With a bigger stage, there is a greater chance to step into the spotlight, as Utah Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell is experiencing in his first taste of postseason play.
National media are weighing in on the Jazz guard who helped Utah beat Oklahoma City 102-95 in Game 2 of their first-round playoff series Wednesday. The overwhelming majority of the talk about Utah’s dynamic guard is positive.
With 55 points so far in the series, Mitchell has scored the most points in his first two playoff games by a rookie guard in NBA history, surpassing 53 from Michael Jordan, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
The Jazz host the Thunder in Game 3 of the series on Saturday (8 p.m. MT, AT&T SportsNet/ESPN) at Vivint Arena.
Here's a smattering of what the national media have said since Wednesday:
Rachel Nichols, the host of ESPN’s "The Jump," discussed Mitchell’s season, and how the debate over whether he or Philadelphia's Ben Simmons should receive NBA Rookie of the Year honors is overinflated.
“Plenty of guys have gone on to be super elite in this league without winning Rookie of the Year,” Nichols said, “and no one seems more aware of that than Donovan Mitchell.”
It’s not the numbers that are the most impressive but the way the Jazz guard got them, said Nichols. Mitchell struggled in the early stages of Game 2, fighting through a left foot contusion and settling for outside shots.
Nichols pointed out that teammates Rudy Gobert and Jae Crowder talked to him about being more aggressiveness. Mitchell listened and responded with a game-high 28 points, including 13 in the fourth quarter.
“If you’ve watched Utah this year — hey, I get it, not everyone has — this has been one of Mitchell’s many super impressive traits: his ability to absorb information and apply it,” Nichols said. “He is a sponge in the film room and also between the lines on court.
“And he’s had a bunch of games where he has gotten better midway through.”
NBA.com’s Shaun Powell said that Mitchell is holding his own — and excelling — on a playoff stage that includes players like All-Stars Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George on the Thunder’s side.
“He’s playing a beefy role, the kind that rookies don’t normally do or get because they lack the ability, wisdom and quite simply aren’t put in that position by their coach,” Powell wrote. “Those rules don’t apply to Mitchell, especially when the game gets tense. His number is called more than a hotline and that hasn’t changed even here, in the postseason and when matched against the reigning Kia MVP in Westbrook.”
Nick Wright of FS1’s “First Things First” highlighted Mitchell’s ability to be scoring at such a high level as a rookie guard so early in his postseason career, comparing him stylistically to a young Dwyane Wade.
“He was on the court (Wednesday) night with three, probably, future Hall of Famers (in reference to Westbrook, Anthony and George) and he was the best player,” Wright said.
The ESPN show “Get Up” tackled the topic of whether Mitchell is showing that NBA awards should include postseason play.
Jalen Rose, who apologized to Mitchell early in the segment for voting Simmons as his Rookie of Year by showing off Mitchell ROY socks he was wearing, gave an emphatic no on the subject.
Fellow host Michelle Beadle was in favor of a change, emphasizing that such an award doesn’t take into effect a critical two months of the season.
Fellow host Mike Greenberg said it’s ill-timed to have that argument at this point, especially when previous performances could have changed the rule.
“He’s had two good games so far, and that’s all that he’s had,” Greenberg said, while later making sure to say Mitchell is “terrific.” “I’m not changing the rule based on 55 points from Donovan Mitchell when Michael Jordan led his team to championships six times and he wasn’t the MVP of the league half of those seasons.”
Business Insider’s Scott Davis lauded the fact that Mitchell has come into a situation this season where the Jazz were in need of a go-to scorer with Gordon Hayward leaving in free agency, and he's been able to fill that void so quickly.
“Perhaps the greatest testament to Mitchell’s stardom is where the Jazz stood when Hayward, an All-Star forward, left and where they are now less than a year later — about the same place,” Davis wrote. “When a small-market team loses a star player, it can be devastating. In the Jazz’s case, they lost one and plugged in another.”
The Oklahoman’s Eric Horne took a look at another angle to the Mitchell story by focusing on who’s been guarding the rookie.
Corey Brewer has drawn the primary assignment of guarding Mitchell. The Oklahoman’s Erik Horne discusses the debate about using Paul George more in defense against Mitchell.
“If Brewer plays the way he did against Mitchell through nearly three quarters on (Wednesday), there should be no complaints about him defending the Jazz’s No. 1,” Horne wrote. “Still, (Thunder coach Billy) Donovan will never admit George’s injury is keeping him from seeing more of Mitchell on defense.”