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Why Donovan Mitchell will shine in the playoffs

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He’s done nothing but step up under pressure

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Utah Jazz Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Last night Donovan Mitchell made history by passing up Steph Curry and Damian Lillard with the most threes in a season by a rookie.

Mitchell has put up one of the most impressive rookie campaigns in the history of the NBA. But it’s not just the broken records and incredible scoring that make it so memorable. When you consider the pressure on him coming into a broken-hearted franchise, it’s even more special.

From the moment the Jazz traded up to #13 in the draft, the weight of the Jazz franchise has weighed on Mitchell’s shoulders. On top of the inherent pressure of a franchise trading multiple assets for him, the Jazz were in the midst of the Gordon Hayward free agency talks. Hayward had made it clear to the Jazz that he wasn’t interested in playing with rookies. Hence the George Hill trade the year prior.

And so while Hayward was talking with Miami, Boston and Utah, Donovan Mitchell had to look good in Summer League to prove his value to Hayward. With Danny Ainge, Brad Stevens and Gordon Hayward watching, Donovan Mitchell shined. He was so good (one night scoring 37 points with 8 steals) that the Jazz shut him down early.

Ignoring Mitchell’s star potential shown in Summer League, Hayward left. And it left the Jazz’s future in question.

With George Hill and Gordon Hayward’s departure there was a huge question of where the Jazz scoring would come from. Most suspected that Rodney Hood would be the main scoring option. By the 12th game of the season Donovan Mitchell had supplanted him in the starting lineup.

This may seem like a small thing, but don’t forget that Quin Snyder was the same coach that chose to play Shelvin Mack over Dante Exum for most of last season. Quin wouldn’t do this if Donovan hadn’t earned it and stepped up under pressure.

With each month Mitchell raised his per game scoring and did it with style earning himself a spot in the dunk contest. With everyone watching he was magnificent. At no point did the pressure get to him.

As the season continued and the playoff race in question, Donovan Mitchell led the Jazz to an incredible (as of today) 28 of their last 33 games and a potential spot as the three seed. Many of these games included Donovan Mitchell closing out games in crunch time.

The moral of this story is that if you question whether a rookie can lead a team in the playoffs, this is the exception. We’ve never seen a rookie like Donovan Mitchell.

When the pressure is on, that’s when he steps up.

Just when you think the race for ROY couldn’t blow up social media more, Donovan Mitchell shows up in a very informative hoodie.

Mitchell also talked about why having an extra year in the NBA gives Ben Simmons a big advantage.

Another person who agrees is Draymond Green who said he’d “go with Donovan because he’s a true rookie.” He continued saying it’s an advantage to have NBA nutrition and training for an entire year.

Still don’t think having a year in the NBA helped? What does Ben Simmons think about it?

The Defensive Player of the Year award has been much quieter this season. Most likely because Rudy Gobert’s is far and away the obvious winner.

Nylon Calculus had an interesting article measuring how well defender’s did in individual matchups. Unsurprisingly, Rudy Gobert proves to be incredible in this metric.

Need more evidence of Rudy Gobert’s absolute dominance on the defensive side of the ball? Well, the Jazz are officially the #1 defense in the NBA according to NBA.com.

Considering the games Rudy missed, it’s a very impressive performance.

Speaking of deserving award winners, Quin Snyder has made real case for Coach of the Year.

Standings update!

As of today, the Utah Jazz hold the third seed in the playoffs.

With a win against Portland, the third seed is locked up!