Utah Jazz: One thing each starter needs to improve in 2019-20

Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images)
Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images) /
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Utah Jazz Donovan Mitchell 2019 NBA Playoffs
HOUSTON, TX – APRIL 24 : Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Utah Jazz talks to the media following Game Five of Round One of the 2019 NBA Playoffs against the Houston Rockets on April 24, 2019 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Donovan Mitchell – Decision Making and Avoiding Turnovers

Once again, some may be surprised to find that the improvement I’m looking for in Mitchell isn’t his shooting efficiency. It’s something he’s been criticized for quite a bit in his early NBA career, and although his three-point percentage jumped from 34 percent in year one to 36.2 percent in year two, his field goal percentage actually dropped in his second season.

However, from January 1 until the end of the regular season, Mitchell was significantly better in the efficiency department, dropping a whopping 26.5 points per game while shooting nearly 45 percent from the field and 41.4 percent from the perimeter. That spike in efficiency coincided with a return to full health after a previous lingering foot issue. Therefore, rather than improve in efficiency, as the common narrative may say, Mitchell instead just needs to maintain his second-half surge more than anything.

Sure, some of those inefficiency woes reared their ugly head once again in the postseason when a Jazz team lacking shooting resulted in Mitchell being swarmed and stifled by the Houston Rockets, so he could definitely look to elevate his game in that area. Nevertheless, there’s an aspect of his game where it’s even more crucial that Donovan show true improvement, and that’s in his decision-making and avoidance of turnovers.

As good as Donovan was last season, what was most frustrating about his play at times was when he’d try to do too much rather than involving his teammates in the appropriate way, and it would lead to either a poor shot or turnover. A lot of that will improve naturally as Mitchell ages and gets a better feel for the NBA game, but being crisper in the passing department and less careless with the ball in his hands will be vital.

Last season, Mitchell led the Jazz with 2.8 turnovers per contest. Sure, he also led the team in usage rating, but that’s still far too high of a clip. Not only that, but Mitchell’s assist-to-turnover rating was a meager 1.48, not all that far from a 1:1 ratio.

Considering how much Mitchell has the ball in his hands for the Jazz and that they were one of the worst teams in the NBA in terms of turnovers (they ranked 27th in the league with 11.3 giveaways per 36 minutes), this is a clear weakness that he needs to patch up. So many of Utah’s offensive woes and struggles to close out close games could have been remedied if Mitchell (and, in fairness, his teammates even though he was the worst culprit) could have taken better care of the ball and avoided turnovers.

Fortunately, with Mike Conley now in the Jazz ranks, who’s one of the best there is at handling the ball and making smart passes, Donovan should be significantly aided in this area. He is a great passer when he makes the right decision and doesn’t force things, so naturally he should improve. But having Conley to run the offense and orchestrate much of the ball distribution will be a heaven-sent for Mitchell and the Jazz.

Ideally some of that cautiousness with the ball that Conley possesses will rub off on Mitchell and the rest of the team so they can pull themselves out of the turnover cellar that they were in last year. Fortunately, a vast increase in spacing should help the entire team as well, meaning this could very well be a significant and relatively easy improvement from a year ago.