(Chris Paul) and Paul George are the main reasons why I’m here. —Donovan Mitchell
HOUSTON — As crazy as it sounds, the Utah Jazz may want to thank Houston Rockets guard Chris Paul.
When Louisville sophomore Donovan Mitchell was determining whether he wanted to turn pro, the influence of Paul and Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George made the choice easy after watching them play.
“(Chris Paul) and Paul George are the main reasons why I’m here,” Mitchell said. “They told me that I should definitely stay in the draft and had a big influence on my decision.”
Utah lucked up on draft night by acquiring his rights from Denver at No. 13 in exchange for Trey Lyles and the rights of No. 24 pick Tyler Lydon after he attended Paul’s CP3 Elite Guard Camp in his hometown of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, last summer.
“Being at that camp, I learned a lot,” Mitchell said. “He told me that the game is going to have to start slowing down before success starts to come (and) just being able to take it game-by-game.”
On Sunday, Paul was in attendance at the Toyota Center, but he was inactive with a left knee injury when the Rockets burned the Jazz 137-110.
Although on different teams, Paul still found the time to encourage the young star to keep his confidence while being a student of the game.
Mitchell said he talked to Paul on Saturday.
“He just wished me the best of luck,” Mitchell said.
Excitement continues to grow around the Jazz rookie in his first 10 games.
At 6-foot-3, he’s playing both point and shooting guard off the bench. He averages 13.5 points, 2.4 assists and 2.3 rebounds, and he has led Utah in scoring for the past two games with 25 against Toronto Friday then 17 points, four rebounds and four assists in H-Town.
On Nov. 1, he logged a career-high 28 points against Portland in Utah’s 112-103 overtime win.
Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni was the latest around the league to join the Mitchell fan club.
“I didn’t know him before, but I think he was in Chris Paul’s camp and Chris Paul said, ‘this guy is really good’ and guess what? He is,” D’Antoni said. “He’s playing super. He’s going to be super, and he’s got a great game.”
As good as Mitchell has played, Jazz coach Quin Snyder still wants to bring him along slowly and not put a ceiling on his development.
Stars around the league, such as Paul, George and Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard are all rooting for Mitchell. Snyder is doing the best he can to help him reach his full potential.
“So, that means being demanding of him but also being patient with him and understanding of the growth process,” Snyder said. “Him becoming a backup point guard is an additional layer that I think he’s handled very well.”