Sports / Utah Jazz / 
Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) warms up before the game against the Orlando Magic at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 3, 2021.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Back to the bubble: Donovan Mitchell is in the midst of another elite shooting stretch

By Ryan Miller, | Posted - Apr. 4, 2021 at 11:17 a.m.

SALT LAKE CITY — During the playoffs last summer, the NBA world saw the shooter Donovan Mitchell can be.

It didn't matter if the shot was off the bounce or a catch and shoot; it didn't matter if it was from the corner or from straightaway; Mitchell was more likely to make it than he was to miss. In a seven-game first-round series, he hit 51.6% from 3-point range — and he was far from bashful, putting in 9.1 attempts per game.

"The way I shot the ball in the bubble, the shots I was getting, the looks I was getting, I really took that film and said, 'Alright, how can I get these shots and how can I get these looks throughout the regular season?'" Mitchell said.

He's getting those looks, and he's making them now.

Mitchell is in the midst of another elite shooting stretch. Since the All-Star break, he is shooting a hair under 47% from 3-point range on 8.2 attempts per game. That's the highest percentage among players with at least 8.0 attempts per game, and that list includes the likes of Damian Lillard and Steph Curry — two pretty decent 3-point shooters.

And the biggest thing that jumps out over the current stretch is how much his shot chart looks like his bubble one, especially in one category: pull-up 3s.

Going back to his rookie year, Mitchell has always been lethal on catch-and-shoot 3s, shooting over 40% on such shots in each of his four seasons. But early in his career, he was significantly less dangerous off the bounce. In his rookie season, he shot under 30% on pull-up 3s, and was just 32.1% on those shots heading into the 2020 playoffs.

During his superstar-making first-round series, Mitchell was 51% on pull-ups 3s on 7.3 attempts. It was that shot making that led to the record-breaking seven-game series.

How absurd is that number, exactly?

Lillard, the perceived king of the pull-up bomb, has shot over 40% on off-the-bounce 3s in just one season of his career. Curry, meanwhile, usually hovers around the low 40s. So the thought of Mitchell maintaining that type of percentage over the course of a season was optimistic, at best, but that type of shooting has come back since the All-Star break.

He's taking 6.4 pull-up 3s a game and hitting them at a 46.8% clip. Bubble Mitchell has reemerged.

"I've worked the reps twice — before the bubble and after the bubble, before the season — so I've worked these reps, and it's just a matter of me just going out there and getting to them," Mitchell said.

Mitchell was 5-for-5 on off-the-dribbles 3s on Saturday in Utah's rout over the Orlando Magic. And even those came in different varieties: a jab-step 3 from the corner, an isolation side-step 3 on the wing, and a transition bomb that was reminiscent of what Curry and Lillard do so often.

Mitchell also punished the Magic twice on a pick-and-roll when the defender stayed back. That's pretty basic, but is an automatic counter for Utah when opposing defenses use drop big coverage to thwart driving lanes and Rudy Gobert rolls. That defense helps limit Utah from driving and kicking the ball out to the corner for open 3s, but with how Mitchell is shooting, that hasn't been much of a benefit.

"It just depends on how they're defending him," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said of Mitchell's shot chart. "A lot of times that shot off the dribble is a result of something with technical coverage."

It's starting to become harder and harder to find anything that will work against him. Teams don't want to give any space to Curry and they pick up Lillard when he crosses half court. Mitchell might not be at that level yet, but he's starting to knock on the door.

"I'm trying to to get to a point where we don't call them stretches anymore," Mitchell said. "It's years, it's yearly, it's career — it's not just best stretch, you know what I mean? That's really what I'm trying to get to, where Day 1 we know what to expect coming in, I know what to expect coming in. This is my level, this is where I need to be at, and this is where I need to stay at."

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