Donovan Mitchell. It’s amazing how much value 2 words and 1 name can have. For this team, for this state, and for you and me. Spida has had himself an all-time great rookie year and it has been such a fun ride. At 20.5 points per game Donovan is on pace to become only the 7th rookie to average 20+ points as rookie since 2000. By leading the team in points, his rookie season truly belongs with some of basketball’s all-time greatest names.
When you are statistically measuring up to legends like that, you must be doing something right. But what might set Donovan even further apart from the typical rookie, is his performance in the 4th quarter. His numbers are historically great, and this kid is already a superstar 4th quarter player. I mean, has anything become more predictable than his inevitable takeover late in games?
Donovan finds himself at 10th in the league for points in the 4th quarter with 6.4. Certainly that’s only because he’s taking a bunch of shots and happens to make a few right? Wrong. Yes he is taking quite a few shots, but he’s efficient with them as well. Among the 15 players with at least 6 points in the 4th quarter, Donovan ranks 8th for FG%, 5th for 3PT%, and has the 2nd best +/- of the group.
This type of consistent performance is something only the stars are putting up. Which is my point. As rookie, Donovan is already a must-watch and one of the game’s premier players when the game is on the line. This is incredibly rare for a first year player. In fact, the last time a rookie even scored 6.4+ points in the 4th was Kyrie Irving back in 2011-2012 when he also scored 6.4 in the last quarter. Before that? The Answer would be Allen Iverson in 1996-1997. That’s over 20 years of rookies and he joins 2 elite names.
But it’s not just a good rookie putting up big numbers on a bad team. Kyrie’s Cavs won 21 games and AI’s 76ers won 22. The Jazz have already won 47 and have 2 games left. Rookies just don’t lead their teams in scoring and take their team to the playoffs. The other 6 rookies since 2000 that scored 20+ points a game are LeBron James, Kevin Durrant, Blake Griffin, Carmelo Anthony, Tyreke Evans, and Joel Embiid. The average number of wins in their rookie seasons was 30.5 and only Melo’s Nuggets squeaked into the playoffs as the 8 seed with 43 wins.
While this high of performance has become the expectation at this point for Donovan, it definitely wasn’t coming into the season. Not even Donovan himself dreamed he’d play at an All-Star level this quickly. He didn’t even know he would be a first round pick until 2 weeks prior to the NBA Draft. And he’s often been heard saying that he didn’t expect any of this to happen, but then said, “now that it’s here, I expect myself to do a lot more and continue to work as hard as I can to get better and better.”
But what if his Spida senses start tingling at tipoff instead of just the 4th quarter?
Per36 on the season, Mitchell is averaging 22.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 1.6 steals. Over the season he has also had an ORtg of 107.1, DRtg of 101.2, TS% of 54.2, and AST% of 19.0.
I advise you to sit down for the next paragraph.
Per36 in the 4th quarter, Mitchell is averaging 30.2 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 1.7 steals. He also has an ORtg of 112.4, DRtg of 101.6, TS% of 56.5, and an AST% of 22.3. Those numbers are on par with James Harden, Stephen Curry, and Chris Paul. Reminder: Donovan is a rookie.
Now let me clarify. My Jazz goggles are not so thick as to believe that Donovan is as good as those 3 right now. Obviously he is not. But just in case I haven’t mentioned it yet, Donovan is in his first year as an NBA player. And if he’s proven anything over the course of the season, it’s that he is willing and capable of improving.
So what happens when he gets even better?