It’s been a long time since the Utah Jazz have seen a rookie anything like Donovan Mitchell. The last notable rookie was Trey Burke in 2013-14, who had more than a few great moments his rookie year, but ultimately averaged 12.8 points and shot 38.0 percent from the field (though Burke just posted 42/12 the other night so...).
Before Burke there was Deron Williams and Andrei Kirilenko, but neither averaged more than 11 points per game. Only Darrell Griffith is Mitchell’s equal in scoring and production. The Jazz simply haven’t seen this kind of production this early. Since Griffith, the only things Jazz fans had to go on was the potential they saw early on.
Here are all the rookies for the Jazz since 2010 that have played 50 or more games.
There have been several promising rookies, however, none showed superstar potential. Mitchell has changed that. He has raised the standard for rookies in Utah, for better or worse. And he is closing in on several distinctions and records with eight games remaining. Here are three records/distinctions Mitchell could own at the end of the season.
20 points per game average
Right now, Mitchell is averaging 20.3 points per game. If he averages 17.6 points the rest of the way, he will become the 47th rookie in NBA history to average 20 or more points per game and the second in Jazz history.
For the Jazz, having a player surpass the 20-point mark means more because there have only been 10 players in franchise history to do it. Since 2000, just two players have ended a season with the Jazz averaging 20 points: Carlos Boozer (2007-08, 2008-09) and Gordon Hayward (2016-17). Donovan doing that this year (at just 21, which would be the youngest of any Jazz player) would be amazing for this franchise.
Just think, it was a big deal when Hayward finally broke the 20-point barrier in his seventh season, Mitchell will likely do that in his first year.
NBA rookie 3-point record
For a four games stretch from March 15-22, Mitchell was struggling to hit 3-pointers, making just 1.3 per game with a shooting percentage under 10 percent (6.2). But after back-to-back games of four made threes, Donovan is back within reasonable reach of Damian Lillard’s rookie record of 185 3-pointers.
Mitchell currently has 169 and needs to average exactly two 3-pointers per game to match Lillard’s mark. Mitchell is certainly capable of such a feat, considering his season average is 2.4 per game and is averaging 2.5 in March (that’s including the really bad stretch of games).
This is also an intriguing record for the Jazz organization considering what Joe Ingles has already done. Less than two weeks ago, he broke the franchise record for 3-pointers (previously held by Randy Foye) and could become the first-ever Jazzman to surpass 200 threes in one year (he needs 11 more to reach that mark).
By the end of this year, the top two spots for the single-season 3-pointers could belong to players from this year’s squad. And Donovan could wind up as the rookie 3-point king, not just for the Jazz (he already owns the Jazz rookie 3-point record), but for the NBA as well.
Jazz rookie steals record
Following the win over Golden State, Mitchell moved into third on Utah’s rookie steals leaderboard with 107 steals. He sits behind John Stockton (109) and Kirilenko (116). It will take about 1.2 steals per game for Donovan to take this record home with him. And he’s averaged 2.4 in his last five games and 1.5 over the course of the season.
I am not the first, nor will I be the last, to say Donovan Mitchell is a special kid. There is a lot of room for improvement in his game, but that might be the most exciting part about him. At just 21, he’s within reach of NBA and franchise records along with several other distinctions that place him among the league’s greatest players.