Utah Jazz: Pundits still grossly misinformed on Donovan Mitchell

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - MARCH 13: Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Utah Jazz gestures after a basket against the Detroit Pistons in the second half of a game at Vivint Smart Home Arena on March 13, 2018 in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Utah Jazz beat the Detroit Pistons 110-79. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - MARCH 13: Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Utah Jazz gestures after a basket against the Detroit Pistons in the second half of a game at Vivint Smart Home Arena on March 13, 2018 in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Utah Jazz beat the Detroit Pistons 110-79. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images) /

Greg Anthony joins a growing list of hoops pundits with off-the-wall takes on Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell and his case for Rookie of the Year honors.

During the Friday edition of his Locked on Jazz podcast, Utah Jazz radio commentator David Locke had a bone to pick with Greg Anthony. 24 hours earlier, Anthony had joined Sekou Smith on NBA.com’s Hang Time Podcast and made some curious comments re: Donovan Mitchell’s Rookie of the Year cred.

And by curious, I mean completely off the wall. He essentially argued that Ben Simmons is the indisputable ROY because he’s been great for the entire season. Mitchell apparently has not. Anthony went so far has to emphatically claim “it’s locked-up” for the Philadelphia 76ers star.

Here’s his explanation —

"“The thing about Ben Simmons and the reason I think he’s been the Rookie of the Year is he’s been great from Day 1. It’s not like he just came on and had a great second half. From the first moment he stepped onto the court to start the season, Ben Simmons has been there. So, basically he’s been that all year long. Now, you could argue Donovan Mitchell has been as good the second half of the season, but you have to add up both halves.”"

Anyone who has followed the Jazz this season can tell you that this second-half surge theory is thoroughly false. Locke was quick to point out that Mitchell’s big adjustment took all of seven games. In fact, it took him just four games to score 19 points and two more to register a breakout 22-point, three-steal effort.

But let’s not stop there. If you go month-to-month, the idea that Mitchell has just had an awesome half-season gets even more silly. During the month of November, he averaged over 18 points and nearly four boards and four assists per game while shooting 38 percent from distance.

December was even better — he upped his average to over 23 PPG for the month, shot over 50 percent from the field and registered his first of multiple 40-point games. All of this falls during the first half of the season, during which Simmons supposedly locked down the trophy.

I could go on and on about Anthony’s take here. Unfortunately, it only represents a fraction of the Mitchell misinformation out there. Basketball analysts around the blogosphere have similarly strange ideas about Mitchell and the ROY race.


The Poll

A handful of weeks ago, Oliver Maroney put together an excellent piece for Dime Mag in which he polled a veritable who’s who of sports personalities on those very topics. While thoughtful opinions were offered from every viewpoint, some of the analyses given were as off the wall as Anthony’s.

Taylor Rooks of SportsNet New York called Simmons’ ROY case a “no-brainer” and went on to say “He’s carrying a team that many have doubted since the beginning of the year.” Call me crazy, but it seems to me that Mitchell has done the exact same thing.

Former NBA player Brian Scalabrine’s take: “Simmons, enough said.”

I think it’s this kind of argument that bothers me the most. The idea that there’s not even a discussion to be had. Simmons may well take home the hardware in the end, but failing to even acknowledge Mitchell in the discussion just displays a level of ignorance that you wouldn’t expect from a basketball mind.

More from The J-Notes

SI’s Ben Golliver harped on the Sixers being less talented, yet having a better record than the Jazz. Meanwhile, Sopan Deb of the New York Times said “the 76ers are the better team in a year when the gap between the East and West has closed.”

Never mind the fact that the Sixers’ starting five features four lottery picks and an All-Star this season, something the Jazz can’t say for themselves. Also, the stuff about the teams’ records and the East-West gap has not aged particularly well. Or maybe they didn’t hold water to begin with?

FYI, the Jazz now own a better record and are exactly the same distance out of home-court as the Sixers (1½ games). And, on the whole, the East still isn’t holding a candle to the competition out West.

Chris Broussard went full-on Anthony, saying he would vote Simmons because “he’s been consistently good all year, from day one, while quarterbacking a playoff team.” Again — these are both things Mitchell has done.

There are several more screwy statements (and a multitude more from fans and analysts alike all over the ‘net), but I’ll end with this — several people have cited statistics through a historical lens to go with Simmons. So, on a whim, I threw my own little stat table together.

The Table

In an effort to measure offensive output/responsibility, all-around play and defensive impact during rookie seasons, I searched for every rookie to average at least 19 points, three rebounds and three assists per game while posting a true shooting percentage over .500 and three or more defensive win shares.

Only eight such seasons exist in NBA history; here are the players that had them —

Criteria: ≥ 19.0 PPG, 3.0 APG, 3.0 RPG, 3.0 DWS, .500 TS% 
1Michael Jordan1984-8521CHI28.
2Walter Davis1977-7823PHO24.
3Kareem Abdul-Jabbar1969-7022MIL28.
4Blake Griffin2010-1121LAC22.53.812.13.4.549
5Donovan Mitchell2017-1821UTA19.
6Larry Bird1979-8023BOS21.34.510.45.6.538
7Earl Monroe1967-6823BAL24.
8Ron Harper1986-8723CLE22.

Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/16/2018.

That’s four Hall of Famers, two others that were ROY winners and have logged a combined 11 All-Star appearances and a player that averaged 19-5-5-2 over an eight-year stretch before winning multiple rings. Hall of Famers Bob Pettit and Dave Bing just missed the cut with sub-.500 TS%.

I swapped defensive win shares for individual D-rating (equal to or better than Mitchell’s) and the list shrunk to just five players and included LeBron James.

If that doesn’t equate to a historically great rookie and a dynamite contender for year-end honors, I don’t know what does.

In any event, the point is probably moot. Greg Anthony says it’s locked-up.