Utah Jazz: Three takeaways from statement win over Clippers

Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers. Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers. Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) /
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Utah Jazz
Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles, Utah Jazz. Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Donovan’s point guard skills

One of the silver linings with Mike Conley’s hamstring injury has been the strong play of Donovan Mitchell. Since Conley went down on December 2nd, Mitchell has averaged 26.3 points, 5.2 assists, and 4.1 rebounds per game. Him and Joe Ingles are paired in the backcourt to share point guard duties (Ingles’ assist numbers are up too), but it appears the Jazz may have found a potential point guard of the future.

Earlier this month Andy Bailey explored the possibility of Don becoming a point guard later in his career. Via Forbes.com

"The next step for Mitchell is better recognition of when all that attention necessitates a pass. Too often, Mitchell forces up contested floaters or mid-range shots, when a kick-out to a shooter or a dump-down to a big would be more effective. Once he starts doing that more consistently, Utah might as well slide him down a position and get someone bigger next to him at the 2. Mitchell is effectively the point man on plenty of possessions already. He brings the ball up the floor, initiates sets and generally controls possessions. If he’s already doing that, starting another 6’1” player alongside him can cause some problems for the Jazz defensively. Mitchell at the 1, with a more traditionally sized 2 next to him, might be Utah’s destiny."

Bailey has a fair point that Mitchell and Conley aren’t the best backcourt fit defensively. Swapping out the 6-foot-3 Ricky Rubio for the 6-foot-1 Conley was a defensive downgrade, but one that the Jazz hoped would make up for it with offensive spacing.

But with the way Mitchell was performed for the Jazz in Conley’s absence, maybe the Jazz ought to consider finding him a new backcourt partner soon. This season Mitchell has tried to add several point guard dimensions to his game, like the Steve Nash search dribble where you drive to the hole and keep going down the baseline another three feet or so to keep defenders off-balance.

He’s tried to add the reverse layup Rubio has mastered, and he’s taken advice from Joe Ingles for becoming a better pick and roll handler. In last night’s game against the Clippers, Mitchell already piled up eight assists by halftime, and finished the game with nine dimes.

There was one particular play in the second quarter where came around a Gobert screen, and the defense came over to deny his lane to the rim. Instead of getting tunnel vision and going up for a contested look, Mitchell threw a cross-court pass to Royce O’Neale who was wide open for a three pointer. The next time he ran that play, the defense didn’t collapse so Don rose above his defender and nailed a shot from 15 feet.

Mitchell is getting better awareness of when to pass and shoot as a pick and roll ball handler. The game has clearly slowed down for him, and with a classy mid range game he will have more unstoppable nights like last night.