The 7th Best Player Performance of 2017-2018

September 11th, 2018 | by Clint Johnson

The Utah Jazz’s Donovan Mitchell enjoys his 40-point devastation of the Phoenix Suns, the second 40-point game of his explosive rookie season. (Joe Camporeale / USA TODAY Sports)

Leading up to start of the 2018-19 Utah Jazz season, Salt City Hoops is counting down the ten best player performances from last season. See games that just missed the top ten here and also check out #10, #9, and #8 from previous weeks!

#7: Donovan Mitchell, February 2nd, 2018

Jazz 129, Suns 97 in Phoenix

40 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, 74% field goals, 7 of 9 from three, 5 of 5 free throws. [32.7 PIE, 38.4 GmSc]1

Context

The Jazz were coming off a 30-point dismantling of the Golden State Warriors and a road victory over the East-leading Toronto Raptors before that. While still outside looking in on the top eight spots and a statistical long shot for the postseason, Utah was playing fantastic basketball and no Western Conference team wanted to face them in the playoffs. But this game against Phoenix was the opening contest in a stretch of five of six games on the road, including contests against San Antonio, New Orleans, and Portland. One poor road trip would have excluded them from the playoffs. 

Why It Makes the List

Donovan Mitchell was a rookie. Donovan Mitchell scored 40. For the SECOND TIME that season. 

Statistically speaking, Mitchell’s decimation of the Suns was the most dominant game of the year, and one of the most dominant in Jazz history. 40, six, five, and two on a true shooting percentage of .943? Consider that basketball gem in context2:

  • Only 13 rookies in NBA history have achieved a Game Score of 38 or better in a contest. Eight became (or are in the process of becoming) first-ballot Hall of Famers. Four more were All-Stars.3 
  • Only Michael Jordan and Allen Iverson produced more than two 40-point games as rookies, while Blake Griffin matched Mitchell’s two.
  • For the Jazz, only Karl Malone, Adrian Dantley, and Darrell Griffith have scored 40 or more twice in a season at any point in their career4
  • None of Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer, Andrei Kirilenko, Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, or Gordon Hayward ever had a game for the Jazz that matched the statistical impact of Mitchell’s torching the Suns.
  • The other players in the NBA last season to have a game that rated at or better than a 38 Game Score and 32 Player Impact Estimate? James Harden, Anthony Davis, Stephen Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, Kemba Walker, Lou Williams, and CJ McCollum. 

There is a strong case to be made that Mitchell’s performance against the Suns deserves a spot as one of the 20-best statistical performances in the regular season history of the Utah Jazz.

Take Note

With a rookie leading scorer, the Jazz notched back-to-back 30-point blowouts against the Warriors and the Suns. That’s only the third time in franchise history the team managed that winning margin in two consecutive games.  

Clint Johnson

Clint Johnson

Clint Johnson is a professional author, writing educator, and editor. He teaches writing at Salt Lake Community College. A frequent presenter at both writing and educational conferences, he writes about the Jazz as a break from his other writing work.

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