SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder has stressed the importance of defense in both of Donovan Mitchell’s first two NBA seasons.
So much so, that the Jazz have held a top-two defensive rating both years, most recently finishing with the second-best defensive rating (105.2) in 2018-19.
On Monday, USA Basketball announced that the former Louisville guard has been selected among the 20 players who will attend Team USA’s national team training camp Aug. 5-9 in Las Vegas. And if Mitchell wants to earn a spot on the final 12-man roster for the FIBA World Cup in China, scoring shouldn’t be his main concern.
“He hit the NBA regular season as a rookie and never looked back,” Team USA director Jerry Colangelo said of Mitchell during Monday’s media teleconference. “He showed that he can compete with the very best. He’s got pretty good size, he has quickness, he’s very athletic.
“The thing that we’re looking for is defense and he has the ability to be a real factor,” Colangelo added. “And that could be probably the best way for him to make a roster spot and that is to play incredible defense.”
Former University of Utah star Kyle Kuzma of the Los Angeles Lakers was another of the additions for training camp along with Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, who are both 2017 NBA draft classmates with Mitchell. The 32-team 2019 FIBA World Cup competition will be held Aug. 31-Sept. 15.
“Each of the three have already made their mark during this early part of their career,” Colangelo said of Mitchell, Kuzma and Tatum. “We’re really excited about the youth. You need to have some kind of balance as we continue to develop our infrastructure and keep it smoothly moving forward as it relates to our national team rosters, so these three young guys are certainly worthy of being where they are for various reasons and we’re excited to have them in camp."
For Mitchell and Kuzma, it’ll be their first taste of USA Basketball experience with the San Antonio Spurs’ Gregg Popovich as the head coach. Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, Atlanta Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce and Villanova University coach Jay Wright are signed on as his assistants to round out the coaching staff.
“It was important in the selection that there were older players, experienced players and younger players who are going to become stars as time moves on,” Popovich said. “If you look at this group of 20, you’re going to find everything from very young to a little bit older and I think that’s important for the mix.”
In addition to Mitchell, Kuzma and Tatum, other confirmed Las Vegas participants are: Harrison Barnes, Bradley Beal, Anthony Davis, Andre Drummond, Eric Gordon, James Harden, Tobias Harris, former Weber State star Damian Lillard, Kevin Love, Kyle Lowry, CJ McCollum, Khris Middleton, Myles Turner, Kemba Walker, Brook Lopez, Paul Millsap and P.J. Tucker.2 comments on this story
Mitchell averaged a sophomore-best 23.8 points this season, in addition to 4.2 assists and 4.1 rebounds to help the Jazz finish 50-32, while being named Western Conference Player of the Week twice. He has been training recently in New York, while his Jazz teammate Joe Ingles will compete with the Australian national team, and reigning defensive player of the year Rudy Gobert is also set to play with the French national squad.
“I am excited about getting to training camp in August and working with all of the players that have been selected to attend the USA National Team training camp in Las Vegas,” said Popovich. “We’ve got an excellent cross-section of veteran USA Basketball and NBA players, as well as some exciting younger players who possess amazing versatility.”