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Eric Woodyard, KSL

Ben Anderson: With supporting cast, Donovan Mitchell must become a superstar

By Ben Anderson, KSL.com Contributor | Posted - Jul 9th, 2019 @ 1:17pm



SALT LAKE CITY — Donovan Mitchell is living the life of a star. After hanging out in Las Vegas to begin the NBA Summer League, Mitchell flew to China to debut his new signature shoe with Adidas.

Along with touring the world to market his sneaker, the Utah Jazz third-year guard nicknamed "Spida" is appearing in commercials for the new Spider-man movie alongside stars Tom Holland and Jake Gyllenhaal.

By all accounts, Mitchell is a worldwide star. Now he needs to become a superstar.

The Jazz have fully committed this summer to building a championship roster, pulling off one of the biggest trades in franchise history to bring in a proven winning point guard in Mike Conley, signing a high-level floor spacer in Bojan Bogdanovic, and shoring up the rotation with veterans Jeff Green and Ed Davis.

Alongside Rudy Gobert and Joe Ingles, the Jazz have a supporting cast that mirrors, and may be better than both the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers, the Houston Rockets, the Milwaukee Bucks and the Philadelphia 76ers. The difference: all of those casts are truly supporting a superstar, if not two. LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are superstars in LA. James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo have split the last two league MVP’s, while Joel Embiid and Al Horford are maybe the league’s best frontcourt.

For the Jazz to win a championship, Mitchell’s name will need to become synonymous those perennial All-Stars.

The good news for the Jazz: Mitchell may not be far from arriving at superstar status, even before he had the right supporting cast.

In his sophomore season, Mitchell held per game averages of 23 points, four rebounds and four assists. He’s one of 14 players this year to hold those averages, and the only one of those 14 players who held those averages, led his team to the playoffs, and didn’t make an All-Star game.

Over the final half of the season, Mitchell was even better. He upped his scoring average from 22 points per game before the All-Star break to over 26 points after. Mitchell's three-point shooting percentage skyrocketed from 32% to 45%. For reference, 45% from the 3-point line would have ranked third in the NBA for the length of the season. Mitchell’s 26 points per game would have been the sixth highest total in the league, behind former MVP Steph Curry and ahead of Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard.

Now, it’s unrealistic to expect Mitchell to carry those averages for an entire 82-game season. In the history of the league, only Curry, Dale Ellis and Glen Rice averaged better than 26 points per game and 45% from the 3-point line in a single season, while attempting more than 100 3-point attempts.

Additionally, Mitchell will (and rightfully so) see the offensive burden he’s been forced to carry drop dramatically this season. That likely means fewer scoring opportunities, potentially fewer minutes, and as a result lower statistical averages. However, with Bogdanovic and Conley in tow, Mitchell should be forced into fewer bad shots, likely raising his shooting percentages.

The Jazz made a major financial investment into the roster with the idea that next to the two-time reigning Defensive Player of the Year in Gobert, Mitchell is ready to make the leap to superstar. Along with Conley and Bogdanovic, and having attracted Davis and Green, the Jazz have built a proper championship supporting cast.

Now, Mitchell needs to continue his stellar development and prove that his new supporting cast is, in fact, supporting a superstar.

Ben Anderson

About the Author: Ben Anderson

Ben Anderson is a sports contributor for KSL.com. Follow him on Twitter @BensHoops. Listen to him 2-6 p.m., Monday through Friday with Kyle Gunther on ESPN 700.

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