Donovan Mitchell.

Donovan Mitchell is stepping up to fill the big shoes of Gordon Hayward in Utah

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When Gordon Hayward departed the Utah Jazz to join the Boston Celtics in free agency, it left a big hole for the team to fill offensively.

The All-Star small forward posted a career-high 21.9 points per game last season and was Utah's number one option on offense.

Losing that level of production would set any team back but the Jazz have stayed competitive in the stacked Western Conference this year and currently have a 13-13 record.

A big reason for that is because the franchise may have found a ready-made replacement for Hayward a lot sooner than they would've imagined.

On draft night, the front office agreed to trade for the Denver Nuggets' number 13 pick, Donovan Mitchell, and this decision is proving to be a masterstroke.


In 26 games so far this season, the rookie is the second leading scorer for Utah averaging 17.5 points. Despite Rodney Hood being the team's leader with 17.7 points, Mitchell has dislodged him as the starting shooting guard.

Head coach Quinn Snyder has placed a lot of trust in the youngster and he is being rewarded for that faith.

Denver Nuggets v Utah Jazz

The 21-year-old has displayed a level of confidence and poise rarely seen in first-year players and has thrived with the opportunity afforded to him in Salt Lake City.

With the likes of Lonzo Ball, Markelle Fultz, De'Aaron Fox, Josh Jackson, Jayson Tatum and Dennis Smith Jr. generating the most attention in his draft class, Mitchell flew under the radar but he's emerging as the best player to come into the league this year.

It's still early in the campaign but he already looks like a steal and the Jazz have another potential star on their hands,

If there were any NBA fans who didn't know him before, they certainly did last week as he had his breakout game in the league by dropping 41 points on the New Orleans Pelicans.

The Louisville product became one of seven active players to score more than 40 points in a game as a rookie and the first since Blake Griffin in 2011.

“Utah got a star, man, for real,” Pelicans All-Star DeMarcus Cousins said after his huge performance against them.

"He dominated from start to finish," Cousins said. "... What didn't he do? He had a hell of a game. Super impressive coming from a rookie, such a young guy. To be that poised and control the game the way he did, very impressive."

That display may have prompted everybody to sit up and take notice of Mitchell but he has been putting up numbers all season.


Utah has relied heavily on Mitchell on the offensive end and he has rarely disappointed. He has a well-rounded game and can score in a variety of ways.

He has the quickness to blow by opponents and finish at the rim and is a threat from beyond the arc. The young guard is the first rookie to have back-to-back games with five or more three-pointers since Stephen Curry.

Mitchell also has the ability to make highlight plays, as shown by these pair of nasty slams against the Los Angeles Clippers:

On that night, he torched L.A. for 24 points and six assists and it led to high praise from his counterpart Austin Rivers.

“Donovan Mitchell is the best rookie in the NBA, bottom line," he said, via Slam. “He’s got way more on his shoulders than a lot of other guys, excluding Ben Simmons."

His team recently went on a six-game winning streak and he was the standout player in that run, stepping up big in the absence of both Hood and Rudy Gobert.

Speaking on ESPN's "The Jump" recently, Hall of Famer Tracy McGrady praised Mitchell for the maturity in his game and said he "doesn't play like a rookie".

This is also a quality that coach Snyder loves about his promising youngster.

"One of the things about Donovan, he's got his head on straight," he said, per ESPN.

After coming up against him on Thursday night, Houston Rockets point guard Chris Paul called him a "gem" and earlier this week, Paul George declared he was the "steal of the draft".

Many have already dubbed the Rookie of the Year race a foregone conclusion with Simmons producing outstanding performances on a nightly basis for the Philadelphia 76ers but Mitchell will definitely give him a run for his money at this rate.

The New York native has certainly made a huge impression in Utah and is allowing the fans at Vivint Smart Home Arena to quickly forget about Hayward as there's a new star in town.

Northwest Division
Western Conference
Derrick Favors
Utah Jazz
Rudy Gobert
Rodney Hood

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