• Adam Bushman

3 Things We Learned About Donovan from FIBA

Donovan Mitchell has been proving people wrong since day one and the World Cup was just the latest example

Donovan Mitchell proved to be Team USA's best player over the course of the World Cup.

The FIBA tournament was full of mixed emotions for Jazz fans.

Team USA was no exception.

After most top 20 American players pulled out of contention for the 2019 FIBA World Cup roster, young players like Donovan Mitchell were thrust into a role with high expectations.

After a close calls to Turkey and an uninspiring win over Brazil, Team USA was matched against France in the quarter-final. Rudy Gobert punished Team USA’s weak big-man rotation, and despite Donovan’s 3Q heroics, Team USA lost 79-89.

The loss was disappointing, to say the least. For the US, it’s gold...or bust.

Donovan Mitchell took a large share of the blame, most undeservingly. Donovan led Team USA as their best player, especially in the advanced stats. For those who paid attention, Donovan answered a lot of questions this tournament.

Here are three things we learned about Donovan during his run with Team USA:

Donovan’s defense has turned up

When Donovan was snatched from the grasp of our NBA neighbors to the East in the 2017 NBA Draft, Mitchell assured fans that his primary objective was to contribute on defense.

It was soon evident that we needed his offensive skills more than his sole defensive focus. On the surface Donovan has been an average defensive player learning the game. On further inspection, he’s been a good asset.

Mitchell ranks 99th of 435 qualified players in combined defensive metrics over the past three years (DRAYMOND, D-PIPM, DWS/48, DBPM).That puts him in the top 25% of the league. He ranks 16th among guards

During the World Cup, Donovan proved he has the defensive chops to be a contributor

on that end of the floor. Frequently guarding the best opposing guard,

he was able to lock down on the likes of Patty Mills during the tournament.

If these strides are real, Donovan could be a major staple on the defensive end next year, thus helping to cement the Jazz as a top 5 defensive team and ensuring Donovan’s overall rise in the advanced stats.

Donovan has to be on the floor

Since Rodney Hood unexpectedly came down with a stomach ache seconds prior to tip-off, Donovan Mitchell has proven he needs to be on the court.

His rookie year he was in the 89%tile in on/off point differential. That fell to the 69%tile his sophomore season when the league caught up to his style of play. During the FIBA tournament, we were reminded just how much he impacts his team.

Donovan averaged a +12 during his eight games with Team USA, easily the highest mark on the team. His balance of offense and defense allowed him to impact the team more than anyone.

He was the appointed captain, but he led his troops in the true sense of the word.

Donovan’s efficiency is encouraging

One of Mitchell’s major criticisms throughout his short career has been his efficiency.

Through two seasons, he’s achieved 49.9% eFG, a disappointment in the minds of those who compare him to scoring guards like Kemba Walker and Kyrie Irving.

Yet we all forget that he’s not an eight year veteran. Since 2008-09, NBA guards through their second season with >100 GP have a median eFG% of 48.0%. Furthermore, NBA guards with a USG rate of >25% have a median eFG% of 45.9%.

Suffice it to say, the “chucker” narrative surrounding Donovan has been entirely unwarranted.

Yet Donovan further embarrased his naysayers during the World Cup. By tournament end, Donovan shot a 56.3% eFG with 40.5% on his 42 three point attempts.

Quite the leap from his past two seasons.

Although his stats were lowered in the aggregate, “Spida” was helped in the efficiency category by the better talent around him.

With Conley, Ingles, Bogdanovic, and Gobert likely to join him as Utah’s starting five next year, Donovan may indeed fall closer to his FIBA shooting splits than that of his career mark.

The Utah Jazz have won better than 70% of their games when Donovan exceeds a 50% eFG tally. His efficiency strides at the FIBA World Cup are incredibly encouraging.

Donovan Mitchell will be joining his fellow teammates in Utah over the coming weeks in preparation for training camp. With extra weapons at his side, new found experience, and a refined game, Mitchell may be in for one heck of a year.

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