racked up 93 points on 32-of-60 shooting (53.3%). That includes 14-of-30 (46.6%) from three-point range. He’s been the savior Utah’s offense has needed since Gordon Hayward’s departure.
There are a million reasons to start watching the 21-year-old right now.
Here’s what makes him such a special player.
Donovan Mitchell is quick, shifty and Bouncy As Hell
You can’t teach speed, hops or a center’s wingspan on a point guard’s body. Mitchell has all three of those things, which allows for Westbrook-type bursts of speed, Giannis-like dribbles to the rim and Zach LaVine explosions for slams.
Even though he couldn’t finish this dunk (he was fouled), all of Mitchell’s best raw attributes are put on display right here:
He hasn’t even put all of this together yet.
His impossible length lets him finish against the league’s best big men
Mitchell’s unusually long wingspan for a person his height puts him into a whole other category of unicorn. He’s proving on each rim-run how height can be conquered with Wacky Inflatable Arm-Flailing Tube Man arms.
DeMarcus Cousins was quick to learn that on Friday night, as Mitchell’s speed and reach made it nearly impossible for the big man to meet his shot around the rim.
It happened over and over. As soon as Mitchell had a half-step, it was too late.
Mitchell is starting to knock down three-point shots off the dribble
A big adjustment to Mitchell’s NBA game is his ability to hit from deep by creating space on his own — and maintaining balance. Steph Curry may make shooting on the run look just as simple, but it adds a much higher degree of difficulty than a catch-and-shoot attempt.
His inability to hit shots off the dribble was the cause of a number of brutal shooting performances for Mitchell in the early-going, when Utah had one of the league’s worst offenses.
Now, he looks settled.
The emergence of Donovan Mitchell may push the Jazz to a playoff spot — something that looked unlikely just a few weeks ago with the offense in turmoil and Rudy Gobert sidelined.
Utah has something special in Mitchell, and he’s only getting better from here. The 2017-18 rookies are a batch we haven’t seen since maybe — just maybe — 2003.