Exum owns a team, Ingles was almost 'Inlges'

Ryan Aston , 2019-08-21 04:04:05

Utah Jazz guard Dante Exum is branching out into franchise ownership. Also — Joe Ingles reveals the zany details of his first pro contract negotiation.

After five years and more than 200 DNPs — the brunt of which came as a result of some catastrophic injury or another — Utah Jazz fans still find themselves waiting for Dante Exum to make big moves on the basketball court. Exum obviously has all the physical tools, but he just can’t seem to stay on the floor.

Despite the inactivity during his Jazz career, Exum is still making moves off the floor, though, and I’m not just talking about his latest rehab project. This week, the former No. 5 overall pick officially into the owner’s box of his own pro hoops franchise.

Per an announcement from the Australian NBL, the Jazz guard is officially joining the ownership group of the South East Melbourne Phoenix, an expansion team that will be a part of the league’s competition next season.

He joins an ownership group headed up Swansea City AFC co-owner Romie Chaudhari.

Exum, of course, is an East Melbourne product, and was stoked at the prospect of helping to bring pro basketball and the NBL to the place that was so formative in his own journey.

Via NBL.com.au —

“Melbourne has played a key role in my basketball journey and the chance to be involved in the ownership group of the SEM Phoenix is a perfect way to further that strong connection with the city. I look forward to seeing the continued growth of the NBL and much success and excitement for the team and the city of Melbourne.”

Although they’ve yet to play their first game, the Phoenix have already made a splash in the NBL, inking 2018 All-NBL Second Team honoree (and former Jazz summer leaguer) Mitch Creek to a deal.

Exum’s team will tip-off its innaugural campaign on October 3 against Melbourne United at Melbourne Arena.

Joe Ingles was nearly “Joseph Inlges” ??

At this point, even hoops fans outside of the Beehive State know well the tale of Joe Ingles‘ inauspicious beginnings in the NBA. But if you’re among the uninitiated, Slow Mo’ Joe was in his late 20s and making his final play for a gig in the Association when the LA Clippers cut him during the preseason.

After that, Ingles was about to throw in the towel on his NBA dreams when the Jazz suddenly came calling.

From there, he went from being an end-of-the-bench guy to an emergency injury fill-in to a key backup and spot starter, all the way up the line to Utah’s full-time starting small forward spot, legit sharpshooter cred and underdog/cult hero status.

It’s a crazy story if ever there was one, but apparently Ingles’ basketball journey was crazy right from Jump Street, i.e. when he was a teenager negotiating his first pro contract.

The Jazzman and his wife, netballer Renae Ingles, made an appearance on The Howie Games podcast last week and gave all the sordid details of his dealings with his hometown club, the Adelaide 36ers. Believe me when I say they are wild.

Apparently, the 36ers didn’t know his actual name and wanted to pay him less than the minimum allowable salary.

Said Ingles —

“I went into a meeting with them; I had my agent, my dad. And this was — to the 36ers’ credit now — old management, old general manager. They’ve moved on from that. But I got offered a contract that was below the minimum. Whatever the minimum was, 20 grand or whatever, it was way below the minimum.

“As my agent and my dad were looking over the contract, I was like, ‘That’s a bit weird’. My name was spelled wrong on the contract and I was like, ‘Ah, maybe it’s not as thought-out as you thought’. We thought they really wanted to have me. They misspelled my last name, so it was like I-N-L-G-E-S or something. Which is maybe just a typo, everyone does it, we’ve all done it. But if you’re trying to recruit someone that’s from your hometown.”

Ouch. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The 36ers also envisioned Ingles playing power forward and center — as a 17-year-old kid standing 6-foot-3. Also — there was no guarantee he would even play; Ingles (or Inlges, as it were) would have been one of 15 guys vying for 10 spots on game days.

Clearly, Adelaide missed the boat in a big, bad way with Joe.

Next: Utah Jazz: Iso Joe, Big All nab top seed in BIG3 playoffs

You can check out part one of the Ingles’ two-part pod episode HERE.



