At the end of last season, Donovan Mitchell had almost nothing to prove. He’d done all that on the court, leading the fifth-seed Utah Jazz in points as a rookie and winning a first round playoff series against the Oklahoma City Thunder. At times, he even outplayed established superstars like Russell Westbrook and Paul George.
Fast forward about eight months and a lot of that clout had dried up. In his sophomore campaign, Mitchell was struggling. In his first 33 games, his shooting numbers had dropped almost through the floor (41.1/29.3/78.6) and his PPG average (20.1) was sitting below his rookie season average (20.5).
But in Mitchell’s last four outings, he has regained some of his old swagger, that magic we all saw last season when he took over games in ways Jazz fans haven’t enjoyed in a long time.
That resurgence could not come at a better time. literally every point guard on the team injured, Mitchell is perhaps the only play-making guard the team has left. Joe Ingles is partly known for his ability to distribute the ball and rack up assists, but he isn’t a guard, nor can he play the position consistently.
Naz Mitrou-Long is an option off the end of the bench, but he’s a stopgap, a body on the court when no one else is there. Royce O’Neale is the only other healthy guard on the roster, but he’s ninth on the team in AST%, just barely ahead of Rudy Gobert and Ekpe Udoh.
This leaves Mitchell to be the guy. Not just the guy in scoring as he has been previously, but the guy who starts the plays, directs the offense, and runs that entire end of the court.
It’s a tall task, but with the Jazz so close to a playoff spot in what will be a tight race for the next few months, it’s a task that has to be done. And if Mitchell helps pull the Jazz through the next couple of weeks without point guards, he’ll have proven he’s really back.
Rudy has the most total dunks of any player in the NBA this season with 155.— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) January 11, 2019
To put it in perspective, eight NBA teams have fewer dunks this year than Rudy has on his own.#TimeToLearn | @WGU pic.twitter.com/kUjB5Fxtuc
Monday’ game was his 41st, meaning he needed 15 fewer games to get as many dunks as he had all of last season (56 games).
The record for most dunks in a single season (the stat has only been tracked since 2000) is 269, set by Dwight Howard in 2007-08. Gobert is currently on pace for 302 dunks.
Gobert isn’t the only player on pace to shatter Howard’s decade-old record. Clint Capela and Giannis Antetokounmpo both hat 150-plus dunks so there’s plenty of competition in this record chase.
Also, Utah’s injury report is so extensive, it required the Jazz social media team to use two tweets. Not the greatest situation.
Jazz injury report for tomorrow's game against the Lakers:— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) January 11, 2019
Raul Neto - OUT (left groin strain)
*will be reevaluated early next week
Ricky Rubio - OUT (right groin strain)
Thabo Sefolosha - OUT (right groin strain)
Grayson Allen - OUT (right ankle sprain)— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) January 11, 2019
Tony Bradley - OUT (right knee surgery)
Danté Exum - OUT (left ankle sprain)
The latest fan votes are out and predictably, no one from Utah is found anywhere on it.
It should be remembered that these are fans voting so popular and trending players (Luka Doncic, Derrick Rose) end up higher than they probably should be.
Rudy Gobert is likely the closest the Jazz will get to having its second All-Star in three seasons. He’s the league leader in field goal percentage and is near the top in a lot of advanced stats like win shares, box plus/minus, net rating and VORP.
Considering how little attention centers get for All-Stars, though, it may not be very likely, even after the player and media voting are taken into account.
A bit of a laugh here with Joe Ingles as he does the classic finish the Google search bit.