The top-seeded Jazz are two wins away from going to the Western Conference Finals after taking Games 1 and 2 against the LA Clippers, and Mitchell has proven to be a dynamic and essential piece of their puzzle.
Legends are born in the NBA playoffs, and Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz is on the verge of superstardom as a result of his postseason play.
Entering his third playoff appearance last season in the NBA bubble, he had a reputation as a volume scorer in the postseason and not much else. In his rookie season, Mitchell averaged 24.4 points per game in the playoffs but did so on mediocre efficiency. He shot just 42.0 percent from the floor and 31.3 percent from 3-point range with high usage.
In his second trip to the playoffs in 2018-19, Mitchell had a miserable experience. He scored 21.4 points per game and shot just 32.1 percent from the floor and 25.6 percent from 3-point range. The Jazz were dispatched from the NBA playoffs for the second year in a row by the Houston Rockets in five games. Over the course of those 10 games against the Rockets, he averaged 20.4 points on 21.2 field goal attempts per game and posted splits of .340/.253/.784.
Maybe the Rockets of a bygone era had Donovan Mitchell figured out in the playoffs, but nobody else does.
Last season in the bubble, Mitchell took the NBA world by storm even though his Utah Jazz lost a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets and didn’t make it out of the first round. He scored 57 points in Game 1, shooting 19-of-33 from the floor, and broke the 50-point mark again in Game 4 with a 51-point outing.
Mitchell had one of the greatest scoring performances in a losing effort in a series in recent memory and did so on absurd efficiency. He averaged 36.3 points per game, shot 52.9 percent from the field and made 33 of his 64 3-pointers. His .529/.516/.948 shooting splits were something right out of NBA 2K rookie mode, but surely they couldn’t be replicated, right?
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Replicated, no. But the numbers he’s putting up in the 2021 NBA playoffs are still eye-popping.
Through six games, he’s averaging 32.7 points per game on shooting splits of .482/.419/.878, and his usage actually dwarfs last year’s load. In these playoffs, he’s playing 5.2 fewer minutes per game than last, and averaging 29.0 shooting possessions per game compared to last playoffs’ 24.9 shooting possessions. His usage rate so far is 39.0, while last year it was 37.5.
Some of this increased load comes from the fact that Mike Conley has missed the first two games of the second round against the LA Clippers, and that added volume falls to Mitchell to make up, and he’s done so magnificently.
Mitchell missed the first game of the playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies, which was the only game the Jazz have lost so far. With him in the lineup, Utah is 6-0 and when he’s on the floor they have a +13.5 net rating. It’s worth noting that this utter dominance isn’t coming at the expense of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Cleveland Cavaliers of the NBA, it’s coming against the feisty Grizzlies and the uber-talented LA Clippers.
Donovan Mitchell isn’t in the running for Best Player In The NBA, but he’s swiftly turned into one of the best Big Game Players in the league today. When you need a huge 50-point game to turn a series or just a bucket to win a game, what you need is Donovan Mitchell.