SALT LAKE CITY — A week after he was acquired in a draft-day trade, Louisville guard Donovan Mitchell continues to sound like he works for the Utah office of tourism.
“I’ve never seen anything like Utah as far as the scenery goes,” he said. “And the people are really nice.”
Along those lines, Mitchell is just as excited that the Utah Jazz traded the 24th pick and power forward Trey Lyles to Denver. The guard was introduced to Utah on Wednesday morning along with two fellow Jazz draft-day acquisitions, North Carolina center Tony Bradley and Gonzaga point guard Nigel Williams-Goss, at the Grand America Hotel.
“I feel like,” Mitchell said, “this place is definitely the right fit for me.”
Brigham Young couldn’t have said it better.
The 6-foot-3 guard, whose 6-foot-10 wingspan was a hot topic at this interview as it was during the pre-draft process, said the Jazz really caught his attention with the way they played the NBA champion Warriors in the second round of the recent playoffs. That made him think he’d be a good fit in Quin Snyder’s system.
“They played them tough defensively. Not a lot of teams can do that, the way they just played them tough,” Mitchell said. “There were no blowouts. It’s was all just hard-fought games. Defensively the team, Coach Snyder has done a great job and I feel like I can bring that defensive energy as well.”
Mitchell said he didn’t find out he’d been traded to the Jazz until after he’d been introduced on the stage after being picked 13th overall, put on a Denver Nuggets hat and got the chance to shake NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s hand.
“Once I got off the stage and found out I was traded, I was definitely excited,” he said.
Mitchell does feel like he can improve his decision-making when shooting and his efficiency (40.8 percent from the field as a sophomore), and he’ll get an opportunity to start on that improvement later this week when the Jazz begin a mini-camp for next week’s summer league games.
“I’m just excited to get out there and put that jersey on,” he said, “and go out there and just do what I can.”
Mitchell’s first experience in a Jazz jersey — he'll wear No. 45, by the way — was a positive one.
“I’ve been playing on (NBA) 2K with us a bunch,” he said, smiling while talking about the popular video game.
Mitchell said friends reached out to let him know that he’d scored 75 points for the Jazz in a simulated game. He laughed and said that probably won’t happen his rookie season.
“I got back Friday (after being drafted) and the rosters were already made from the draft, so I got back and played as myself,” Mitchell said. “I got a triple-double. It was very cool. It was fun.”
Bradley said he got a phone call shortly before he went on stage and donned a Lakers hat. Utah sent the 30th and 42nd picks to Los Angeles to move up two spots in order to snatch the young 6-foot-10 big man who was a backup for NCAA champion North Carolina.
Bradley, who'll sport No. 13 just as former fan favorite Mehmet Okur did, said he was able to show the Jazz that he can handle the ball, that his footwork is better than some expected, that he can use his length, rebound and take his shot out to mid-range game and beyond during his workout in Utah earlier this month.
“They see a bright future in me,” Bradley said. “They do a good job developing players, so I’m really excited.”
He concurs with Mitchell when it comes to summer league, which goes from July 3-6 at the Huntsman Center and then from July 7-17 in Las Vegas.
“I’m ready to get started,” he said, “and practice and to get ready for summer league, and get that rolling.”
Williams-Goss said he was upfront with Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey during his pre-draft workout. He and his agent were hoping the Jazz would pick him.
“(We) kind of had Utah circled as a destination that we thought best fit my style of play,” Williams-Goss said. “This is where I hoped I’d end up.”
And not just because of the ties to the former Gonzaga guard who gave him a glowing recommendation. He loves Utah’s unselfish way of play.
“To end up here at the end of this process is just a dream come true and just a blessing from God,” Williams-Goss said. “Just the way they play very unselfish, very balanced. It was very similar to the way we played at Gonzaga.”
Williams-Goss was flattered that John Stockton told Jazz management he “plays like an adult” and gave him a lofty recommendation.
“I don’t think it gets any better than a compliment or an endorsement from a guy like John Stockton, a Hall of Famer, one of the best point guards to ever play the game,” he said, adding that he played weekly against Stockton before his junior season at Gonzaga. “To have a guy like that support me is just unbelievable.”
Williams-Goss, who'll wear a 0 jersey, seems like the perfect candidate to get one of the NBA’s new two-way contracts — a deal that allows teams to secure rights of one or two G-League players without giving up one of their 15 roster spots — and he hopes to prove doubters wrong.
“I do feel like I was one of the most underrated players in this year’s draft,” he said. “And I’m just excited to get an opportunity to show what I can do. I have full confidence in my ability.”