Hayward who? Donovan Mitchell put the league on notice during his rookie season with the Utah Jazz, capturing the hearts of Jazz Nation. Here is a look back at his historic first season in Utah.
Those are just a few of the comparisons that Donovan Mitchell
received earned over the course of his inaugural NBA season. Mitchell’s electric rookie campaign not only helped Utah Jazz fans forget about a tougher-than-usual offseason, but it sparked their imaginations for what the future of this team might have in store.
As far as I am concerned, that isn’t too bad of a first season for a 13th overall pick who many initially considered to be a nothing more than a defensive specialist with a below average offensive game.
Join me for a pleasant stroll down memory lane of Mitchell’s first NBA season and how it helped reenergize an entire city, state and fan base.
Less than a year ago, Jazz fans were mourning the loss of their two leading scorers in Gordon Hayward and George Hill. After a 51-win season in ’16-17, unfortunately, the rebuild appeared to be in full effect.
Fast forward to now – the Jazz are fresh off a 48-win campaign that saw them advance to the second round of a loaded Western Conference playoffs. For many Jazz fans, including myself, the future of this franchise hasn’t looked this bright in years.
Just how exactly did we get to this point?
It all began with a legendary pre-draft workout with Mitchell. The future Jazzman’s workout led Utah general manager, Dennis Lindsey, to threaten the jobs of media and Jazz personnel if any word got out on how well Donovan’s workout went.
Now fast forward to June 22, 2017. A night that saw a draft-night trade that will go down in Utah Jazz history books.
You might find those same pages torn out and burned from Denver’s history.
Thanks, Denver. #InDennisWeTrust
Despite trading up for Mitchell, the expectations remained relatively low for the Louisville product.
That was, however, until he burst onto the scene with a Summer League performance that included a 37-point, 8-steal game and this…
That was just a sign of things to come for the soon-to-be rookie phenom.
A star is born
From the early stages of the season, Coach Quin Snyder made it obvious that he trusted in Mitchell’s ability to create offense.
It wasn’t long before the rookie proved to be a crucial piece in Utah’s system. Mitchell quickly found himself inserted into Utah’s starting lineup after a strong start to the regular season.
From there, the highlights just kept coming for the man known as Spida.
Sit back. Relax. And enjoy the smile-inducing highlights of Mitchell’s first season:
According to the Chinese calendar, 2018 is the year of the dog. Jazz fans, however, might have a different opinion? #YearOfTheSpida
Mitchell’s budding stardom was further accelerated after his 2018 Slam Dunk Championship during the NBA’s All-Star Weekend in LA.
Seriously, what can’t this guy do?
Mitchell finished the regular season with an impressive 20.5 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game, helping to lead the Jazz to a 48-win season and the West’s fifth seed.
Mitchell’s regular season placed him in a tight and highly-debated race for the NBA’s Rookie of the Year honors against Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons.
Check out my piece on Utah’s unexpected season for an in-depth look at the #ROY race and some of the best memories from the ’17-’18 Jazz season:
Led by Mitchell and anchored by Rudy Gobert‘s defense, the Jazz found themselves in the postseason for the second time in as many years.
As the Jazz prepared to take on the Oklahoma City Thunder in the opening round, many fans were concerned that the stage would be too bright for the young rookie in his first postseason experience.
Again, it didn’t take Mitchell long to silence the doubters. In a Game 1 loss, Mitchell posted a 27-point and 10-assist game, only to be outdone by Paul “Playoff P” George’s 37-point outburst.
While it was George who had the goofy, self-given nickname, it was Donovan that elevated his game in the postseason. Mitchell averaged 28.5 points per game in the opening round, including a 38-point performance to close out the series in Game 6.
Round two, however, would present a much tougher challenge to Mitchell and Co.
Despite matching up with the likes of Chris Paul and James Harden, Mitchell continued to prove he belonged. The rookie appeared to struggle at times to get into a rhythm, however, he was forced to shoulder a much greater load with Ricky Rubio sidelined due to injury.
Mitchell’s 17-point, 11-assist output in a surprising Game 2 Victory proved he could play against the league’s elite on the NBA’s biggest stage.
He also had this third quarter explosion in an effort to save Utah’s season…
This kid is truly a special talent.
As the GOAT, Michael Jordan, might say, “the ceiling is the roof” for Donovan Mitchell.
Get excited, Jazz fans. Mitchell is not only a prime talent on the floor, but he is a prime person off of it.
For Utah Jazz fans, the ’17-18 season will always be remembered as the Year of the Spida.
I think I can safely assume that I speak for all of us in saying…
Thanks for the memories, Donovan. We can’t wait to see what the future has in store for this team.
Sincerely, Jazz Nation.
What was your favorite Mitchell memory? What is his potential? Let me know in the comments below or follow me on Twitter @TylerDThorpe.