Utah Jazz: Year three Donovan Mitchell still playing at a historic level

Much was made of Donovan Mitchell’s historic exploits as a rookie, but the Utah Jazz guard continues to be in rarefied air.

Despite the fact that he fell short of capturing Rookie of the Year honors (that trophy went to second-year man Ben Simmons #PhillyTroll), there’s no doubting Donovan Mitchell had a first year for the ages. Sure, the Utah Jazz star’s Dunk Contest win put him on the map nationally, but it was his nearly unprecedented production that eventually made him a household name.

Now in year three, Mitchell continues to accomplish things on the hardwood that have largely only been done by the NBA’s greatest legends.

Let’s back up.

While his detractors would bemoan his lack of efficiency as a rookie, the fact remains that few players in the history of the league have been called upon to do as much as Mitchell was during his first season with the Jazz and he delivered like few before him.

Here’s just a smattering of Mitchell’s historical feats —

  • The 27 games he scored 25 or more points trailed only Carmelo Anthony and Blake Griffin in that department.
  • In terms of raw numbers, the only rookies who matched his points, rebounds, assists and steals per game averages were Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Larry Bird, Allen Iverson and Ron Harper.
  • The group of rookies to average at least 19 points, three rebounds and three assists per game while posting true shooting percentages over .500 and logging three or more defensive win shares is limited to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Earl Monroe, Walter Davis, MJ, Bird, Griffin, Harper and Mitchell.
  • His 171 points during a first-round playoff series win over the Oklahoma City Thunder were the third-most ever by a rookie through six postseason games, trailing just Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain.

We could continue this list for pages upon pages, but what is perhaps more impressive than everything Mitchell accomplished as a first-year pro is the fact that he continues to produce at a historic pace as a third-year player.

Check it out —

  • Looking at raw numbers again, the only other third-year players to have averaged at least 25 points, five rebounds and 3.5 assists per contest while registering an effective field goal percentage of .500 or better (as Mitchell is currently doing) are Kareem, LeBron, Oscar Robertson, Vince Carter, Joel Embiid and Mark Aguirre.
  • For the crowd that would argue Mitchell doesn’t play an efficient, winning-style of basketball and is instead the beneficiary of a high usage rate, the list of third-year players with usage rates over 31.5 and win shares per 48 minutes over .150 is limited to MJ, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant, LBJ, Shaquille O’Neal, Derrick Rose, Embiid, AI, Russell Westbrook, Carmelo and Mitchell.

Speaking of Wade, much has been made of the comparison between the two, so here is the breakdown of how Mitchell is currently performing and how Wade produced in year three —

Donovan MitchellStatsDwyane Wade
26.2PTS/3625.4
5.3REB/365.4
3.8AST/366.3
1.4STL/361.8
2.2TOV/363.3
.500EFG%.499

 

While Wade bests Mitchell in a couple of areas, the lines are close to identical; and we’re talking about the season during which Wade established himself as a top-five player league-wide. For the record, he won an NBA championship and was the NBA Finals MVP in his third year.

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Next: Utah Jazz: Mitchell isn't down with Valanciunas' flopping act

Clearly, Mitchell continues to be in rarefied air as a player. And while the Jazz are still working to find their groove as a unit, their go-to guy is playing at a historically great level.

That should bode well in their quest to join the ranks of the Association’s elite this season.