Kia Rookie Of The Year: Why Donovan Mitchell is a No-Brainer


Talk about Ben Simmons, Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball, or anybody else that’s a rookie this season all you want — the true star of the show is none other than Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz.

Selected 13th overall in the 2017 NBA Draft by the Utah Jazz, Donovan Mitchell has turned out to be a star in the making that almost didn’t even go pro. As reported by CBS Sports, Mitchell took a lot of time weighing the decision to even enter the draft when he had the option to stay in school at Louisville.

And if he’d stayed behind even one more season, who knows what could’ve happened from there.

Jump now to the All-Star break and the Jazz are looking like they’ll be just fine without Gordon Hayward. They’re by no means a top tier team at the moment, especially in the stacked Western Conference, but their most recent run of success is taking the league by storm with Mitchell stepping up to the plate and finding a way to take charge.

A double-digit win streak out of nowhere is what it took to dig Utah up from being nine games below .500 to a reasonable middle ground. While falling to 19-28 at one point isn’t ideal for any team in the league, the slump was what Mitchell needed to realize what his real potential is in the NBA, even as a rookie.

The former Louisville guard has found his groove in Utah, and there might be no stopping him now unless some sort of out of this world injury keeps him from progressing. As of this writing, Mitchell is the leading scorer for the Jazz, averaging 19.5 points per game in 32 minutes on the court.

His 32 minutes of action are also the highest of anybody on the team, which is a great sign moving forward in terms of being able to acknowledge his skill set and giving him a solid base to grow from.

So how does this tie into him being the best rookie in the league?

Well, let’s compare him quickly to the other top rookie that people are talking about when it comes to who the rookie of the year is going to be.

If you go straight to a comparison with Ben Simmons, the numbers favor Simmons on paper but don’t speak to the kind of effort and clutch factor that Mitchell brings to the table. Simmons trails Mitchell by three points per game, respectively, but leads in every other major category.

The Philadelphia star has about four more rebounds and assists per game to go with an additional half steal and half block on average as well. Between these two players, the best way that I can think of how to give Mitchell the edge is simple — he’s the true rookie.

In Simmons’ true rookie season, he got injured and missed a large chunk of the regular season. In contrast, Donovan Mitchell has remained healthy in year one and is putting up numbers that give hope to the thought that he can only go up from here.

There’s no question that Simmons is talented and going to be a problem in the league for years to come if he can avoid another injury, but for me there are too many what-if scenarios with Simmons. Similar to when Derrick Rose got injured and was never the same when he returned after already having an MVP under his belt, Simmons might have the most short-sighted career of any young star in the game right now.

With the way that Mitchell plays, he’ll be able to be an x-factor every night so long as he doesn’t lose his confidence. And with that to go with the numbers he’s been putting out, he could easily go down as one of the better players in Jazz history.

Lastly, when talking about a true rookie of the year winner, here’s ultimately why I will go with Donovan Mitchell. If you look at guys like Kyle Kuzma and Lonzo Ball in Los Angeles or even Dennis Smith Jr. in Dallas, none of them have the chance to really carry their respective team like Mitchell does.

Ball and Kuzma are still riding hype to an extent, and the fact that Simmons isn’t a true rookie doesn’t make me comfortable including him in the conversation from the get-go. And when you consider what this young star had to overcome to even declare for the draft, it’ll make you want to watch him night in and night out even more.

About Keith Rivas

Keith is based In Salt Lake City and covers the Jazz for TLSM. Follow him on Twitter @mrkeithrivas for all things Utah Jazz.

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