Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell is having a strong rookie season. He’s leading the team in scoring with 17.9 points per game and already has a 40-point performance to his name. If not for Kyle Kuzma, Mitchell has a good case to be considered the steal of the draft after he fell to No. 13 overall.
Mitchell is making such a strong impression that an NBA general manager is comparing him to some of the best guards of the past and present.
At first glance, it seems hyperbolic for anyone, let alone an NBA general manager, to put Mitchell in the same breath as Iverson, who is arguably the pound-for-pound greatest scorer in NBA history, or even Wade, who is a multiple-time NBA champion.
Upon closer inspection, though, Mitchell does appear to have a few qualities which he shares with those elite guards. He has a short but powerful frame like Wade, has flashed the confidence of Lillard and has displayed the fearless abandon of Iverson at different times.
It goes without saying that Mitchell still has a long way to go to justify those comparisons. However, he has made a promising enough start through his impressive rookie performances and could eventually prove those comparisons to be accurate in a few years’ time.
Many fans make the mistake of using production stats to measure how impactful a given player is. This is like mistaking revunue for profit margins. For instance, Carmelo Anthony currently averages 18.7 points per game therefore he makes his team 18.7 point better per game and he is roughly 6 points better than Thaddeus Young! That logic assumes that production stats exist in a vaccum where no other variables impact the game. This would be like saying my restraunt made five grand last night therefore I made $5000 in profit. There are obivously other variables in play, such as operation cost.
Even though Anthony is averaging 18.7 PPG and 6.2 RPG his team thus far is only +1.4 points per game better with him on the floor. At this point you may be saying bull, “I watch him drop 20 points on a nightly basis.” Yes but you didn’t take into account efficiency and defensive impact. Similar to operating cost, there is a cost to putting any player on the floor. Players turn over the ball, they get scored on, and they also take inefficent shots. All of these subtract from a players nightly production. In fact, many of these things don’t show up in produciton stats. I’m sure you’d agree that a defender cutting the ball handler off at the baseline impacts the game. Yet, it doesn’t show up in box scores.
Before we get back to Anthony, lets first take into account one very important aspect of statistics: Nothing can be good or bad independent of your samples average. If I were to say a 6ft” American male was short you’d likely challenge my logic, assuming you understood the national average is 5 10″ for men. But if I were to say 6ft” was short for an NBA player I would be correct because the league average is 6 7.” How does this relate with Anthony you may be asking. Well the only objective way to gauge how good or bad he is in a given area would be to examine how far above or below he is from the league average. The league average in player efficiency rating is 15, his is 16. The league average for Defensive Real Plus Minus is -0.11 and the offensive real plus minus is .-6, Anthony’s ORPM and DRPM +0.6 and+0.80. Add them together and you get OKC’s profit margins for Anthony at +1.48 per game. Solid, but hardly the impact of a superstar. To put into perspective, the Rockets are currently +9 with James Harden on the floor.
By Shad Scott