Monday 24th June 2024,
The Hoop Doctors

Could Donovan Mitchell Be The Next Russell Westbrook?

donovan mitchell

Coming into the 2017-18 season, there were a number of rookies who arrived in the NBA with plenty of hype as potential stars of the future: Ben Simmons (didn’t play last year), Lonzo Ball, Markelle Fultz, Jayson Tatum and Josh Jackson to name a few. Some have looked like stars in the making (Simmons and Tatum), some have underwhelmed (Fultz) and some are still establishing themselves in the league and working through their deficiencies (Ball and Jackson).

There has been one rookie who has been as electrifying as any though, Donovan Mitchell.

Mitchell has been lighting up the league with his quickness, athleticism and ability to score in a variety of ways since he first appeared for the Jazz in the NBA Summer League and is already their leading scorer and go-to player on the offensive end halfway into his rookie season.

Mitchell is averaging 19.3 points, 3.3 assists and 3.3 rebounds on 44.8% shooting from the field, 34.8% shooting from three and 85.2% from the free throw line in 31 minutes per game.

He has wowed with multiple 30 point performances and a career-high of 41 against the Pelicans in December:

While Mitchell was a breakout player in his second season at Louisville before declaring for the NBA Draft and worked his way into being a late lottery pick in the draft process, being drafted No. 13 of the 2017 NBA Draft by the Utah Jazz, he was seen as a potential starter some day at best.

Most if not all draft preview websites compared Mitchell to a slightly smaller Norman Powell, I have a better comparison: Russell Westbrook.

Westbrook is built similarly to Mitchell (Mitchell is a little bulkier) at the same height of 6’3″ and shares that short area burst as Mitchell to be able to get to the rim and put himself in positions to score seemingly at will.

He also had a similar trajectory in his college career and entrance into the NBA. Westbrook was initially a walk-on at UCLA and wasn’t given a scholarship until Jordan Farmar decided to declare for the NBA Draft (crazy right?). Both needed some time to blossom in college and had an underwhelming freshman season before breaking out in their sophomore campaign and declaring for the drafts.

Here are Donovan Mitchell’s college stats (courtesy of sports reference):

Here are Russell Westbrook’s college stats (courtesy of sports reference):

Here, again are Donovan Mitchell’s rookie stats to this point (courtesy of ESPN):

Here are Russell Westbrook’s rookie stats(courtesy of ESPN):

Mitchell has come into the league as a better shooter than Westbrook was as a rookie, but the numbers overall are very similar and both came into the league as super athletic and quick combo guards.

Westbrook has made himself into one of the greatest players of his generation, an elite scorer and playmaker and an NBA MVP. While it may be hard for Mitchell to reach those heights in his career, but at the same point of their careers, Mitchell may be slightly ahead of the curve as a slightly more efficient player.

Westbrook’s usage rate as a rookie was 28.8% to Mitchell’s 25.8%, and Westbrook’s assist rate was 27.5% to Mitchell’s 19.3% (although much of that is attributed to Mitchell’s role as a two guard alongside Ricky Rubio), but Mitchell already has more win shares at 2.4 than Westbrook had his rookie season at 1.9. He also has a better plus/minus rating on the offensive end at +1.8 than Westbrook’s rating of +0.1, according to basketball reference.

There is nothing to say that Mitchell won’t develop into the superstar point guard the Jazz have been missing since Deron Williams departure, he has all of the skills and work ethic to mold himself into another in a long line of freakishly athletic scoring point guards a la Russell Westbrook.

Could Donovan Mitchell be a future MVP and the best player in his class? Time will tell, but by projecting his production and development curve it may be more of a possibility that many would assume.

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