Donovan Mitchell Is Learning How To Flip The Star Switch For Jazz

Dec 30, 2020, 4:26 PM
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - FEBRUARY 15: Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz speaks to the media during 2020 ...
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - FEBRUARY 15: Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz speaks to the media during 2020 NBA All-Star - Practice (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz have a 2-1 record one week into the NBA season. With road wins over the Portland Trail Blazers and Oklahoma City Thunder, and a home loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, the team’s play has been good, but not great. The same can be said of star guard Donovan Mitchell, who has had a slow start to his season, despite a few crucial stretches in each of the Jazz three games.

Mitchell has struggled to shoot the ball early in the year, connecting on just 32 percent of his field-goal attempts and 27 percent of his three-point attempts.

It’s not as though Mitchell has had one bad performance in the three outings that have submarined his averages, he’s been consistently inefficient in the team’s three games so far.

In the latest episode of the Jazz Notes Podcast, Ben Anderson and Matt Baiamonte discussed Mitchell’s play through the first three games of the season.

Mitchell scored 20 points and dished out five assists while shooting 37 percent against the Trail Blazers. He scored 21 points and handed out another five assists while shooting 26 percent against the Timberwolves. Mitchell again scored 20 points and handed out five more assists while shooting 35 percent against the Thunder.

But while his season averages may be a touch concerning for Jazz fans, the fourth-year guard has had important stretches in each of the team’s outings that have allowed them to stay undefeated on the road.

Mitchell Flipping The Superstar Switch For Jazz

After a 1-5 first quarter in Portland, Mitchell’s second quarter allowed the Jazz to build a 21 point lead going into the half, effectively ending the game after one brilliant stretch of play. Mitchell scored 12 of the Jazz 33 second-quarter points, connected on 4-6 shooting, grabbed two rebounds, and handed out one assist to sink the Trail Blazers.

Though the Jazz lost to Minnesota, the team erased a 17 point second-half deficit with a chance to tie the game thanks to Mitchell’s dominant third quarter. While the guard’s 2-9 shooting hurt his efficiency, his willingness to attack the Timberwolves defense off the dribble created opportunities for his teammates to finish at the rim.

Mitchell scored seven points in the quarter and grabbed just two rebounds, the team scored seven second-chance points off of the guard’s misses including two put-back dunks from Gobert after Mitchell drew a help defender. As a result, the Jazz outscored the Timberwolves by 10 points during Mitchell’s aggressive nine minutes stretch.

Against the Thunder, Mitchell experienced one of the worst starts to any game in his young career. The All-Star had scored just eight points on 3-15 shooting through the game’s first three and a half quarters.

However, over the final six minutes of the game, Mitchell scored 12 points on 5-8 shooting, most of which came against Luguentz Dort, one of the league’s premier defensive players, including the game-winner.

Mitchell’s Evolution

Inefficient shooting nights are nothing new for Mitchell. Before this season, the guard had 71 games in his 225 game career where he shot 37.5 percent from the field or worse. In those games, the Jazz were just 31-40, for a winning percentage of .430.

Though three games is an extremely small sample size, Mitchell’s ability to have game-winning stretches despite his inefficient shooting nights might hint at an evolution in the guard’s play that will allow the team to win games they would have previously lost.

Mitchell’s ideal development will limit the number of sub-40 percent shooting nights as his career progresses. It’s difficult for any team to win games when their leading scorer routinely has games where he has more field goal attempts than points.

Until Mitchell reaches the point where he has eliminated those games from his repertoire, his ability to flip the superstar switch for stretches each game will be crucial.

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Donovan Mitchell Is Learning How To Flip The Star Switch For Jazz