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Iso Joe, Big Al grab top seed in BIG3 playoffs

Jared Woodcox , 2019-08-20 12:00:53

Former Utah Jazz players Joe Johnson and Al Jefferson, along with the rest of their teammates on Triplets, have grabbed the top overall seed in the BIG3 playoffs.

If you haven’t been keeping up with the BIG3 this summer, you’ve really been missing out. That’s particularly true for Utah Jazz fans due to the fact that two former fan favorites just so happen to play for the league’s best team, Triplets.

The two players I speak of – Joe Johnson and Al Jefferson – both received overwhelming ovations when the BIG3 stopped in Salt Lake City a few weeks back. Al Jefferson had some exciting seasons with the Jazz, though unfortunately his potential there was cut short as the team took a very different direction following the Deron Williams drama. And Joe Johnson immortalized himself in Jazz history by hitting an incredible game winner in Game 1 of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs against the LA Clippers.

Their Triplets squad has been the most exciting BIG3 team all season long, as they finished with a 7-1 record, their sole loss coming in closely contested fashion to the third-seeded team (and largely recognized as the second-best team), Power. That stirring record included some come-from-behind victories and a couple of four-point game winners (courtesy of Joe Johnson) on the year.

Of the two, his shot against the 3-Headed Monsters while trailing 46-48 was undoubtedly his best highlight out of many of the season. You can check it out for yourself below:

By finishing with the best record in the BIG3 regular season, Triplets nabbed the top seed overall for the playoffs, which begin this upcoming Sunday, August 25th. Joe Johnson and Iso Joe will be in for a challenge, however, as they’ll face the very same 3-Headed Monsters team that nearly defeated them a couple weeks back.

The 3-Headed Monsters, led by head coach Gary Payton and the likes of Rashard Lewis and Mario Chalmers on the floor, ended the year extremely hot. They upset Power in the final week of the regular season, which was a requirement for them if they wanted to make the playoffs, destroyed a dangerous Enemies team the week before and narrowly lost to Triplets prior to that. They also challenged the second-seeded Killer Threes earlier in the season as well.

In other words, even though the 3-Headed Monsters, who needed help in the form of the formerly winless Ball Hogs toppling Bivouac in the final week, are the fourth seed and only narrowly  made the playoffs due to tiebreaker over the other 4-4 teams, they’re definitely a force to be reckoned with. They’ll be a challenging opponent for Triplets to handle in the opening round.

But if Joe Johnson, who just set a new BIG3 single-season scoring record with 175 points (21.875 per game average) and teammates Al Jefferson, Jannero Pargo, Sergerio Gipson, Jamario Moon and Alan Anderson and head coach Lisa Leslie can maintain their regular season success, they should have great odds for reaching the championship on September 1.

Next: Utah Jazz: Joe Ingles should revel in reduced role

It’s always difficult to make it through the long NBA offseason, but the BIG3 has certainly helped things move faster in that regard by providing a great way to fill that basketball fix. Considering that former Jazzmen Iso Joe and Big Al lead the league’s best team, Utah Jazz fans should have no trouble getting excited for the two upcoming weeks of BIG3 postseason.

Triplets take on 3-Headed Monsters on August 25th at 1:00 PM MT on CBS.



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Joe Ingles should revel in reduced role

Hayden Van de Maat , 2019-08-20 04:03:57

The offseason moves made by the Utah Jazz front office have in all likelihood allowed Joe Ingles to slide into a bench role. How does this change bring out the best in his game?

With most of the Utah Jazz’s recent publicity centered on the acquisitions of Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic, little has been said about how these two moves create a trickle-down effect throughout the roster.

Of all the players returning to the Jazz next season, Joe Ingles may be the most effected. The  starting lineup next season is expected to include Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell in the backcourt, Bojan Bogdanovic and either Jeff Green or Royce O’Neale in the forward spots, and Rudy Gobert at center.

