Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell has developed into one of the best young players in the NBA, but when you look at his regular-season numbers, they don’t stand out that much. While they’re very good, he’s not the most efficient player (right around average) and is a good but not great 3-point shooter. It wasn’t long ago that people questioned if he could be the effective hub of a high-level playoff offense, especially after the 6-foot-1 guard struggled against the Houston Rockets in consecutive playoff series in 2018 and 2019.
Mitchell has taken a hammer to all these critics in the last two seasons and has turned into a full-blown playoff superstar. Perhaps Spida was bitten by a radioactive spider to give him these playoff superpowers.
We saw this phenomenon really begin last year in the bubble. While the Jazz suffered a devastating defeat against the Denver Nuggets, featuring a blown 3-1 lead, Mitchell averaged 36.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.9 assists while shooting 52.9% overall and 51.6% from 3-point range.
It doesn’t look like that was some bubble fluke. Coming off an extended absence due to an ankle injury, Donovan Mitchell is lighting up this postseason as well. The 24-year-old put up 28.5 points, 5.8 assists and 3.0 rebounds per game while shooting 45.0% from the field and 40.0% from 3 in four games against the Memphis Grizzlies. So far against the Los Angeles Clippers, Mitchell has flambéed them to the tune of 45 Game 1 points and 37 Game 2 points on excellent efficiency. He’s at 52.5% shooting and 44.4% from 3 against the Clippers, with a dazzling array of ridiculous 3-point shots and aggressive drives to the basket to his name.
He’s making Jazz history with his exploits:
Donovan Mitchell recorded his 4th career 40-pt playoff game in Game 1 vs the Clippers, tying Karl Malone for the most 40-pt playoff games in Jazz history.
This was Mitchell's 28th playoff game for Utah. Malone's 4th 40-pt effort came in his 149th playoff game for the Jazz. pic.twitter.com/T2rvOBCZpF
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 9, 2021
Donovan Mitchell becomes the first Jazz player with 35 points in back-to-back playoff games since Karl Malone in 1988. pic.twitter.com/el8dxNLoMx
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 11, 2021
The sample size is still rather small, but it’s impressive that he has been able to put up these consistently massive performances in his recent playoff outings. The game has slowed down for him and he’s making good decisions, hunting out weaknesses in the defense and cashing big shots when it matters.
This stat on his pick-and-roll prowess shows just how good he has been as the lead offensive creator in these playoffs:
Donovan Mitchell is scoring 1.21 points per pick & roll ball-handler possession in his 6 playoffs games. That is beyond any adjective.
Luka Dončić – 1.01
Damian Lillard – 1.09
Brad Beal – 1.10
Among guys remaining, only Trae Young runs more pick & roll
— Shane Young (@YoungNBA) June 11, 2021
Mitchell’s playoff numbers will likely regress somewhat from where they’re at. Things are only going to get tougher from here and the guard could wear down a bit at some point. He suffered an injury scare at the end of Game 2, so that will have to be monitored, even if he says he’s okay.
But even if Mitchell slows down a bit, he would still an incredible playoff performer. The Jazz also have a number of weapons to help make up for any Mitchell regression, especially if Mike Conley comes back soon.
Donovan Mitchell is proving that he can be a legitimate superstar, and perhaps he will actually be able to go on a Dwyane Wade-esque run this postseason. LeBron James certainly thinks he could have that in him.
With Mitchell playing like this, the Jazz have to be considered a legitimate title contender. We already know how good they can be defensively with Rudy Gobert manning the middle, but Mitchell’s playoff explosions takes their offense to a championship ceiling.