SALT LAKE CITY — When incoming rookies were asked to vote for who they thought would be the NBA Rookie of the Year before the 2017-18 season, Donovan Mitchell didn't consider himself a viable candidate so he gave the nod to someone else.
"I voted for (Dallas guard) Dennis Smith (Jr.), because I didn’t think I was going to get it," Mitchell said. "My mindset now is, 'Why change?' Why think, 'Oh, I should win it now.'"
In other words, Mitchell will not be campaigning for himself.
The Utah Jazz organization, on the other hand, believes he's done all the campaigning necessary on the court. Same goes for Rudy Gobert and the Defensive Player of the Year award.
Just in case others aren't aware of the achievements of Mitchell and Gobert, the Jazz public relations department created small tabloids and DonovanMitchellROY.com and RudyGobertDPOY.com websites to point out how well the team's leading scorer and most stifling defender have played in a remarkable season.
The Jazz, who sent the promotional packets out to postseason awards voters around the NBA this week, cleverly pointed out that the 21-year-old is playing beyond his years, printing one page that simply mentioned in big, bold letters, "Donovan Mitchell is no rookie."
The Jazz provided a slew of evidence for Mitchell's not-a-rookie-of-the-year campaign (which is kind of humorously ironic considering the frontrunner, Sixers forward Ben Simmons, is technically in his second NBA season, having sat out his would-be rookie season with an injury).
As listed in the publication and online, here's the Jazz's case for Mitchell, who's averaging 20.4 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists:
A rookie doesn’t average 20+ points per game.
A rookie doesn’t dominate the second half.
A rookie doesn’t make 150 3’s in 63 games.
A rookie doesn’t score 41 points in a game.
A rookie doesn’t score 40 points again 2 months later.
A rookie doesn’t average 6.5 points in the 4th, ever.
A rookie doesn’t make the buzzer beaters.
A rookie doesn't electrify an arena, a city, a state.
A rookie doesn’t laugh at fear.
A rookie doesn’t join MJ as the only other in a stat.
A rookie doesn’t stay humble when he’s that good.
A rookie doesn’t lead 19-28 into a 42-32 record.
A rookie doesn’t heal the heart of a city.
A rookie doesn’t lead the scoring average of a Western Conference playoff team.
The Jazz also noted that Mitchell is up there in rare statistical air with Michael Jordan, who was the only other first-year player in NBA history to have a usage rate above 29 percent with an efficient field-goal percentage above 50 percent.
"I think he should be Rookie of the Year, for sure," Blazers star Damian Lillard said, as quoted in the pro-Mitchell material. "Not just because of his numbers, but his impact on their team. He’s basically leading them. It’s special to see a rookie be able to do what he’s doing out there."
While others make their case for and/or against him, Mitchell has turned his sole focus on helping do just what Lillard mentioned — lead the Jazz into the playoffs.
"Right now we're the fourth seed. I’m happy about that," Mitchell said at Thursday's shootaround. "That’s the biggest thing I’m worried about, is being able to stay locked in and help this team win in any way possible, because- the moment I start worrying about individual awards is the moment I give up on my teammates on the court."
Gobert's case, as laid out by the Jazz, is also impressive.
He contests 15.0 shots per game, tops in the NBA. He is the No. 1 center in blocks per game (2.4), block percentage (6.2) and defensive impact (100.5 defensive rating while on the floor, 107.5 when he's not).
Gobert leads the NBA's top defensive unit — which includes Mitchell, Jae Crowder, Ricky Rubio and Joe Ingles and holds opponents to 85.7 points per 100 possessions.
Heading into Thursday's game, The Stifle Tower had posted a plus-minus of plus-299 since returning to the NBA after his injury absence earlier this season. Utah has a .800 winning percentage since his return, too.
"I think it's an empirical fact — empirical from the standpoint that if you look at every number, he has been dominant," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said recently, a quote that's also used in the promo. "I'm not pining for him. I will. But I am just stating what is happening with our team, and what Rudy is doing is special right now."
Snyder is among the candidates for Coach of the Year, but the Jazz did not create a campaign for him.