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Summer League Analysis: Donovan Mitchell vs Jazz Rookies Past

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Donovan Mitchell has had some dominant Summer League showings. How much can we take from them?

NCAA Basketball Tournament - Second Round - Indianapolis Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

There seem to be two Summer League frames of mind in this Summer League world the basketball community has been living in for the past week. Either you take entirely too much from young players’ July performances in Orlando, Salt Lake City and Las Vegas, or you believe there’s nothing to be learned at all about these players from these games.

No matter which camp you pitch your personal tent in, it’s hard to ignore just how impressive Utah Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell has been transitioning from the Louisville Cardinals to NBA-level competition (well, sort of). In 5 games Mitchell averaged 24 points on 44 percent shooting, 3.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 3.7 steals per game.

With Mitchell sitting out Wednesday’s and Friday’s games after his Summer League-high 37 point, 8 steal performance Tuesday, his Summer League is over. He’s proven enough. For those who haven’t seen Mitchell’s highlights from that game, they’re more than worth checking out.

My goal here is to perhaps ground Mitchell’s performance in the context of what some other Jazz rookies have done in various Summer Leagues to see how much these performances can translate to the games that matter, if at all. These are the numbers of every Jazz first round draft pick during their rookie Summer Leagues dating back to 2008 (I also threw in Deron Williams for fun).

Utah Jazz Summer League Rookies

Year Player Games Played Points Shooting % Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks
Year Player Games Played Points Shooting % Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks
2017 Donovan Mitchell 5 24 44% 3.4 2.4 3.7 0
2017 Tony Bradley 8 9.3 50% 5.3 0.4 0.1 1.1
2015 Trey Lyles 6 10.8 32% 3.8 1 1.2 0.3
2014 Dante Exum 5 7.2 31% 2.6 2.8 1.4 0.2
2014 Rodney Hood 5 13.4 42% 4.2 2.2 0.8 0
2013 Trey Burke 4 8.8 24% 3.5 4 0.3 0
2013 Rudy Gobert 5 5.4 53% 6.2 1 0.2 2.4
2010 Gordon Hayward 5 10.8 62% 3 1.4 0.8 0.8
2009 Eric Maynor 5 7.2 29% 3 3.2 1 0
2008 Kosta Koufus 3 8.3 32% 6 0.7 0 0.7
2005 Deron Williams 6 9.3 40% 1.8 3.7 1.6 0.2
*No 2011 Summer League due to lockout Stats via nba.com

Looking at the numbers, a few things jump off the page right away. With his tenacious on-ball defense, Mitchell is the clubhouse leader in steals by a country mile. When you watch the film, these aren’t just Donovan capitalizing on sloppy plays or telegraphed passes. His length enables him to jump passing lanes with crazy efficiency and he’s just straight up taking the ball away from people.

Looking for what I might take away from that, I noticed something else. Deron Williams, the most efficient passer the team has seen in recent history, leads the way with 3.7 assists per game his rookie Summer League. Rudy Gobert, defensive extraordinaire, dominates the competition with 2.4 blocks per contest his rookie Summer League. Both Williams and Gobert took those immediate strengths and built upon them, becoming elite in these categories. It gives me room to think that Mitchell’s on-ball defense can indeed translate in October. Also, looking at Trey Burke’s numbers, we maybe should’ve seen what happened with him coming. Another fun note, Mitchell also leads points per game by a good margin.

At the end of the day, most of this is probably just noise, but it’s been a long time since the Jazz have had a prospect enter the league with this much hype after a few Summer League games. If nothing else, it’s provided us with a good distraction to begin to mend our wounds from the Gordon Hayward debacle.