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After Gordon Hayward decided to sign with the Boston Celtics over the summer, a great deal of uncertainty loomed for the Utah Jazz and their future. Rudy Gobert is a menacing rim protector and tenacious rebounder, however he is far from being a polished offensive player.

Who would they rely on when they need buckets down the stretch of close games? Rodney Hood? Ricky Rubio? The only notable move the Jazz made in the offseason was drafting dynamic guard Donovan Mitchell out of Louisville.

You can catch me on Twitter @ryango00. I'll be retweeting my columns from time to time so don't hesitate to leave me a direct message if you wanna ask anything!

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The Ascent of the Don

After an impressive summer league play and an even more impressive start to the season, the Jazz might just have found a silver lining to the departure of their former star player. For two seasons at Louisville, Mitchell led the Cardinals in scoring, steals, three-point field goals, and minutes per game. Impressively, he is posting similar stat lines in his rookie season with the Jazz and doing so without much expectations. He has already established himself as their most lethal offensive weapon.

He is no slouch on the other end as well. After 25 games, he is averaging 1.4 steals per game just behind starting point guard Ricky Rubio and veteran Thabo Sefolosha, another defensive ace. What is even more impressive is that he has shown the ability to be a floor general for the Jazz taking over point guard duties in the November 17 game against the Brooklyn Nets when Rubio was sidelined with an Achilles injury. It was his first game as a pro to start at point guard. He had 8 assists in the loss.

Mitchell struggled out of the gate early on. In October, he averaged only 9.3 points on 33% shooting, while shooting an abysmal 29% from distance. However, the great thing about Mitchell is that he never shy away from taking shots and has been given the green light to shoot. He has steadily improved in particular with his efficiency and will continue to improve as he adjusts to the pace of play. In November, he saw his scoring spike up to 18.1 points on 41% shooting to keep the defense honest while making 38% of his threes and hasn’t shown signs of slowing down. In the first three games in December, Mitchell is averaging 31 points on a blistering 53% shooting from the field. In this stretch, his usage rate, threes, and steals have also gone up. This is not surprising, because he is fast, athletic, can get to the rim with ease, and has a sweet outside stroke. I know it’s a stretch, but he reminds me of a young Dwyane Wade with better range.

It is a safe assumption to make that Mitchell was not drafted in many leagues this season. He isn’t a highly touted rookie like Markelle Fultz or Jayson Tatum, so he wasn’t worth the risk and a roster spot even in a lot of keeper leagues once upon a time. Chances are you needed a replacement early on because injuries have been so rampant this season and you nonchalantly picked Mitchell up without much expectations. You probably also dropped him a few games after because his efficiency back in October was too much of a burden and regretted it when he started to stuff the stat sheet on a regular basis.

Mitchell only hurts you in two categories: FG% and turnovers. As a matter of fact, his turnovers (2.4 a game) are forgivable because he has the ball in his hands a lot as a shot maker and distributor. His FG% should ascend to around 45% by the end of the season given his fluid stroke and finishing ability, however you must consider that he is responsible for almost 30% of the Jazz’s possessions and you should expect that to only increase. This is uncharted territory for a rookie, so he is not at fault.

It makes sense because the Jazz lack players that can create their own shot. You might argue Hood, but he is streaky and has been wildly inconsistent this season. Mitchell has to carry that offensive responsibility and create opportunities for his teammates at the same time. This means that while he will make a lot of shots, he will also miss a bunch. Nonetheless, his style of play and increasing usage rate makes him fantasy friendly from the get go. He is a complete player and is rosterable in any league regardless of setting. His value increases even more in keeper/dynasty leagues obviously because of his limitless star potential.

We can expect Mitchell to be drafted somewhere in the early to mid-rounds in standard leagues redrafts now, but his value gets a boost for teams punting FG% and turnovers. If your team build is punt FG%, a reasonable offer would be to trade a player like Myles Turner in exchange for Mitchell if you can afford to give up some rebounds and blocks. Turner shoots around 48% from the field this season but he would be more valuable in other team builds. Usually in a punt FG% team, there is an abundance of guards and forwards that can play multiple positions and provide across the board stats, so Mitchell will be a great fit. In return, you will gain in points, threes, assists, and steals.

A lot of people expected him to be a 3 and D specialist coming out of college but he has turned out to be way more than that. Points and threes are easy to find in the wire but what sets him apart especially as a rookie are his assist and defensive numbers, and even flirting with the potential of getting a block every now and then.

 

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