Thus, leaving Joe Ingles to return to the bench after two years with the starting unit, placing another arrow in the quiver of Quin Snyder, who has seemingly endless possibilities with regards to the lineups he can put on the floor.

With two capable creators now in the backcourt, and I suspect Coach Snyder will stagger them to assure one of them is on the court for all 48 minutes. As a result, Ingles may never be forced into the primary ball handling role. This allows him to play his natural, more effective role of working with an advantage created by the offense.

In the last two seasons as a starter, Slow-Mo’ Joe has averaged 11.8 points on 45.7 percent from the field and 41.5 percent from 3-point land, as well 5.3 assists, 4.1 rebounds and 1.1 steals in just over 31 minutes per game.

Coming up on 32 years of age, expecting Ingles to start and play 30-plus minutes each night was going to be a stretch, which is why the Bogdanovic signing in particular really releases the burden on Joe.

Another aspect of this will be how much the floor will open up for the sharpshooter given the new personnel. The Jazz can conceivably put a lineup on the floor of Mike Conley, Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles, Bojan Bogdanovic and Rudy Gobert. This should be as potent of an offensive lineup as you will see in the NBA.

Next: Utah Jazz: Joe Ingles promises to dunk on Donovan Mitchell in FIBA friendly

With the best rim roller in the NBA, four guys who are capable of creating with ball in hand, including two elite dynamic guards, and four capable shooters, including two snipers on the wings, the Jazz could wreak havoc offensively with this unit.

I’m expecting Ingles to come off the bench and pick apart opposing benches for around 25 minutes per game, while shooting the ball at a great clip and putting his name in the Sixth Man of the Year conversation.

Although Ingles’ role may be slightly reduced, you can expect his impact to be just as prominent.

Statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference. 



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Joe Ingles has fighting words for USA's Donovan Mitchell

Ryan Aston , 2019-08-19 22:11:49

Utah Jazz teammates Donovan Mitchell and Joe Ingles will go head-to-head when Team USA takes on the Aussie Boomers this week.

This week will undoubtedly be a big one for Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell and USA Basketball — it’s the final week of camp and exhibition bouts before the Americans head to China in search of FIBA World Cup gold. More than that, though, it’s the next chapter in what is one of the low-key great rivalries in Jazzland currently.

Spida versus Slow-Mo’ Joe.

With Team USA set to take on the Australian national team, also known as the Aussie Boomers, in two friendly games in preparation for World Cup play, Mitchell and fellow Jazzman Joe Ingles will find themselves on opposing benches.

And while both are probably more interested in representing their countries as World Cup winners, the battle for bragging rights among Jazz teammates is definitely not lost on them.

After the Boomers beat Canada in an exhibition over the weekend, Ingles served up the opening salvo in their individual fight. Ingles’ declaration: he’s going to throw down on the 2018 Slam Dunk champion. Check it out —

If you follow the social media exploits of Jazz players, you’re likely well aware that Ingles has no shame when it comes to dispensing trash talk at anyone who will listen, including (and especially) his own teammates. However, Mitchell has always been one of his favorite targets.

That said, history is not exactly on Jinglin’ Joe’s side as relates to posterizing people.

Over the course of an NBA career spanning five years and more than 400 games, Ingles has only notched 20 dunks in total. Last season, he managed three slams despite playing in all 82 games as Utah’s starting small forward.

Still, Ingles definitely can get up when he needs to (or has enough time and space to do so, which is rare). In fact, in his younger days, he was once given the moniker Jumpin’ Joe Ingles, but Mitchell didn’t appear to be sold on his teammate’s aerial exploits when tape of them surfaced last year.

Next: Utah Jazz: Donovan Mitchell, Team USA roster update

I, for one, hope Ingles can make good on his dunk promise, if for no other reason than the Twitter shenanigans that would ensue after the fact.

Mitchell and Team USA will play Australia on Thursday and Saturday.



