Maybe it’s because Donovan Mitchell’s game has been compared to his, or because the rookie sensation had just led the Utah Jazz to a victory over his Portland Trail Blazers when he made his comments, but Damian Lillard thinks the Louisville product is in pole position for the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award.
He said as much on Sunday night, after Mitchell had led Jazz scorers with 27 points in a blowout victory over Portland despite Lillard’s 39.
Damian Lillard on Donovan Mitchell: “I think he should be rookie of the year, for sure. Not just because of his numbers, but his impact on their team. He’s basically leading them. It’s special to see a rookie be able to do what he’s doing out there.”
— Joe Freeman (@BlazerFreeman) February 12, 2018
Though he was less efficient a night later, shooting 9-of-28 for 25 points, the Jazz rookie came up with huge plays down the stretch to earn a narrow victory over the San Antonio Spurs.
Donovan Mitchell doing it all in crunch time 👀 pic.twitter.com/Y674VDsm7n
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 13, 2018
The Jazz have ridden a 10-game winning streak to within a game and a half of the West’s eighth playoff seed. Mitchell, the 13th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, has appeared in nine of those games, averaging 21 points, four rebounds, and 3.6 assists during the stretch; those numbers are historic.
The Jazz have won 10 consecutive games — and rookie Donovan Mitchell has been the team’s leading scorer during the streak.
He’s the 1st rookie to lead his team in scoring during a 10-game winning streak since Wilt Chamberlain for the 1959-60 Warriors.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 13, 2018
Mitchell’s main competition for Rookie of the Year honors is Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons.
Here’s how their seasons compare statistically, according to Sports Reference.
As far as team success goes, Simmons has the edge—his 76ers are 29-25 and seventh in the Eastern Conference; the Jazz are 29-28 and 10th out West.