The Utah Jazz have two deserving All-Star candidates for the Sunday classic in February. While Gobert has been deserving of the honor for years, it will be Mitchell that gets in first.
Over the course of his first three seasons in the league, Rudy proved he is a star and cornerstone to what the Jazz are building. The Jazz front office made a significant find in the late first round of what was otherwise known as a dismal 2013 draft class.
Initially buried behind Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors on the depth chart early in his career, Gobert had to spend lots of time in the then D-League and work his way up the ladder. He worked hard to add muscle to his frame and refinement to his raw game, and it showed in the 2014 FIBA tournament where he went toe-to-toe with Marc Gasol and the Spaniards.
The Jazz finished the 2013-14 season with the second worst defense in the league, but that would change with the hiring of a rookie head coach and the increased opportunity for Gobert. By the turn of the year into 2015, it was clear that Gobert was the center of the future for the Jazz. He was permanently inserted in the starting lineup on February 20th following the Jazz trading Kanter away for future assets.
Utah hasn’t looked back ever since, having three (soon to be four) consecutive playoff appearances and a top-notch defense.
As for Mitchell, his ascent into stardom was much less subtle than that of his French teammate. He was the third Jazz player to break 20 points per game threshold since (gasp!) Karl Malone! To make it more impressive he did it as a 21 year old rookie, won the dunk contest on All-Star weekend, all despite being passed on by 12 teams on NBA draft night.
He filled the hole in Jazz fans’ heart that was left vacant by Gordon Hayward, and has only gotten better since.
For the first time since the early 2000s, the Utah Jazz have a legitimate chance at sending not one, but two All-Stars to the Sunday classic game in Chicago. Those two were Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur, and the only times it happened before that was John Stockton and Karl Malone’s several appearances in the 1990s.
While I would be ecstatic to have two players representing the Utah Jazz in the first All-Star game of the decade, here is why I think only Donovan Mitchell will get the honor this time around.