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Did the Hawks use too much draft capital to acquire their 2019 draft picks? Why Cam Reddish might be the swing prospect in the Hawks rebuild. The Jazz added more offensive playmakers, how might that impact their defensive performance? Why Quin Snyder is the perfect coach to help Donovan Mitchell through his expected role adjustment.

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Donovan Mitchell has put himself in 2020 Olympic mix

Ryan Aston , 2019-09-18 01:54:10
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Fans may be down on the World Cup performance of Team USA, but Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell could end up an Olympian thanks to his individual efforts.

In spite of his awesome talent and humble nature, Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell often finds himself the target of a small, but vocal contingent of detractors on NBA Twitter. The brunt of them come from Philly and/or Boston (and it’s not hard to figure out why), and, man, have they have been busy lately with Mitchell and Team USA struggling to a seventh-place finish at the FIBA World Cup.

Their chirping aside, though, Mitchell had a really strong run overall in the tournament. Over eight games (all starts) he put up 13 points, five assists, four boards and one steal per contest. He also shot the ball at a healthy clip, connecting on 47 percent of his shots and 41 percent from 3-point range.

In his 217 minutes on the floor, the Americans outscored the opposition by 96 points.

He played so well, in fact, and was such a strong representative for USA Basketball on and off the floor that he may have put himself in position to snag a spot on the 2020 US Olympic team.

It’s a notion that would have seemed incredibly unlikely just a few, short months ago, but the Jazz star has seemingly inserted himself into the conversation over the last several weeks. At the least, it looks like he’s impressing the right people. Namely, USA Basketball’s director Jerry Colangelo.

SI’s Chris Mannix spoke with Colangelo about the state of USA Basketball this week and, to put it mildly, he’s not content to register a similar result at next year’s Olympics in Tokyo. And while sending a more talented team to the Games will be crucial to that success, the former Phoenix Suns owner may not be turning over the entire team.

In fact, Mitchell looks to be on the possible shortlist of players who have a leg up for roster spots.

Writes Mannix —

He has a deep appreciation for the players that committed to play in the World Cup, suggesting that there were “2-3 players” who likely punched their tickets to Tokyo. Kemba Walker, Team USA’s leading scorer, is probably one. Donovan Mitchell, who singlehandedly kept the U.S. team in the game against France, is another. Colangelo also went out of his way to praise Marcus Smart, a defensive menace who can guard multiple positions.

That report would seem to indicate that Mitchell is a real possibility for next summer. And while much of the American focus for the World Cup was on who didn’t show up, Mitchell was showing up for his country in a big, bad way (Twitter trolls be damned).

Next: Utah Jazz: Caleb Manser’s 2019-20 NBA win-loss predictions

Team USA needs players of his production (and dedication) if they want to climb back to the tap of the mountain next year.

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Donovan Mitchell set to make a lot of people eat crow

Ryan Aston , 2019-09-12 12:15:35
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Editorial — Utah Jazz and Team USA star Donovan Mitchell has curiously become a punching bag for some, but he’s about to flip the script.

Following their loss to Utah Jazz big man Rudy Gobert and France, Donovan Mitchell and USA Basketball find themselves in the consolation bracket at the FIBA World Cup. Now, instead of vying for a gold medal, they’re vying for a chance to play in fifth-place game

Fifth. Freaking. Place. And even that’s no certainty.

Clearly, this isn’t what fans in the United States had in mind. If you’re among the Jazzland masses, though, you can still seek solace in Gobert and Joe Ingles (who helped Australia advance to the semifinals with a win over the Czech Republic). However, the Americans’ big L to Les Bleus on Wednesday hurts nonetheless.

Despite the setback, one thing you shouldn’t be fretting over is Mitchell’s future at the helm of the Jazz’s attack. Although the haters will tell you otherwise.

Throughout the tournament, Mitchell has been a frequent punching bag for a small, but vocal contingent of fans on social media. After USA’s quarter-final loss, they came out of the woodwork once more.

It’s a curious development considering Mitchell just registered one of the best games by anyone in the tournament to date — 29 points, 12-of-23 shooting, six boards, four dimes, two thefts and zero turnovers.

Here’s just a small sample of the analysis being offered —

In case you were unaware, this is totally my “Donovan Mitchell ’bout to take a leap after leading team USA” argument with some historical context.

