Stock in Donovan Mitchell has slowly shifted, at least in terms of the return folks have expected on the young Utah Jazz star. After a breakout rookie season, many were expecting Mitchell to come on strong during his sophomore campaign. While that certainly happened on the offensive side of the ball, Mitchell received some additional criticism based off of his apparent dearth as a defender.
This summer, Mitchell has made it a point to remain as one of the young players with Team USA, studying under the tutelage of San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and a bevy of other great staff members.
To that end, Mitchell is now talking all the right talk about how he will be better on defense next season. Speaking to the Salt Lake Tribune this week, Mitchell said that defense will be a priority for him during his third season in the league.
“For me, the biggest thing is just to get back to my roots. The biggest thing is to elevate my defense, to get back to what got me drafted,” Mitchell told The Salt Lake Tribune after defeating Canada in the USA’s final pre-World Cup exhibition game. “I think that’s one thing I’ve prided myself on, and I think (USA head coach Gregg Popovich) has really put that in my head as well.”
Mitchell isn’t a terrible defender. He had a slightly negative defensive box plus-minus last season, and his value over replacement player is still emblematic of his viability as a star in the NBA. But as we’ve seen with other contemporaries like Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, eventually the rancor about defense reaches a tipping point, and you have to do something about it.
It seems like Mitchell wants to get ahead of that fervor, and so we will need to see just what kind of things he picked up from Team USA this summer that he can apply in Utah next year. The Jazz will definitely need him to elevate his game: they have big plans the Western Conference now wide open.