Utah Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell is developing into one of the most exciting young players in the league and enhanced his growing reputation with another stunning display against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Mitchell scored 29 points to lead the Jazz to a 104-101 win to condemn the Cavs to a third straight loss and spoil LeBron James’ 33rd birthday.
The 21-year-old shot an efficient 10-of-17 from the field and made huge plays throughout the game, including a layup in traffic over James with 35 seconds remaining to give his team a 100-97 lead that effectively sealed the victory.
The shooting guard has stepped in to fill the shoes of Gordon Hayward after his free agency departure to the Boston Celtics and has become the team’s offensive leader.
He’s one of the most explosive young players in the league and has put together an impressive highlight reel already in his short career and continued that with another eye-catching play against the Cavs.
In the opening minutes of the contest, Mitchell connected on an alley-oop pass from point guard Ricky Rubio and threw down a thunderous two-handed dunk with his head almost touching the rim.
He once again showcased his full offensive repertoire in this encounter and demonstrated that he’s an athletically gifted player as well as a natural scorer.
Plays like this prove why he should be a participant in this year’s Slam Dunk Contest and he has provided some terrific hops throughout the year too.
In just his first season in the league, the Louisville product’s impact on Utah has been huge as he’s their leading scorer averaging 18.2 points per game.
He has drawn praise from all over the NBA from fellow players and LeBron became the latest to do so after seeing him torch the Cavs.
“He’s a player,” James said, per ESPN. “The kid had a lot of game and they’ve been riding that wave all season since they realized what they actually got. He’s not afraid of the moment. They put him in situations where he can succeed and he tries to take advantage of it.”
Mitchell is already a leading candidate for the Rookie of the Year award and will be fighting with the likes of Ben Simmons, Kyle Kuzma, and Lauri Markkanen for the honor.
But he currently leads all rookies in scoring and his performances in December have made people stand up and take notice of his talents.
He’s averaged 22.6 points on 50 percent shooting in the month of December, which includes becoming the first rookie since Blake Griffin in 2011 to record a 40-point game.
With more than half of the season still to play, the young guard could produce many more standout performances but it’s already clear that Utah has another star on its hands.