Despite a rocky start and a disappointing final game, Donovan Mitchell was phenomenal for the Utah Jazz all season long and took a clear step forward.
The Utah Jazz are largely where they are today thanks to the incredible ascent of Donovan Mitchell. After losing Gordon Hayward in the offseason of 2017, most thought the Jazz would have a hard time matching the previous year’s success. Instead, the rookie Mitchell instantly began shouldering Utah’s scoring load and became their most prolific offensive player. Following an incredible rookie season, hopes were high for Donovan that he could be even better in year two.
Unfortunately, a lingering toe injury that he suffered during the second-round matchup against the Houston Rockets in 2018 and delayed his offseason work caused him to get off to a slow start in his second season as a pro. He was far from efficient to start out the year and some of the familiar burst and athleticism from the year before just didn’t seem to be there.
But once Mitchell turned a corner health-wise, he was absolutely brilliant. His post-All-Star break numbers were nothing short of spectacular as Donovan posted marks of 26.7 points per game on 46.1 percent shooting from the field and 45.1 percent shooting from deep. Had he upheld those all season long, he would have almost undoubtedly been an All-Star.
That uptick in play down the season’s stretch allowed him to up his scoring and 3-point efficiency for the season as a whole significantly from a year ago. Despite a slow and less than favorable start, Mitchell most definitely took a step forward in 2018-19, which is exactly what fans hoped to see. Not only that, but he led his squad in scoring for the second straight season and guided them once again into the playoffs as the fifth seed in the West.
Unfortunately, once there, Mitchell’s season ultimately ended up concluding much like it began. Aside from brilliant performances in Games 3 and 4, Mitchell struggled mightily in the remainder of the series. In the first two contests against the Houston Rockets, he was rendered largely ineffective and he was simply horrific in Game 5 where he shot just 4-of-22 and logged five turnovers.
Many of those missed shots and miscues came on the heels of poor decisions and poor execution.
Mitchell recognized as much afterwards and made it clear that one of the things he intends to work on this summer is to get into better shape. That will certainly help him and having a fully healthy offseason will be monumental. If Donovan can also enhance his ability to make the right reads and his shooting efficiency, he’ll easily be one of the best guards in the game sooner rather than later.
Sometimes Jazz fans have a tendency to be too hard on Mitchell due to how brilliant he has shown himself capable of being. With those illustrious expectations, it can be easy to forget that he’s only a second-year player and is largely leaps and bounds ahead of others with the same amount of experience.
But in some ways those expectations are fair because it’s clear that Donovan has them for himself as well. The good news, though, is that I’m certain that he is only going to continue to work to improve until that high bar becomes his reality.
All things considered, Donovan Mitchell was brilliant in his second season. Sure, he got off to a bit of a slow start largely due to the nagging injury, and his postseason performance left quite a bit to be desired, but we’re still talking about a 22-year-old who is already the best offensive player on his team and, despite some rocky performances, dropped 34 and 31 points in this year’s playoffs.
With all that said, it’s hard to be anything but proud of Donovan and his continued improvement. Perhaps he didn’t quite shatter expectations, but he still earned high marks. And the most encouraging thing is that the best is undoubtedly still to come.
2018-19 Grade: B+
Had Mitchell not gotten off to the poor start that he did, he may have very well been an All-Star and left Jazz fans absolutely satisfied. In so doing, he would have easily qualified for an A-grade. Instead, he left both his fans and himself hungry for year three, where I’m certain we’ll see the best Mitchell yet. A B+ isn’t bad by any means and a better start and better postseason were really all that was missing from Mitchell’s report card.
And I expect him to ascend to the A-rank right away in 2020.