Seriously, let us dispense with the notion that Mitchell is having a bad FIBA run. Per 36 minutes, he’s averaging 18 points, six rebounds and six assists and he has posted shooting splits of 46-35-100; solid numbers all around.

Moreover, he’s Team USA’s plus/minus leader — opponents have been outscored by 14.8 points per game when Mitchell has been on the floor. I won’t even mention his 5.2/1 assist-to-turnover ratio; it’s too ridiculous to discuss.

He’s absolutely been a leader for the Americans, and had they allowed him to lead in the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s game, they may still be in the hunt for a medal.

In many ways, Team USA’s performance feels like what went down in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, when a squad that was missing several top NBA talents got stuck with the bronze and ended 12 years of American dominance. And I expect Mitchell will respond to this setback as a young Dwyane Wade did then.

During that run, a 22-year-old Wade — the player Mitchell is probably most compared to these days — averaged 7.3 points per contest and shot 38 percent from the floor in his first action with the senior national team.

Also, he missed all three of the 3-point shots he attempted and logged more turnovers than assists. He legitimately did play at a level approaching bad.

So, how did D-Wade recover from his own FIBA disaster during the 2004-05 season? By averaging 24-7-5, getting his first All-Star nod and leading the Heat to a No. 1 seed and the Eastern Conference Finals, where it took the defending champion Detroit Pistons seven games to eliminate them.

Now, this is a Hall of Fame guy we’re talking about, but it just goes to show that the kind of hot takes about Mitchell’s own FIBA “failure” equating to an inability to reach an elite level (or even get better) as an NBA player are pretty unfounded.

Wade was bona fide before and after that tournament and the same applies to Mitchell now.

Over the final 42 games of the 2018-19 season — I’m no math whiz, but I think that’s more than half of the 82-game campaign — the Jazz guard put up 27 points and nearly five rebounds and five assists per game. Along the way, he shot 45 percent from the field and 41 percent from distance.

That fact remains unchanged in spite of Wednesday’s result and/or the trolls’ response to said result.

The fact of the matter is that Mitchell improved by leaps and bounds from year one to year two. And despite what’s happening with USA Basketball currently, it’s pretty clear to me that his trajectory is unchanged, particularly given the talent the Jazz have surrounded him with.

In other words, when he’s balling out with Mike Conley next season, I’ll be pretty shocked if he gets frozen out of fourth quarters in the same way he did by Kemba Walker and others in the US’ World Cup quarter-final defeat.

Next: Utah Jazz: Mitchell and Team USA got Goberted

So, if you’re a Jazz fan out there on Twitter, ready to boil over because some dude from Philadelphia, Boston, Timbuktu or wherever says your guy sucks, don’t sweat it.

Donovan Mitchell is about to make those people eat some major crow.

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Are Donovan Mitchell, Team USA still FIBA favorites?

Jared Woodcox , 2019-09-07 02:20:25
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After some early FIBA struggles, can Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell and his Team USA squad still be considered the tournament favorites?

It was essentially common knowledge this summer that the Team USA that would be representing the country in the FIBA Basketball World Cup wouldn’t be the nation’s A-team. After several players either declined an invite or withdrew from international play, Team USA Chairman Jerry Colangelo and head coach Gregg Popovich were forced to put together the best team they could muster composed of the best players available.

In so doing, they formed a squad led by Utah Jazz rising star Donovan Mitchell, Boston Celtics newcomer Kemba Walker, promising young big man Myles Turner and a combination of other young bucks and veterans such as Jayson Tatum, Harrison Barnes and Khris Middleton, to name a few.

Those are some formidable guys, to be sure, but still many have argued (and justifiably so) that this year’s rendition of Team USA is very much a B-Team when compared to the immense talent advantage that the United States typically enjoys. And, unfortunately, their performance thus far would very much prove that statement accurate.

First of all, Team USA lost their first international contest in their last 78 tries in an exhibition match against Australia. Sure, the American team had won just the time before and the defeat came in a meaningless friendly competition, but it was still a shocking loss. Even worse, though, was how Team USA performed against Turkey in the first round of FIBA group play.

What most presumed should have been an easy victory turned out to be an enormous challenge from which Team USA just barely escaped. With mistake after mistake, they ultimately found themselves being taken to overtime. And even then, it took four consecutive missed free throws from Turkey for the Americans to miraculously come out on top.

