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Utah Jazz: Sure, Donovan Mitchell looks fantastic, but Jazz keep reminding themselves to not get overexcited

First Published      Last Updated Jul 14 2017 07:53 am


Jazz » Mitchell is shining already, but remember what time of year it is.

Las Vegas • The more Donovan Mitchell plays, the more the Utah Jazz front office has to remind itself that it's only summer league.

If Mitchell was good at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City last week, the lottery pick has been sensational here this week. He's distinguished himself as a dynamic combination guard and one of the potential jewels of the rookie class. He's been one of the best defenders this summer and been among the best two-way players. He's been so good that Jazz fans have been searching for the last Utah rookie to make an impact this big this early in his career.




"Donovan's certainly ready to play right away," Jazz center Rudy Gobert said.

And that's why the Jazz have been careful to point out it's only summer league. Mitchell scored 37 points against the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday, which is the most the Las Vegas summer league has seen since 2009, when Anthony Morrow scored 47 with the Golden State Warriors. Morrow went on to a pedestrian NBA career.

From Morrow to Anthony Randolph to Josh Selby, summer league is filled with high draft picks who haven't panned out when the lights go on for real. At the same time, it's hard to watch Mitchell play and not be excited about his potential.

"The spacing in the NBA is a lot different than it was in college," Mitchell said." I attacked differently in college, and it's different here. I watch film on every game. I want to take the time to mentally think about what I can and can't do."

He has demonstrated the ability to score in a variety of ways in Las Vegas. His jumper worked. He got to the basket off the dribble. The Jazz coaching staff chided him for not seeking contact in the lane after Saturday's loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, so Mitchell worked his way into 16 free-throws attempts against the Memphis Grizzlies. Film from Saturday showed Mitchell forcing some shots, so he came back Tuesday and deftly set up his teammates for easy looks.

"I think every game has been a learning experience," Mitchell said. "I think it's all about seeing the game. And the more reps I've gotten, the more comfortable I've become. I've been seeing the game better. I've gotten good warmup time in, and that's helped me as well."

After seeing Mitchell over the past two weeks, it seems like a steal that the Jazz traded Trey Lyles and the No. 24 pick, which turned into Tyler Lydon, to move up 11 spots in the draft to grab him.

Mitchell's performance has been good enough to influence the way the Jazz have gone about free agency in the post Gordon Hayward era. There have been a number of shooting guards on the market that the Jazz have passed up because they want to give Mitchell the opportunity to be in the rotation.

Jazz coach Quin Snyder has said Mitchell's ability to defend and his competitiveness likely would get him on the floor early in his career. Mitchell's talent and upside are earning rave reviews.

Like a pair of memorable plays in the second half against the Grizzlies when Mitchell hit a step-back 3-pointer on one possession then went backdoor for a dunk on the next. Or Mitchell's signature play of the summer, when he hit Boston rookie Jayson Tatum with a crossover that caused Tatum to fall.

Still, it's only summer league. The Jazz will continue to repeat this to themselves.

tjones@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribjazz

 

AT A GLANCE

Mitchell’s summer splash

His 37 points Tuesday against Memphis is a summer league high this year.

» His eight steals in that same game tied a summer league record.

» His status for Friday’s game is uncertain.


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