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Donovan Mitchell, USA Basketball World Cup roster update

Ryan Aston , 2019-08-18 04:26:28

USA Basketball is zeroing in on its final World Cup roster as Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell and the rest of the crew head Down Under.

Less than 24 hours after leading Team USA to a relatively easy win over Ricky Rubio, Marc Gasol and Spain, Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell and his cohorts in red, white and blue boarded a plane for Melbourne, Australia.

Next up for Mitchell and the Americans: it’s another week of training camp, followed by consecutive friendly bouts with Jazzman Joe Ingles and the Aussie Boomers. Then, it’s on to China.

With this being the last leg of camp before Team USA tips off World Cup play in Shanghai on September 1, head coach Gregg Popovich and his staff are hard at work making final determinations on which players will make the final 12-man roster. However, much of the work has been taken off their shoulders thanks to withdrawals.

That continued to be the case this weekend.

Houston Rockets big man PJ Tucker was the first domino to fall. The 34-year-old and most veteran player in camp for Team USA officially removed himself from the roster equation on Friday ahead of the Spain game because of ongoing ankle issues.

On Saturday, Sacramento Kings point-man De’Aron Fox became the latest to withdraw, after playing only six minutes in the exhibition game.

Fox’s withdrawal was something of a surprise; the Kings star has consistently been name-checked as one of the standout performers and an ultimate competitor in camp. In my estimation, his energy on the floor and speed with the ball would have been major assets for the team and he absolutely should have made the World Cup roster.

However, San Antonio Spurs guard Derrick White got more court time against Spain after getting bumped up from the Select Team last week.

Elsewhere on the roster, Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart was officially cleared to play for the team after dealing with a calf injury.

As a result, USA Basketball has sent the following 13 players to Australia —

Harrison Barnes
Jaylen Brown
Joe Harris
Kyle Kuzma
Brook Lopez
Khris Middleton
Donovan Mitchell
Mason Plumlee
Marcus Smart
Jayson Tatum
Myles Turner
Kemba Walker
Derrick White

If I had to guess, I would say White and Smart will duke it out for the final roster spot. On the other hand, it’s hard for me to see Coach Pop bringing three centers to China, which would put Plumlee on the bubble for me as well.

In any case, Mitchell looks to be locked in for the big tournament, and this will be a team that depends heavily on his scoring ability to survive. He, Walker and Tatum figure to be the key cogs offensively for the US.

Next: Utah Jazz star Mitchell, Team USA beat Rubio, Spain

In a way, the World Cup could provide a sneak preview of what Jazz fans will see from Mitchell next season. Despite the monster additions the team made over the summer, Mitchell will have to take his game to a new level on both sides of the ball if the Jazz want to make good on their championship aspirations.

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The United States defeated Spain, 90-81. Donovan Mitchell led the United States with 13 points (5-10 FG, 2-3 3pt FG), while Kemba Walker added 11 points (4-7 FG), 6 rebounds and 8 assists in the victory. Marc Gasol led Spain with a game-high 19 points (3-4 3pt FG), while Ricky Rubio totaled 16 points (4-13 FG), 7 assists and 5 steals in the losing effort.

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Utah Jazz's Mitchell, Team USA beat Rubio, Spain comfortably

Ryan Aston , 2019-08-17 05:03:22

In a battle of former Utah Jazz teammates, Donovan Mitchell and USA Basketball hosted Ricky Rubio and Spain in their first exhibition bout.

Over the last 48 hours, much has been made about USA Basketball’s ill-fated scrimmage on Wednesday, and rightfully so. Facing a squad made up almost entirely of G-Leaguers, Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell and his crew got trounced in epic fashion losing by 19 points in a 10-minute contest.

That sounds bad — the video is even worse. But hey, in the words of Allen Iverson, we’re talking about practice; the real test came on Friday.

With the hoopla about the scrimmage still coursing through the hoops blogosphere, Mitchell and Team USA took on FIBA’s second-ranked team worldwide and a squad the Americans could face in the World Cup semi-final or even the gold medal game (depending on how the standings shake out) in Spain.