If they could barely get past Turkey, what does that mean for the rest of the tournament?

Sure, it was just one bout and, quite frankly, Donovan Mitchell, who has been one of the leaders of the team, and the rest of the squad didn’t play well at all. But if they’re capable of slipping that much against a team that was ranked just 17th in the world, they will definitely be at risk against the more prolific talent they are bound to face.

Even though the American team entered the field somewhat depleted, they were still considered by most to be the favorite. After all, they’re the only squad with an entire roster comprised of NBA players led by a coach believed by many to be the best in the world. But after what we’ve seen out of them so far, can we truly say they are the favorites?

There are several teams that remain undefeated alongside the US that have looked absolutely formidable. Save for a complacent second half against Germany, Rudy Gobert‘s French team appears to be among the best. Joe Ingles‘ Australia has also taken care of business in a big way to the tune of a 3-0 start. Brazil, who the US will face on Monday, has been incredible as well and even teams like Argentina and Poland, who are also undefeated, have looked strong.

And that’s leaving out two other undefeated groups. One is Spain, though Team USA admittedly made light work of them in the pre-tournament exhibition. The other, however, is Serbia, who has looked nigh unstoppable thus far in FIBA play.

Not only is Serbia undefeated, but they have absolutely demolished their opponents. First they beat Angola 105-59 and the Philippines 126-67. Sure, neither of those two are much to write home about, but I’d say it’s meaningful that Serbia took care of business against lackluster opponents whereas Team USA was nearly toppled by Turkey. Yes, they did much better against Japan and the Czech Republic, but Serbia has still looked unyielding compared to the USA.

Even more impressive, in Serbia’s final game of the first round of group play, they took on a much more competitive Italy team and still won handily by a score of 92-77. After advancing to the second round, they got things started off strong with a 90-47 win over Puerto Rico on Friday.

Again, you could definitely argue that Serbia’s performance has had more to do with their lackluster opponents than it has with their flawless execution, and there would definitely be a significant amount of truth to that. Their next contest will be a far greater challenge as they’ll take on Spain on Sunday, which could shed further light on just how foreboding Serbia truly is.

But, personally, I believe Serbia will beat Spain and, unless Team USA turns things around considerably in their next two contests, you could easily make the case that Serbia has surpassed the Americans as the 2019 FIBA favorites.

Not only have they been absolutely decimating opponents, but they have a number of talented NBA players in their ranks who have all played very well internationally. That group is headlined by Denver Nuggets All-Star Nikola Jokic, but he’s also joined by Bogdan Bogdanovic (not to be confused with Bojan Bogdanovic from Croatia who is the one the Jazz signed this summer), Nemanja Bjelica and Boban Marjanovic.

Even the less heralded guys on their squad have played well, and the chemistry Serbia has shown has been undoubtedly helpful. You can tell from the mere way they’re putting up such a high number of points and blowing opponents out of the water that they are simply firing on all cylinders.

Like the US squad, who has tough battles ahead against Greece, Brazil, then most likely one of either France or Australia, Serbia is about to be challenged as well. First against the aforementioned Spain, then next versus either Argentina or  Poland. Personally, I’d say Team USA’s path is considerably more difficult, but that’s besides the point. The fact is that the United States team needs to play much better than they have regardless of opponent and that we should get a much better idea of how truly daunting Serbia is in the next week.

Regardless of what we see there, assuming Team USA picks it up and finds a way to play up to their potential, they could very well be on a crash course to face Serbia down the road. And as long as neither faces an unforeseen elimination, it’s entirely possible that the argument of which one is the deserving favorite won’t be settled until the pair of them actually face off on the court.

Next: Utah Jazz: FIBA World Cup roundup – Jazzmen undefeated so far, but face tough tasks ahead

Based on what we’ve seen thus far, though, and considering the more difficult path facing Team USA, it wouldn’t be the slightest stretch to say that Serbia appears to be the favorite as FIBA play progresses into the second round.

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Michael Bennett latest NFL star to rock Donovan Mitchell jersey

Jared Woodcox , 2019-09-05 11:00:15
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Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell continues to build his fanbase as New England Patriot Michael Bennett was the latest to sport No. 45’s jersey.

