The Utah Jazz have the best record in the NBA thanks to star guard Donovan Mitchell‘s play this season. The former Louisville star is leading the Jazz to team success while Mitchell himself has still managed to fly under the radar in recent weeks.
In late January, Mitchell made NBA headlines when he and Shaquille O’Neal, one of the analysts on the NBA on TNT postgame show panel, got into an awkward exchange in an interview.
At the time of the interview, Mitchell and the Jazz had just defeated the New Orleans Pelicans for their seventh straight victory. It was a game in which he went for 36 points on the night. Whether it was a test or not by Shaq to get a response out of Mitchell is one thing. But the way it was worded was just plain weird.
Since that whole scene, the Jazz are 9-1 and have won 16 of their last 17 overall games. That odd exchange by an NBA great clearly did not slow Mitchell down. In fact, it probably motivated him to some extent. He’s still playing some of his best basketball and has his team looking down at the rest of the Western Conference 25 games into the season.
Watch Mitchell snatch a pair of ankles in Tuesday night’s win
The 24-year old is a walking highlight film and has seemingly taken his team over the hump in his fourth season in the league. His game-by-game output grows more consistent each season and now the Jazz are feeling those effects with a 20-5 record.
The Western Conference is loaded with great teams that include LeBron James and Anthony Davis on the Lakers as well as Kawhi Leonard and Paul George on the Clippers. Mitchell isn’t on a super team with a plethora of the league’s biggest superstars. He has to show up every single night to give his team a shot to win.
Next step… a huge playoff run
Being atop the regular season standings is a big accomplishment for Mitchell and the Jazz. But you can bet that Mitchell wants more. In the conference quarterfinals from the NBA bubble last summer, Mitchell put on a show for parts of the series that saw his team blow a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets ending their season.
Among the performances, Mitchell dropped 57 and 44 points in a respective pair of losses in the series. Of course, many will remember the final loss of the series where Donovan turned the ball over 9 times to allow the Nuggets to complete the comeback.
A deep run into the playoffs would massively help Mitchell’s legacy as a player. Maybe he can do so with the Jazz or maybe a change of scenery will be necessary for him to do so. Knocking off the Lakers or Clippers will have to come on the back of one of the NBA’s biggest stars in one of the league’s smallest markets.
For now, Donovan Mitchell is fine with laying low as he carries his team to new heights.