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As Donovan Mitchell goes, the Utah Jazz go

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The franchise rides on the shoulders of 45

Utah Jazz v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images

This offseason the Utah Jazz underwent their largest roster reconstruction in years. They traded for Mike Conley and signed Bojan Bogdanovic. They added some depth in signing Jeff Green, Ed Davis, and Emmanuel Mudiay. They extended Quin Snyder and Joe Ingles. These moves highlighted one of the biggest free agency periods in Utah Jazz franchise history. Every single one of these moves made this offseason was done in hopes of bringing a championship to the Utah Jazz organization and its fans. But despite these massive (in relation to the Jazz) personnel additions, the weight of the franchise is still riding on the shoulders of a 23-year old kid in Donovan Mitchell.

As Donovan Mitchell goes, the Utah Jazz go. This season, with expectations sky high, it’s Donovan that’s going to have to carry them to new heights. Even with a two-time DPOY in Rudy Gobert, or the seasoned vet Mike Conley, or tactical sniper Bojan Bogdanovic on the squad, Mitchell is the man that will dictate the elevation of their new heights. He started out the season on a tear, and looked like he had really made a jump in his third year. He got his shooting percentages up to 48 and 41 from the field and three, and had improved in basically every facet of trackable advanced metrics. He worked his way into the top ten of many advanced metrics, and for a solid span led the league in points scored in “clutch” minutes. It was really looking like Mitchell had made a jump and was going to catapult himself into the All-Star discussion.

Not coincidentally, the Jazz got off to an 11-5 start to the season (with a tough schedule), which was their best start in over a decade. That’s when things started to go a little south. It was a bit of just bad timing with the Jazz taking a brutal road trip and Mike Conley going down with a hamstring injury. The Jazz lost 6 of 7 games. During this stretch, Mitchell had games shooting 7-22, 6-16, and 6-19, and he just didn’t seem right. He regressed a little bit toward the type of player he had been the last two last seasons. And as soon as this regression happened, guess what? The Jazz started losing.

Mitchell seemed to get back on track last night in Minnesota. He dropped 30 points on an efficient 13-20 shooting, including 6 assists and 5 rebounds. That was the Donovan Mitchell that the Jazz need every night. Composed, controlled, consistent.

After last night’s win over the Timberwolves, the Jazz are 7-1 when Donovan Mitchell shoots at least 50% from the field. In fact, over his career, the Jazz are 42-13 when Donovan hits this percentage benchmark in a game. I’ts probably not realistic to expect Donovan to shoot 50 percent every game (as an undersized wing volume scorer that would be very, very good), but it’s interested to see where the line where there is is obviously a true factor in Jazz wins and losses tied to Mitchell’s shooting percentage.

If the Jazz are really going to start contending for a championship, you’d better believe Mitchell is going to be playing at an All-Star (and even MVP) type level. It’s impossible to get there without him. They need him to go big. Mike Conley can get back to his old self, Bogdanovic can maintain his stellar play, and Rudy can three-peat as DPOY, but without Donovan Mitchell getting to that next level the Jazz probably won’t be any closer to contention than they have in years passed. In a superstar league, you need superstars to win championships. Don can be that superstar.