Donovan Mitchell Turns Corner; Out Of Sophomore Slump

Jan 10, 2019, 4:07 PM | Updated: Jan 11, 2019, 6:54 pm
Utah Jazz's Donovan Mitchell cheers during the game against the Orlando Magic at Vivint Smart Home ...
Utah Jazz's Donovan Mitchell cheers during the game against the Orlando Magic at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)
(Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Donovan Mitchell was due. After a phenomenal rookie year where he took the league by storm, his sophomore campaign was off to a rocky start.

It could be blamed on the left foot injury he suffered in game five of last year’s playoff series against the Rockets. It could be blamed on the right hamstring injury he suffered against Minnesota seven games into this season – prior to the injury he was averaging 23.3 points per game. It could be blamed on a lack of fresh legs from all the traveling the Jazz had done in the first half of the season.

Whatever the reason, he’s put it behind him. Over the last four games, Mitchell is averaging 25.8 points per game while shooting 47.4% from the field and 53.8% on three-point field goals.

Extend that one more game to cover the entire month of January, Mitchell is averaging 22.3 points per game on the month on 40% shooting from the field and 44.4% on three-point field goals. Compared to December where Mitchell scored 18.2 points per game, shot 38.1% from the field, and 29.8% on three-point field goals.

He’s essentially taking the same amount of threes per game 6.7 in December to 6.8 in January, but has gone from making 2 per game to 3. This has forced teams to respect Mitchell’s shooting ability more allowing lanes to open up so he can do what he does best, drive the lane and make plays.

Last Four Games

Mitchell is shooting 47.4 percent from 0-3 feet, 50 percent from 3-10 feet, and 46.2 percent from 10-16 feet. Compared to December, where he shot a phenomenal 69.7 percent from 0-3 feet, 28.8 percent from 3-10 feet, and 42.4 percent from 10-16 feet. He’s found his touch on jump shots shooting 46.2 percent in the last four games compared to just 34.2 percent in December.

Just as any star player, as Mitchell goes, so do the Jazz. The Jazz are 3-1 in their last four games compared to 7-7 during his struggles in December and his impact was directly shown in each of Utah’s last four games.

Against Cleveland, he struggled in the first half being held scoreless until there was 3:59 remaining in the first half before he went on to score 11 points in the final four minutes as Utah trailed by one at halftime. The trend continued in the third quarter, Mitchell scored seven points as Utah pulled away to win 117-91.

In Detroit, Mitchell was held to just two points in the first half before being sent to the bench. After returning to the game, he played the final 19 minutes and scored 24 points while shooting 52.9 percent from the field as Utah overcame an 18-point first quarter deficit to win 110-105.

The momentum continued against Milwaukee, scoring 26 points in the first three quarters and Utah held an 86-84 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Mitchell was held scoreless in the final quarter and Milwaukee outscored the Jazz 31-16 to pull away and win 114-102.

Another slow start plagued Utah against Orlando, a 21-point lead was whittled away before Donovan took over scoring 16 points while shooting 5-of-8 from the field and 2-for-3 on three-point field goals en route to a 33-point outing and the Jazz outscored the Magic 60-30 in the second half to win 106-93.

Mitchell Needs To Take The Reigns

With injuries impacting the point guard rotation, Mitchell will see more possessions with the ball in his hand until Ricky Rubio and Dante Exum are both evaluated in about two weeks. In the meantime, this gives Mitchell an opportunity to continue to run the offense and take control of games when the Jazz need him to. He’s been handed the keys to the car and expect him to be like a 16-year old behind the wheel of a brand new Camaro.

A favorable schedule sees the Jazz play 11 of the next 14 games at home and a significant drop off in the difficulty of opponents on the schedule, there’s an opportunity for the Jazz to make some noise in the Western Conference before heading into the All-Star break.

Mitchell’s play is key and he’s shown he’s ready to take the next step to lead the Jazz down the stretch into making this season truly special.

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