You must forgive Jazz fans if they’re hyped about Donovan Mitchell. Truth be told, this is the undiscovered country. While rookie Karl Malone had multiple 20 point games and rookie Darrell Griffith had nine 30 point explosions, Donovan Mitchell is doing this while keeping the Utah Jazz entrenched in the playoff hunt. Mitchell has already become Utah’s go-to scorer on a team that had pegged Rodney Hood and Rudy Gobert as their 1-2 punch before the season began. The crazier part of this discussion is now we’re leaving the “Can Donovan Mitchell be rookie of the year?” discussion and firmly entering “Should Donovan Mitchell be an All-Star this season?”
The answer could be yes.
Typing that seems blasphemous. After all, Jazz greats Karl Malone and John Stockton were not All-Stars in their first season. Neither was Darrell Griffith whose legacy Donovan Mitchell appears to be on a one way collision course for.
In the month of December, Donovan Mitchell is averaging 25.8 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 4 assists per game. He’s doing that with a True Shooting percentage of 60.6%, a usage rate of 32.3% while shooting 49.4% from the field, 40% from three, and 87.5% from the line. He’s closing in on the coveted 50-40-90 line as a rookie. He’s not just one of the best rookie scorers in December, he’s the league’s 13th best scorer in the entire NBA in December. He’s not supposed to be this good this early in the season, yet here we are.
His blazing hot November and December have raised his season numbers to 18 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1.5 steals a game on 50% shooting from the field and 37% from three. He’s done this while the Jazz have sustained injuries to Rodney Hood, Rudy Gobert, Dante Exum, Ricky Rubio, Joe Johnson, and Raul Neto. He’s done this while bouncing between both guard positions. He’s done this whether he came off the bench or was in the starting lineup. He’s just really good.
The history of rookies in the All-Star Game
So can Donovan Mitchell pull off the unprecedented and make the All-Star game as a rookie? Let’s go through the list of the last 10 players who have made the All-Star game as a rookie.
- Blake Griffin
- Yao Ming
- Tim Duncan
- Grant Hill
- Shaquille O’Neal
- Dikembe Mutombo
- David Robinson
- Patrick Ewing
- Michael Jordan
- Hakeem Olajuwon
The most recent player to do it was Blake Griffin. The last guard to do it was Grant Hill. Before that, Michael Jordan. For Donovan Mitchell to make the All-Star game, he’d have to be in rarified air. It’s easier to make the All-Star game as a rookie (easier how climbing K2 is easier than Everest) if you’re a big man because there’s less competition. But with the new classifications for the All-Star game now, Donovan Mitchell could sneak in. Let’s look at Grant Hill and Michael Jordan’s numbers pre-All-Star game to see if Donovan Mitchell’s numbers match up.
18.4 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 54 TS%, 15.8 3P%
27.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 59.3 TS%, 16.0 3P%
18.1 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 53.3 TS%, 37.0 3P%
Donovan Mitchell (December)
25.8 points, 2.9 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 60.6 TS%, 40.0 3P%
Donovan Mitchell’s season averages could be good enough to land him in the All-Star game. Since 1981, there have only been 20 rookies who have averaged at least 18 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists per game. Who?
- Donovan Mitchell 2017-18
- Damian Lillard 2012-13
- Kyrie Irving 2011-12
- Blake Griffin 2010-11
- Tyreke Evans 2009-10
- O.J. Mayo 2008-09
- LeBron James 2003-04
- Steve Francis 1999-00
- Allen Iverson 1996-97
- Damon Stoudamire 1995-96
- Jerry Stackhouse 1995-96
- Grant Hill 1994-95
- Jamal Mashburn 1993-94
- Larry Johnson 1991-92
- Mitch Richmond 1988-89
- Willie Anderson 1988-89
- Chuck Person 1986-87
- Ron Harper 1986-87
- Michael Jordan 1984-85
- Kelly Tripucka 1981-82
- Mark Aguirre 1981-82
This highlights the uphill climb Donovan Mitchell will have to fight through. Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving, Steve Francis, Allen Iverson, and Damon Stoudamire have all been on this hollowed ground before and have been slighted at All-Star selection time.
Projecting this year’s All-Star Game
So does Donovan Mitchell have a chance this year? There are 12 spots available: 5 starters and 7 reserves. Let’s look at potential All-Star roster and let’s see if Donovan Mitchell can squeeze in.
|Chris Paul||Kevin Durant||Damian Lillard||Open Spot|
|Steph Curry +||DeMarcus Cousins||Open Spot|
|Russell Westbrook||Anthony Davis|
|James Harden||Nikola Jokic|
Now this is just some guessing here, but these are the players that would just be insanely difficult to leave out of the game. Kawhi Leonard is out of the game since he missed so much time. I have Blake Griffin out of the game and Nikola Jokic taking his spot. There is a chance for Donovan Mitchell here, but it’s a steep climb. He’s worthy of it, but so are the others he’s going up against. There is one wildcard spot remaining before going into injury replacments. Here are the folks who are going to be going after that spot:
- Klay Thompson
- CJ McCollum
- Devin Booker
- Paul George
- Karl-Anthony Towns
- Andrew Wiggins
- Marc Gasol
Devin Booker and Marc Gasol might not make it to the All-Star game despite having big years due to their teams being in the lottery. CJ McCollum and Paul George might not make it in due to their teams already having one All-Star already selected and their teams either being below .500 or just above .500. That leaves Andrew Wiggins, Klay Thompson, and Karl-Anthony Towns as Donovan Mitchell’s competition. Donovan Mitchell could have the inside track for this spot if the Utah Jazz find themselves in the playoff hunt toward the end of January.
If Steph Curry is still nursing his ankle and the Warriors aren’t content in sacrificing another championship for a 3 point shooting contest, Curry could sit this one out. That would required the All-Star game coach to select an injury replacement. The coach would most likely be Greg Popovich or Steve Kerr. Donovan Mitchell would need to put on a show against their teams and for it to be in recent memory. Luckily for Utah, they come up in the schedule in the end of December and January. If Donovan Mitchell misses out on the wildcard spot to Klay Thompson then here is the spot for him.
Donovan Mitchell would have to continue this December pace, an incredibly tall task for a rookie. He would have to not just scale the rookie wall, but obliterate it. He would have to continue taking on the responsibility of leading Utah in the playoff hunt without Rudy Gobert and possibly without Derrick Favors if there’s a trade before the deadline.
Never tell us the odds
If you would have told me Donovan Mitchell would be averaging 25 points per game in December I would have asked you “In what year?” He’s taken high expectations and leaped over them by leaps and bounds. The very fact that we can talk about the possibility of Mitchell making an All-Star game in his rookie year is remarkable enough in and of itself.
Donovan Mitchell most likely misses out on the All-Star game due to the Jazz playing in a small market and the klout of the big names he’s fighting against for a spot in the game. He’ll easily be in the Rookie Showcase. He’ll most likely be in the dunk contest. There is a way he could make the All-Star game, but it would require him to continue his December into January and February. It’s a long shot, but if there’s anyone capable of doing it, it’s Donovan Mitchell.