In a game that pitted Mitchell against his former Jazz teammate in Ricky Rubio, the Americans had a golden opportunity to redeem themselves against a quality opponent. In the end, they did just that, cruising to a 90-81 win in their first exhibition bout at the Honda Center in Anaheim.

Mitchell led a balanced effort, scoring a team-high 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting (and 2-of-3 from distance), while adding four rebounds. Also, he threw down a hammer (as he’s wont to do) —

Khris Middleton chipped in with 12 points, while Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum added 11 apiece.

Marc Gasol paced Spain with 19 points; Rubio had a great all-around line with 16 points, seven assists and five steals. However, the former Jazzman also missed nine of his 13 shot attempts; in other words, it was exactly the kind of game Jazz fans saw from him time and time again over his two years with the club.

During the post-game scrum, Mitchell had nothing but great things to say about his former point guard —

“I love Ricky. He’s helped me so much throughout my career. I’m just blessed to have a former teammate like that. He’s a competitor; loves to compete.”

Clearly, people have been blowing the result of the now infamous scrimmage completely out of proportion. This performance against Spain is likely a much better indicator of the progress the team has made after two weeks of training camp.

Still, talented though they may be, the Americans absolutely are in no position to let up on opponents or suffer through mental lapses. Any win against Spain is a good one, but this was still just an exhibition game — they didn’t get their opponent’s best shot.

And while it was a comfortable win overall for Team USA, they did surrender a 12-2 run in the final carom, which is exactly the kind of stretch that could prove disastrous in World Cup play.

Next: Utah Jazz owner Gail Miller says it’s her team’s turn for the chip

Next up for USA Basketball is a move to Australia where they will resume camp. While there, Mitchell and Co. will face the Aussie Boomers twice, as well as Team Canada before tipping off World Cup play in China.

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After a few weeks of training with USA Basketball, Donovan Mitchell’s teammates talk about what it’s like to play with the young Utah Jazz guard.

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Utah Jazz owner Gail Miller has her sights set firmly on championship

Jared Woodcox , 2019-08-16 12:00:03

Utah Jazz owner Gail Miller expressed the utmost confidence in the team as currently constructed and made the organization’s lofty goals clearly known.

Every NBA player – no matter their position, experience, team or circumstance – shares a common desire: To win an NBA championship. Even those who may be on a team that has no shot at winning tend to speak of it being their immediate goal in that very season. The players know how hard it is to win a championship, but sometimes they may not fully understand all it really takes. For that reason, at times when players discuss their championship desires, it can sometimes feel like little more than a common cliche or merely the expected talk.

The same can be said for almost any member of a team’s organization to some extent, as even teams in the midst of a rocky rebuild wouldn’t declare anything other than their desire to wend their way toward a championship. However, when certain team execs break out of their conservative norm and truly start opening up about championship aspirations, it’s usually a bit easier to tell when it’s just talk and when they really mean it.

When they really believe their team has a chance.

And in the case of the Utah Jazz, it seems that revered owner Gail Miller most certainly has reached that point. Due to the rock-solid foundation of players, coaches and front office staff already in place, the savvy changes made this summer and, most recently, her very declaration of confidence, it’s clear that she has all the confidence in the world in her team.

Per a recent Salt Lake Tribune article from Gordon Monson, Gail had the following to say about the state of the Jazz:

“With 30 teams in the NBA, there can only be one championship, but I think every 30 years, you ought to have one. It’s our turn. I think we’ve built up to it, we understand what it takes, we’ve put everything in place for it, we’ve given them all the tools they need, brought in the players who I think can do it. There’s no reason why we can’t have that expectation. I don’t know that it will come this year, but I do believe we’ll get there.”

