After three seasons Donovan Mitchell earned an all-star spot putting up career highs in points (24.2), assists (4.2), rebounds (4.4) and 3p% (36%). It was a great season and should continue into the Orlando bubble.
Mitchell is truly one of the most exciting and electric players to watch in the NBA. Yet for some reason he still has detractors that say he’s a “chucker” despite him shooting an overall efficient level from three (36%) and a surprisingly high 2p% (50%). And just some context on that 2p%, Joel Embiid, who the national media loses their minds over, shot a 2p% of 51% at the center position this season.
Let’s take a look at three things that make Donovan Mitchell elite.
Quickness and Athleticism
Mitchell creates instant problems for defenses as soon as he steps on the floor because his first step is one of the best in the league. Mitchell’s quickness allows him to beat almost every defender in the league and forces defenses to scheme everything to keep a group of defenders at the rim when he’s on the floor.
It’s one of the main reasons Utah has made sure to fill their team with shooting. The more space you give Mitchell, the more room he has to work and score at the basket. And that’s part of the reason why Mitchell’s scoring has gone up this season.
To counter that first step, defenses try to pack the paint as best they can to keep Mitchell from the rim. One of the ways Mitchell has adapted has been an improved midrange game. This season Mitchell shot 51.7% from 10-14 feet.
To get to another level Mitchell needs to find out ways to get to the line more. If he can up his free throws from 4 a game to maybe 6 or 7 he’d see a huge uptick in his efficiency production. For example, James Harden shot 11 free throws a game last year. That’s a pretty ridiculous number but if Mitchell can get to the line 6-7 times per game that puts him at a similar same rate as players like Kawhi Leonard (6.9 FTA), Damian Lillard (7.6 FTA) and Russell Westbrook (6.5 FTA).
If Mitchell can find a way to do that it’ll improve every aspect of his scoring. His isolation scoring will improve (last season he was at .91 ppp.) and it will make a the Jazz offense on the whole improve since he is such a major part of everything they do. In reality, if the Jazz want to become one of the elite offenses in the league, it will depend on Mitchell taking his scoring to yet another level.
Catch and Shoot Threes
It wasn’t too long ago that Donovan Mitchell broke the rookie record of three pointers. The major reason is Mitchell is one of the best catch and shoot three point shooters in the league.
According to NBA stats, of players that take at least 2.5 catch and shoot three point attempts per game, Mitchell is #15 in percentage at 43.7%.
(well hello there, Georges Niang)
That spot up shooting is a real weapon and has been a major reason Mitchell has been such a prolific scorer.
The only criticism for Mitchell in this area is that he needs to take more. This shot is why he’s one of the elite shooting guards in the league and why having a high level point guard next to him is so valuable.
The other reason, Mitchell is shooting 31% from three on pullup threes. That pullup percentage is one of the things keeping him from superstar status. But when that pullup three percentage rises, the sky is the limit.
One of the most underappreciated aspects of Donovan Mitchell’s game is his passing. Since he entered the league he’s dished out about 4 assists per game every year.
We all know the narrative from
Laker fans national writers. They’ll tell you that Mitchell is a chucker whose shots somehow go in a lot and his team wins playoff series in some conspiracy where the NBA wants small market teams to advance.
But for those who actually watch him play, Mitchell’s passing is one of those secret ingredients that make him such a fun player to watch, and why he helps you win. It’s like that secret menu item at your favorite restaurant that you only know about if you’ve been there enough times. (Shoutout to Trolley Wing Company and their sweet and spooky Halloween flavor. Trust me on that one.)
Mitchell can truly make every pass whether it’s the easy or difficult. He can make a cross court pass to an open corner three or the simple drive and dish to an open shooter. We’ve even seen him throw fast balls in transition like an outfielder to home plate.
Like his spot up shooting, the only criticism for Mitchell’s passing it that he just needs to do it more.
Since taking over after Gorbon Flayward left, it seems Mitchell has felt the necessity to carry the team on his back. Now that the team has been filled with multiple weapons around him, he can be a facilitator more often. The more he facilitates the more it will open up other aspects of his game.
And that’s probably the most exciting part of Mitchell’s game is the room for growth. He has specific areas of his game that can improve pretty easily with time. The ceiling is way, way up there.