There’s no doubt about it – Donovan Mitchell‘s popularity continues to skyrocket. And such isn’t just the case among Utah Jazz fans, it’s the case among basketball fans of all loyalties around the world. Between his awesome Spida logo, his new Adidas shoe deal and of course his ever-marketable personality on and off the court, Mitchell continues to make a name for himself and enhance his brand.

But it’s not just unknown fans that are high on Donovan Mitchell, but big-time stars including those in other sports leagues have taken a liking to the young guard as well. With the NFL set to get underway on Thursday, there lately has obviously been extensive media coverage surrounding the players and teams with interviews galore. In a recent one with Los Angeles Rams running back extraordinaire Todd Gurley, he appeared donning his very own Donovan Mitchell jersey.

As was detailed previously by my J-Notes colleague Ryan Aston, when asked about Mitchell, Gurley described that the two of them were “recent friends” and also stated, “Good dude, man. Good dude. I like his game, just thought I’d support him and wear the jersey.”

And it appears that Gurley isn’t the only NFL player whose eye Mitchell has been able to catch. In locker room interviews on Wednesday, New England Patriots defensive end Michael Bennett was also seen sporting the number 45 Jazz jersey.

It’s incredible to think that it was mere years ago that the prevalent narrative was that guys couldn’t build a brand in Salt Lake City playing for the Utah Jazz. Some say that was a contributing reason to why Gordon Hayward, and so many players before him, flew the Jazz coop as soon as they got a chance. However, Mitchell’s incredible brand presence and popularity have proven that outdated sentiment absolutely wrong.

Who could have guessed a couple years ago that either one of these guys – Gurley or Bennett – would be donning Jazz uniforms ahead of the 2019-20 NFL season? It’s almost unfathomable to believe when considering the track record of most players that suit up in small-market Utah.

But Donovan Mitchell has been so prolific on the floor and even more likable off of it, that he’s managed to win over fans of all kinds, including two well-respected NFL talents.

Next: Utah Jazz alums: Could we see a Stockton in Lakers purple and gold?

Utah Jazz fans, and the rest of Mitchell’s ever-growing number of supporters, have the chance to see him in action in FIBA World Cup play Thursday morning at 6:30 AM MT as Team USA takes on Japan, then once again on Saturday as his squad will advance to the next round of tournament action.

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LA Rams' Todd Gurley rocks Donovan Mitchell's No. 45

Ryan Aston , 2019-08-27 13:00:44
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LA Rams star RB and one-time fantasy football darling Todd Gurley repped the Utah Jazz’s Donovan Mitchell in a major way on Monday.

After a pair of rough performances in the NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl LIII and rumblings of an “arthritic component to his knee” via his personal trainer, fantasy football owners have definitely cooled on Todd Gurley. Now, questions abound regarding the 2017 NFL Offensive POY’s to maintain his level of production on the field.

If you’re a Utah Jazz fan, however, the LA Rams running back may have nonetheless earned a ceremonial place at the top of your draft board. At the least, he should probably be No. 1 in your hearts.

During his media availability on Monday, Gurley hit the scrum rocking a shirt that’s oh so familiar to Jazz fans. Namely, Donovan Mitchell‘s No. 45 on a gold, Statement Edition Jazz jersey.

But if you think Gurley was just doing so for fashion’s sake, think again. Per the man himself, he’s a major fan of the Jazz star and the two have become friendly.

“Recent friends,” he said when asked about his relationship with Mitchell. “Good dude, man. Good dude. I like his game, just thought I’d support him and wear the jersey.”

Not only is Gurley supporting Mitchell, but he sought out the jersey himself and shelled out his own cash for it when, as one reporter pointed out, he may have been able to get one for free; the mark of a true supporter.

“No, I got it off the Nike site,” said Gurley. “I wouldn’t ask him to send me one when I can get one myself.”

Gurley also spoke on getting Mitchell to autograph a jersey for him, saying that he’d pick up another one for that; the one he had on was just for wearing. He praised Mitchell’s social media activity as well.

Check out the full tape of Gurley’s press conference here —

Clearly, Gurley has good taste as relates to his NBA player (and team?) fandom.

He’s certainly given me even more reason to feel bad for drafting David Johnson over him in my fantasy league for two years running.