Of course, she maintained her realism by saying that she doesn’t know that it will come this year. Obviously, one never knows. Injuries, poor chemistry, unforeseen changes or a million other unpredictable changes could surface and get in the way. I’d guess the vast majority of NBA fans believed the Golden State Warriors would repeat as champions this past year, and yet it was instead the Toronto Raptors who took the crown.

But the way she spoke so boldly with statements such as: “It’s our turn.” “We’ve built up to it.” “We understand what it takes.” “We’ve put everything in place.” “There’s no reason why we can’t have that expectation.” speak volumes to just how confident she is in what the Jazz have been and finally managed to put together.

Gail clearly knows and sees what all of us Jazz fans have picked up on all summer – that the 2019-20 iteration of this Jazz team, as well as future squads that stem from this one, are going to be special.

And while the new-look group yet has a lot to prove, she’s absolutely right in being confident and believing that they’re capable of achieving at the highest level. This Jazz team is as talented as they come. The front office has strategically and meticulously identified and patched up their weaknesses. They have the depth, versatility and overall skill to compete with any team in the NBA.

2019-20 could very well be their time.

It’s easy to fall into a pessimistic mindset that the team will be over-hyped, that they’ll fail to live up to expectations or that they’ll yet again be good but just not good enough. And any or all of those could prove to be reality when all is said and done. But rather than dwelling on those feelings, Jazz fans would be wise to instead adopt the same attitude as Gail Miller.

If ever there was a Jazz team to believe in, this would be the one. The organization has taken all the right steps. They have a clear and exciting path to success ahead. They’re as well-equipped as they’ve ever been.

Next: Utah Jazz: Success of 2019-20 season hinges on ascent of Donovan Mitchell

And let’s not forget, two teams in the last four seasons have won their franchise’s first-ever championship.

Why can’t it be the Utah Jazz’s turn this time around?



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Success of 2019-20 season hinges on Donovan Mitchell

Jared Woodcox , 2019-08-16 00:16:45

The Utah Jazz’s ceiling and championship hopes in 2019-20 will depend greatly on the improvements and execution of rising star Donovan Mitchell.

Ask just about anyone familiar with the NBA and that understands the game of basketball and they’ll likely agree that the Utah Jazz are going to be a formidable team next season. An already staunch defense with a brilliant coach at the helm upgraded several key positions and patched up many weaknesses. In all, their incredible offseason has them appearing primed for success in 2019-20.

And a big part of that is due to the fact that the Jazz already had and added guys that are sure and steady, in whom you largely know what you’re going to get. And that ‘what you’re going to get’ is solid productivity. Mike Conley is a proven and sure point guard, capable of running an offense efficiently, filling it up as a scoring weapon and locking down opposing guards on defense. Bojan Bogdanovic is a heralded deep-ball shooter that will open up Utah’s offense and spread the floor.

Incumbent players such as Rudy Gobert and Joe Ingles fit that mold as well. Gobert is a two-time Defensive Player of the Year that can be counted on to fortify Utah’s defense night in and night out. Ingles is a Swiss (Australian?) Army Knife capable of providing so much value on both ends of the floor with his well-rounded game.

Newly acquired vets like Ed Davis and Jeff Green bring consistent hustle and valuable experience to the floor. The Jazz will be a solid team by and large due to the reliability and predictability of these key members of their roster.

But Utah also has one key wild card on their roster. He’s already arguably the team’s best player, so you could contend that in some ways, you know what you’re going to get with him as well. Nevertheless, Utah’s ability to go from a good team to a potential championship contender hinges completely on the strides he makes this upcoming season from a rising star to a solidified NBA star.

The man I speak of, of course, is none other than Donovan Mitchell.

And let me repeat it one more time. The ultimate success of the 2019-20 Utah Jazz hinges significantly on the ascent of Mitchell in his third season.

We’ve heard and seen a lot of good and promising things about Mitchell already, dating back to last season when he averaged 26.5 points on 44.6 percent shooting from the field and 41.4 percent shooting from deep from the turn of the calendar year until the end of the regular season. He also has had the luxury of entering the offseason fully healthy (unlike what was the case a year ago), giving him a chance to be in a normal workout routine all summer.

