Donovan Mitchell has had a remarkable rookie season for the Utah Jazz. Now the volume-scoring shooting guard has led his team to the second round of the Western Conference playoffs, where he’ll be matchup up with James Harden and the Houston Rockets.
With that in mind, here are five things to know about Utah’s phenomenal rookie guard, who also won the 2018 NBA Verizon Slam Dunk Contest.
1. He was a national recruit, but not a five-star
Mitchell grew up in New York and Connecticut, then spent his final two years of high school at Brewster Academy in New Hampshire. He was a four-star recruit and the 29th ranked player in the 2015 recruiting class according to the 247Sports Composite. He committed to Rick Pitino at Louisville on August 7, 2014.
2. He wears 45 as a tribute to His Airness
Mitchell played baseball during his first two years of high school before deciding to focus solely on basketball. He actually wears the number 45 as a tribute to Michael Jordan, who wore 45 during his baseball career and when he returned to the NBA.
3. His dad is involved in professional sports
Mitchell’s father, Donovan Mitchell Sr., was a minor league baseball player for seven seasons and was even a minor league coach for the New York Mets from 1999 until 2010. Now he works as the director of player relations and community engagement for the franchise.
4. The Jazz didn’t draft Mitchell
Mitchell wound up being the 13th pick of the 2017 NBA Draft — which was ridiculously low in retrospect. But the most recognizable player on the Jazz wasn’t even selected by the franchise. No, the Denver Nuggets had Mitchell, and shipped him to Utah in exchange for the 24th pick (Tyler Lydon) and Trey Lyles.
Just for fun, Lyles averaged 9.9 points and 4.8 rebounds in 19.1 minutes this season, while playing 73 games (two starts). Lydon played just two minutes all season. Meanwhile, Mitchell averaged 20.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.49 steals and 33.4 minutes per game across 79 regular season contests (71 starts).
5. His favorite basketball player and actor are the same person
Mitchell says his favorite basketball player in LeBron James. bviously that makes sense, but he also claims James is his favorite actor. Maybe he’s referring to the way he tries to buy foul calls?