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Donovan Mitchell worried he was a ‘one-year hit’ last season

Donovan Mitchell, Jazz

Donovan Mitchell felt what it was like to be a star in the NBA during his second season, but has only recently begun to feel the brunt of his responsibilities in full after challenging for the Rookie of the Year crown a year earlier. Through his early struggles, the Utah Jazz shooting guard wondered if he was a “one-year hit” after suddenly facing more attention from defenses and getting matched against better, more seasoned defenders.

“The biggest thing that I was wondering last year: Was I just a one-year hit and out? Was I peaking too soon?” Mitchell told Shams Charania of The Athletic. “I came in as a surprise and I had a real high and I never came into a season with an X on my back. Not in high school, not in college. I had never been the guy before. That was one thing for me to learn.”

Mitchell struggled to hit from distance and find the openings he often had in his first season after surprisingly taking the starting shooting guard spot from Rodney Hood and becoming the rapidly becoming the leading scorer for the team. The third-year star feels that pressure to perform even more now than in past seasons, having been given a strong supporting cast.

“I feel the pressure now more so than my first two years,” said Mitchell. “I understand the game more and the looks that I’m getting. Having the summer I had really helped. Last year, I came in and was hurt to start the year. My body wasn’t in the right place.”

The Jazz’ leading scorer was able to adapt to being defended by the likes of Paul George, Kawhi Leonard and Klay Thompson, and still have enough composure to score in different situations. Now he has to adapt his game to being a playmaker for others like new backcourt partner Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic.

“It’s weird. People always tell me that they feel I’ve been in the league for more than two years. I’ve seen everything,” said Mitchell. “But now, I have to understand where to get shots, where to be efficient. It’s not just shooting, but when to find guys, when to make the right pass, when to get off the ball. That really took me a while to figure out, and once I did, I got to prepare for it all summer and into the season.”

Mitchell’s new challenge is to help his core win games, now that he has the proper aid to pull off results. After two postseason exits, the third-year guard now has enough experience to know what it takes to lead a team into the playoffs — now he just has to get them closer to title contention.