Donovan Mitchell did not have your typical rookie season to say the least. Rookies don’t normally lead the team in scoring, especially playoff teams. Rookies usually aren’t capable of taking over games single-handedly, let alone by scoring 38 points in a playoff elimination game. Rookies typically don’t make an entire city, state, and worldwide fanbase fall madly in love with them by the way the play on the court and conduct themselves off of it. But Donovan Mitchell was not your typical rookie.He did not adhere to typical rookie protocol, and was forced to take a massive step during his first season as an NBA player.
But as great and incredible and amazing and inspiring and exciting and exhilarating as Donovan Mitchell’s rookie season was last year, it’s over. He’s not a rookie anymore.
Mitchell enters this season with new challenges, expectations, and aspirations. Considering the rapid development of Donovan Mitchell during his first season, will he take the next step in 2018-19? Before deciding whether or not Mitchell will take the step, we need to define what the next step is.
All-Star? All-Pro? Western Conference Finals? Championship? Which of these best define the next step for Donovan Mitchell? He already led the Jazz in scoring, including two games of 40+ points during the regular season. He already captured the national spotlight with his athletic ability, incredible dunking skills, and magnetic charm. He already became “that guy” for the Jazz as he carried the Jazz offensively in a playoff elimination game scoring 38 points and willing his team to the second round. Mitchell accomplished so much in such little time last season, so it isn’t easy to necessarily tab what his next step should be.
Seeing Donovan Mitchell be named an All-Star would be incredible. But yet, it’s kind of expected at this point. He contains everything you want in an All-Star caliber player. He has the skills, the flash and the stats to play with the big boys during the February break. It would be awesome for the Jazz to get an All-Star back in Salt Lake City, which is why this “next step” should include an All-Star bid for DM.
Looking at Mitchell’s rookie season statistically, he has plenty of room for improvement. Although he set the rookie record for threes made in a season, he wasn’t super efficient shooting the three at 34 percent. He seemed to fall in love with the three often, which would sometimes result in some poor shot selection or forced attempts. In order for Mitchell to take the next step in his game, he needs to be more efficient from beyond the arch. Getting that percentage up to 38-40 percent would make a world of difference and make Mitchell even that much more dangerous as a scorer. He has the tools to become an elite shooter, and this season is a great opportunity for him to take a step towards that goal.
Improving and developing as a leader should also be a goal for Mitchell this season. He has a natural sense of maturity, and you can sense it when you listen to him in post-game conferences or practice interviews. The way he talks about himself, his teammates, his coaches, or anything else for that matter: the dude just gets it. Rudy Gobert is still the bonafide leader and captain of this team, and that’s probably not going to change. But Mitchell can learn from Gobert and improve himself as a leader, soon to be guiding this team alongside the Stifle Tower. This season he can prove that he is capable of leading his team through good and the bad and getting them out of tough situations, both in-game and out.
Another step that Spida could take this season is getting clutch buckets. He didn’t have a ton of opportunities last season, but he showed glimpses of being a cold-blooded killer in the clutch minutes of games. We saw it as he took over a game vs the Spurs and hit a ridiculous three to send the game to overtime. We saw it against the Thunder in the playoffs as he took over in the second half. But there is plenty of room for Mitchell to establish himself as a clutch bucket-getter in the most important moments of games. You see guys like LeBron, KD, Harden, etc, the mega stars of our era, getting these game-winners on a fairly consistent basis. If Mitchell wants to get to that point eventually, he will need to step up in the clutch.
After defining a little bit what the next step is for Mitchell, what are the odds he can actually do it? The sky’s the limit for Donovan Mitchell. It would not be surprising at all to see him accomplish all these things, and more. This doesn’t mean that he won’t have any struggles or drops in production. As a progressing NBA player, those things are going to happen. But this upcoming season in its entirety is a huge opportunity for Mitchell, and I think he takes full advantage of it. This Utah Jazz franchise rides on his shoulders, and it’s going to be a heck of a time this season and beyond.