In response to the shout-out, Mitchell returned the favor with a tweet —

Next: Win over Canada puts Mitchell, Team USA back on track

Gurley and the Rams will kick-off their 2019 campaign on Semptember  8 at the Carolina Panthers. Mitchell will lead Team USA into World Cup play in China one week earlier.

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Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell, Team USA got much-needed gut check

Ryan Aston , 2019-08-26 04:38:47
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Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell and Team USA losing to Joe Ingles and the Aussie Boomers felt like a gut punch. Really, it was a much-needed gut check.

This weekend, we saw one Utah Jazz’s players finest moment in international competition and another Jazzman’s worst moment all in one shot. After falling to USA Basketball in their first of two exhibition bouts, Joe Ingles and the Aussie Boomers beat Donovan Mitchell and Co. in what was Australia’s first-ever win over the Americans.

Not only that: it was Team USA’s first loss in FIBA play since 2006. That’s a streak of 78 games without an L snapped in front of a hostile crowd of more than 52,000.

After the contest, Ingles, who scored 15 points, dished out seven assists and snagged four boards in the win, was surprisingly businesslike in looking back on one of the biggest wins in Boomers history —

“We can keep building or we can think we’re on top of the world now after one win. So, we’ll enjoy it tonight, but obviously it’s back to work tomorrow to get ready for the World Cup.”

Talk about acting like you’ve been there before. Good on ya, mate.

Meanwhile, some fans stateside have flipped their lids over the Team USA dropping a game to the Aussies. And who can blame them — the Americans have lacked cohesion at times on the court, some of the World Cup’s best players are suiting up for other countries and the streak is officially over.

Those realizations are enough to feel like a real gut punch. Really, though, this may be the gut check moment Mitchell, Kemba Walker and the rest of the red, white and blue crew need to get things right before they begin tournament play.

Utah’s alpha dog put it best after the game (via The Athletic’s Eric Nehm) —

“Obviously it hurts to lose, but I look at this and we look at this as more of a learning experience as opposed to we just lost,” Mitchell said. “That’s the mindset. If you think of this as a loss, you start to get carried away with all that.

“We’re focused on the film. … We’re going to watch it on the plane and we’re going to be ready for Canada. That’s the best thing. You want to win every game, but you learn a lot in losses too.”

He’s not wrong; the Ls can be just as important as anything in establishing a winning culture. In fact, a well-timed loss can be the last lesson a great team needs to learn before it can really make good on its potential. Such was the case during Team USA’s last loss, which came during the ’06 FIBA Worlds.

After the debacles that were a sixth-place finish at the ’02 World Championships and bronze at the ’04 Olympics, USA Basketball tore down their program and rebuilt it from the ground up in an earnest effort to field actual teams in international competitions, as opposed to a hodgepodge of players who just so happened to say yes.

They invested in the program, built up a pool of players, ran extended camps and did so more frequently. Finally, they established a leadership group and a philosophy under Jerry Colangelo and coach Mike Krzyzewski, guys who were in this for the long haul and not just whatever competition was coming up next.

After all that, a team populated by big-time NBA players like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Chris Bosh and Dwight Howard — just as they were all entering their primes — still managed to lose in the semifinals to Greece.

Up to that point, they had been awesome. Team USA was undefeated in group play, racking up a point differential of 115 over five games. Then, they cruised to dominant wins over the Aussies and Germany in the Round of 16 and the quarterfinals. It wasn’t just the talent winning out, either. There was actual chemistry; 12 guys buying in.

But they still lost, after which they had to swallow their pride and play in a bronze medal game with full knowledge of the fact that they’d already failed in their ultimate mission.

Two years later, the Redeem Team — which was led by the same group of players — crushed it in the Olympics. America was the dominant force in international hoops once more, and it remained so for the next decade.

Fast-forward  to now and Mitchell and the current iteration of USA Basketball may have just gone through their own last trial; that final lesson necessary to achieve total success. Thankfully, their “shocking” loss came in a friendly; a glorified scrimmage.

World Cup gold is still very much in play and, for my money, our guys are still very much the favorites.

Just so long as the lesson was actually learned.

Next: Utah Jazz notes: Tom Nissalke dies at 87, retro court leak

USA Basketball is back an action with their final exhibition game against Canada on Monday morning. The Americans will tip-off World Cup play on September 1 against the Czech Republic.

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