I am in love with Donovan Mitchell’s game. He reminds me of a cross between Dwyane Wade and Damian Lillard and from everything I have seen, he is going to be very good for the Jazz. Even when he misses it is exciting. Since being drafted by the Nuggets and being sent the Jazz in a draft night deal, Mitchell has scored a Summer League high 37 points in a game and averaged 14.75 points in four preseason games in just 24.5 minutes per game. His last game he scored 26 points on 10-of-20 shooting, including a series of highlights on both sides of the ball. Now I get that this is the pre-season and please don’t mention Morris Almond’s Summer League, but the point is Donovan Mitchell has shown that he is going to earn significant minutes for the Jazz this season (and more after Dante Exum’s injury). The question is, can Mitchell be the best Jazz Rookie ever?
The list of top Jazz rookies does not include Rudy Gobert, Thurl Bailey, Paul Millsap, Wes Matthews, Rodney Hood, Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, Ronnie Brewer, Blue Edwards, Greg Ostertag, or Dante Exum. Not even John Stockton makes this list with his 5 points, 5 assists averages. The Jazz have not had a lot of productive rookies over the years. Most of the better Jazz rookies have averaged between two to eight points in five to 15 minutes. For Mitchell to join this list he’ll need to average ten to 15 points, but what will it take to be the best Jazz Rookie ever?
#5 Deron Williams, 2005-06
10.8 points, 4.5 assists, 2.4 rebounds, 0.8 steals
D-Will had an uphill battle with Coach Sloan and Sloan started Milt Palacio and Keith McCloud over D-Will until the last 47 games. D-Will was named to the All-Rookie First Team for the overachieving Jazz that finished 41-41.
#4 Andrei Kirilenko, 2001-02
10.7 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.9 blocks, 1.4 steals, 1.1 assists
AK47 was named NBA All-Rookie First Team after playing all 82 games (starting 40) and playing 26.2 minutes per game for the 44-38 Jazz. AK’s all-around play was exciting and he did a little bit of everything.
#3 Trey Burke, 2013-14
12.8 points, 5.7 assists, 3.0 rebounds, 0.6 steals
Burke is the only guy on this list without a nickname and a little bit of a surprise on this list. That’s because his rookie year was his best. He started 68 of 70 games as a rookie and averaged a career-high 32.3 minutes for the 25-57 Jazz. He also finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting and was named to the All-Rookie First Team.
#2 Karl Malone, 1985-86
14.9 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.3 steals.
One of the greatest Jazz players ever, the rookie Mailman started 76 of 81 games and averaged 30.6 minutes per game for a Jazz team that went 42-40. Malone was named to the All-Rookie First Team.
#1 Darrell Griffith, 1980-81
20.6 points, 2.4 assists, 3.6 rebounds, 1.3 steals
Dr. Dunkenstein came out of Louisville and, like we hope Mitchell is, was ready to play. Griffith won Rookie of the Year for a Jazz team that was 28-54 and played 35.4 minutes per game. Griffith is the only jazz player to win the Rookie of the Year award.
Everything I have seen from Mitchell so far tells me that he will be on this list by the end of the season. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was a top 3 Jazz rookie. The biggest factor is going to be his playing time. With Rubio, Hood, Ingles, and Burks to split time with, will Mitchell get the 30 plus minutes per game the top Jazz rookies benefitted from? If he does, he’ll be on the list and by the end of his career, he’ll have a great nickname too.