Furthermore and more recently, he’s been a standout as a member of Team USA, securing the starting backcourt position alongside All-Star and All-NBA guard Kemba Walker. Even more impressive have been many of the comments made about him as he looks to step into an important leadership role for that team.

Recently on the Bill Simmons podcast from The Ringer, Simmons and ESPN’s Brian Windhorst talked specifically about Donovan Mitchell. They reported that the one player that was jumping out to the execs following Team USA was none other than Spida himself. Specifically, Windhorst stated:

“The guy who exploded off the court, the guy who made everybody’s eyes open up and dominated the week was Donovan Mitchell.”

From there, the comparisons that have long been in place reached a new level as Donovan was yet again described as bearing similarities to Dwyane Wade. Simmons and Windhorst raved about the increased strength Mitchell has added thus far this offseason, and that his explosiveness has really set him apart. These two traits have led to several drawing a comparison to Mitchell appearing similar to 2006 Dwyane Wade.

Of course, that Wade was, just like Mitchell, in his third NBA season. And as he took an astronomical leap that year, he managed to lead his Miami Heat squad to an NBA Championship.

That obviously is the hope Utah Jazz fans have with Mitchell. First, that we’ll see an astronomical leap out of him, and that it can be enough to elevate the Jazz to their first-ever championship. Truthfully, as I mentioned initially, the Jazz have the solid and steady pieces in place surrounding him. Whether they’re truly able to get over the hump and become a team of legend depends on Mitchell taking that next step.

If Mitchell matches the third-year leap of Wade and elevates himself to superstar status, carrying his now well-rounded and deep Jazz team with him, the Jazz absolutely will be a championship contender and perhaps even arguably a favorite. If he remains about the same as last season, or only slightly improves, Utah will likely once again remain a solid, but not sufficiently elite team to win it all.

In Wade’s year three, he upped his points per game from 24.1 to 27.2 and his shooting percentage from 47.8 to 49.5. It should be noted that he shot just 17.1 percent from three-point range that season, a figure that seems appalling and nigh-unbelievable in today’s three-heavy systems. Nevertheless, Wade took command of the court in so many other ways using principally his strength and explosiveness which Mitchell is aiming to replicate.

I can guarantee that Mitchell will outdo Wade’s third-year mark of 17.1 percent from the perimeter on one attempt per game pretty handily. And if he can somehow match his 40+ percent shooting from the end of last regular season, the ceiling to his game will elevate exponentially. Nevertheless, the fact that Wade dominated the way he did despite a non-existent perimeter shooting game is a nice reminder that to be most effective, Mitchell needs to stick to his strengths.

Those strengths include getting to the paint and attacking with his crafty arsenal of floaters, scoop layups and of course, when opportunity allows, scintillating dunks. It also means that, as pointed out in the aforementioned podcast, Mitchell needs to add more frequent trips to the free throw line to his skill set.

In Wade’s year two, he went to the free throw line 9.9 times per game and upped that to 10.7 in his breakout in year three. Meanwhile, Mitchell went to the line just 5.1 times in his year two despite being the overwhelming number one offensive option on the team. Of course, the styles and circumstances of the 2019-20 Utah Jazz and the 2005-06 Miami Heat are quite different, but Mitchell still should aim to up his free throw attempts.

If he can do that (and hopefully we see some of Mitchell’s improvements which have caught execs’ eyes on display during Team USA international play), the Utah Jazz will be primed for an incredible season. The NBA is a star-driven league with much of the level of success coming down to how far a star can carry his squad. If Donovan is able to take that leap, there’s simply no telling just how high the Jazz can ascend.

Next: Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell, Team USA get lit up in scrimmage

It’s a big task and a lofty expectation. But if the Utah Jazz want to reach their illustrious hopes of an NBA championship, a large portion of the burden will rest heavily on the young shoulders of superstar hopeful Donovan Mitchell.

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