The 13th overall pick in this past draft, Donovan Mitchell has been stunning thus far. Following a 24-point, 6-assist win over the Clippers on Thursday, Mitchell scored 41 to pair with 4 rebounds and 4 assists in another win over the Pelicans last night. Without Rudy Gobert, the team’s clear-cut best player and perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate, the Jazz have played surprisingly well when compared to expectations. With a 12-11 record, they’ve kept themselves in playoff conversations following the loss of Gordon Hayward to free agency.
The Jazz went down 16 in the third quarter, but clawed themselves back into the game in the usual Jazz fashion, with methodical, late shot-clock sets and a slow pace. The Jazz collected quite a few offensive rebounds too, more than the Pelicans, which comes as a surprise given the Pelicans employ two of the best interior players in the league in Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins.
Getting back to Mitchell, he had the first 40-point performance by a rookie since 2011, according to basketball-reference.com. Blake Griffin did it last, and he’s joined a list of LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Griffin and Eric Gordon as the only active players to score 40 points in a game as a rookie. That’s elite company. He’s averaging 16.4 PPG, to go along with 3.3 APG in 29 MPG. If Ben Simmons (18-9-7) didn’t exist, Mitchell would have a great shot right now to win Rookie of the Year. With Lonzo Ball shooting historically low percentages, Markelle Fultz being injured, Simmons and Boston Celtics rookie Jayson Tatum are all that stands in Mitchell’s way to earning the league’s highest newcomer award.