Unlike Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons, there’s no denying that Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz and Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics are true NBA rookies.
After averaging 15.6 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists in 32.3 minutes at the University of Louisville last season, Mitchell has emerged as one of the most pleasant surprises in recent draft history. Taking over for Gordon Hayward after he left in free agency, Mitchell instantly became Utah’s go-to scorer and put up 20.5 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists over 33.4 minutes per contest in the regular season.
Tatum starred for Duke University during his one-and-done college season last year and averaged 16.8 points and 7.3 rebounds in 33.3 minutes per game there. Interestingly, his success this season was also linked to Hayward, but in a different way. Hayward’s injury in the season opener led to added offensive opportunities for Tatum, who already projected to be an elite defender. He put up 13.9 points and 5.0 rebounds in 30.5 minutes per game during the regular season.
Although the players are asked to do much different things for their respective teams, they’ve both stepped up in the playoffs. Mitchell has averaged an amazing 27.4 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.0 assists in 38.6 minutes per contest in his seven postseason games while Tatum brought his playoff averages up to 17.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists after a 28-point, three-rebound, two-assist night in a Game 1 victory against the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday.
It was Tatum’s third-straight 20-plus point playoff game. Mitchell has gone over 20 in all seven of his postseason games. If you were wondering, a pair of rookies haven’t had three-straight 20-plus point playoff games in a long time. In fact, it's been decades.
It seems as though Simmons, Mitchell and Tatum are three rookies who possess an incredible amount of potential as all three have found ways to make immediate impacts for their respective clubs. It’s not a coincidence that the Sixers, Jazz and Celtics are all still in the playoffs.
What’s most amazing is that Simmons, Mitchell and Tatum are arguably the most important players on their teams right now, thrust into major roles while under the spotlight of the entire league. It will be fascinating to watch their progression over the coming years, as this immediate postseason experience should bode well for them in the long run.
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