Donovan Mitchell was recently named an All-Star which is indicative of his sensational play thus far for the Utah Jazz.
That’s right, you read the headline correctly. Made official as of Thursday, January 30, Donovan Mitchell is now an NBA All-Star. He joined his Utah Jazz runningmate Rudy Gobert as a first-time selection, an awesome accomplishment for both players and the franchise.
Donovan’s All-Star bid was absolutely deserved as he is having a tremendous season up to this point. Through Utah’s first 47 games, Mitchell is posting averages of 25 points on 46.2 percent shooting from the field and 36.8 percent from deep, all of which are career highs. He has continually led his team on offense and is Utah’s go-to guy when they absolutely need a bucket, particularly in the clutch.
But his impact goes far deeper than that. The Jazz’s net rating is 4.1 points per 100 possessions better with Mitchell on the floor versus when he’s off. That’s been significantly bolstered by his offensive impact where the Jazz post a 112.5 offensive rating when he’s on the floor compared to 103.1 when he’s off.
In other words, in terms of scoring, Mitchell has been their guy. He is absolutely sensational on that end with his athletic finishes, acrobatic moves and gorgeous shooting touch. He has a knack for hitting crucially-timed and key shots and can go off for 30+ on just about any given night.
There are, however, areas where Mitchell most certainly can still show improvement. First and foremost among them is on defense. Donovan’s net rating is good because his offensive rating is spectacular. But his defense has been underwhelming this year, despite promises this offseason that he was going to get back to his formerly reputed staunch defensive ways.
In fact, the Jazz are nearly six points per 100 possessions better defensively with Donovan off the court than on. Sure, some of this has come as a result of Mitchell being staggered with the bench unit and having to play a good chunk of minutes without defensive anchor Rudy Gobert on the floor. Nevertheless, even on an individual level, Donovan hasn’t exactly been a prolific defender this year.
Royce O’Neale is Utah’s best perimeter defender and he’s been largely great this season, but he can’t do it all on his own and certainly needs some help. Mitchell will have to lead the charge as a wing defender in order for him to help his team reach its utmost potential.
Recent losses to the Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs in which Eric Gordon and DeMar DeRozan, respectively, both went off are evidence of Utah’s poor perimeter defense. Neither one of those guys was Mitchell’s primary assignment nor entirely his fault by any means. Still, his lackluster defense has certainly been a part of a larger problem that has plagued the Jazz.
Finally, while Mitchell has improved vastly at taking smarter shots and making better decisions (which is a large reason why he’s a legitimate All-Star this year), there’s still room for improvement in this area. There are still times when he tends to rely a little too much on isolation play rather than moving the rock and making a wiser basketball play.
Whenever one is critical with Donovan, though, it’s important to remember that he’s in just his third year in the NBA, and that is absolutely incredible. He continues to improve each and every year, and the developments to his offensive game are spectacular as they continue to keep the Jazz afloat in an area that has largely plagued them during the Quin Snyder era.
Earning his first All-Star selection was a massive achievement and one that should factor into his grade at the halfway point as well. For that reason, I’m giving Donovan high marks, even if they aren’t as perfect as one would hope out of him quite yet.
Final Grade with All-Star Bonus adjusted: A-