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Donovan Mitchell’s rookie season was better than we could have ever imagined

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What a season.

Houston Rockets v Utah Jazz - Game Four Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images

Donovan Mitchell is the long-armed, beef-starting, step-back shooting, stretchy, jumpy 20-year-old we never knew the NBA needed. The Utah Jazz got an unexpected bag of Skittles at the bottom of a mound of Almond Joy, and nobody saw it coming with the No. 13 pick in the draft.

Not only did Mitchell impress us with his unbelievable ability to control an offense he hardly knew, but he followed through to a playoff series victory against a team with Russell Westbrook AND Paul George AND Carmelo Anthony. He’s part of what’s made the 2017-18 season truly special.

When the Jazz lost Gordon Hayward for absolutely nothing after he packed his bags for Boston, the Utah team he left behind felt like a waste. The unit that beat the Los Angeles Clippers in seven games a postseason ago would be without its star, and have little hope of signing another in a small market. Drafting a replacement or growing a young talent would be the only way to replace what Hayward brought, and that takes time. Could Jazz fans wait?

Luckily for them, they didn’t have to.

Mitchell didn’t skip one rookie step. He skipped all of them, and now Utah looks a few pieces and a few short years away from contention.

Where did this dude even come from?

Figuring out which spry teens are going to make a serious impact in their first season in the NBA usually isn’t that hard.

Watch 30 seconds of game film from Ben Simmons’ games in college and you knew time was the only thing standing in his way. Ditto for Jayson Tatum, though he’s playing even better than what we could’ve imagined from his time at Duke. But no, there’s nobody who could’ve picked Mitchell to be in the discussion for Rookie of the Year.

Mitchell spent two seasons at Louisville, coming off the bench his freshman year (somehow that was just two years ago). He was good in his sophomore year, but far from a real standout, averaging 16 points on just 41 percent shooting, five rebounds and three assists.

But he was given the perfect space to thrive in an offense with a big vacancy and nobody there to put a deposit down. Mitchell came in hot and never looked back.

He erupted.

What made Donovan Mitchell so special?

His numbers were brilliant, but next October, we won’t remember Mitchell for his 21 points per game. We’ll remember his not-so-subtle jabs questioning Simmons’ rookie status, and we’ll crave his impossible layups, freakish dunks — remember this guy won the dunk contest — and the eternal skin tubes attached to his shoulders he claims are human arms.

How many players can dunk like this:

Or make any of these layups:

In one short season, Donovan Mitchell asserted himself as not only one of the best young players the league has to offer, but the savior for a Jazz team on the fritz.

He didn’t stop at regular-season greatness, or dunk contest greatness. He brought it in the playoffs.

It took an injury to stop Mitchell’s season, after outscoring the entire Rockets’ team himself, 22-21, in his final full rookie quarter. That should say everything you need to know about the NBA’s flashiest, beloved rookie.