Donovan Mitchell put on another show last night in Utah, scoring 25 points and taking over late as the Jazz defeated the Spurs to win their 10th straight. The Jazz climbed one game over .500, and are a mere 1.5 games out of the 8th seed in the West.
Utah has a better point differential than the four teams directly ahead of them – Portland, Denver, New Orleans, and the LA Clippers – and they’ve got the Rookie of the Year leader in Mitchell, who has been phenomenal since December.
November: 18.1 ppg, 41% FG, 37% 3FG
December: 23.1 ppg, 50% FG, 35% 3FG
January: 22.1 ppg, 45% FG, 32% 3FG
February: 21.3 ppg, 41% FG, 42% 3FG
This is not a slight to Ben Simmons of the 76ers, who has been tremendous. But Simmons has a wingman in Joel Embiid, who leads Philadelphia in points (23.8 ppg) and rebounding (11.2 rpg). Mitchell is a one-man show. And for a rookie to carry his team to the playoffs in the West – well, that’s vaulted Mitchell over Simmons with about 25 games to play.
Simmons, who sat out his true rookie season with an injury, is averaging 16.4 points, 7.7 rebounds and 7.3 assists, but not only is he shooting just 56 percent from the line, but he hasn’t made a 3-pointer yet. That’s got to be his offseason focus. Teams have gone under every screen on Simmons for months now, and it seems to have slowed his 1st season down.
While it took Mitchell 20-ish games to adjust to the NBA, Simmons came out of the gate hot, and has actually slowed down a bit. Simmons can still grab the award, but if Mitchell gets the Jazz to the playoffs, it’s his.