SALT LAKE CITY — Donovan Mitchell can’t seem to take his eyes off the scenery. Raised near New York, he marvels at the sweeping view of the Wasatch Front.
The Utah Jazz could say something similar about him.
The Jazz officially welcomed Mitchell and fellow rookies Tony Bradley and Nigel Williams-Goss to town on Wednesday. It was an impressive group. Among the three newcomers, there are nearly 21 combined feet of wingspan, which is, oh, half the circumference of the Great Salt Lake.
Mitchell, a combo guard, is 6 feet 2 with a 6-10 wingspan. Bradley is 6-9 with a 7-5 reach. Williams-Goss is 6-2 with a 6-7 spread. This is all good for the Jazz. According to a study by doctors at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, the average adult male has an arm span roughly two inches longer than his height. The Jazz’s new additions vastly exceed that.
Why the Jazz obsess over length is obvious: to stop the Golden State Warriors. The Jazz will never outshoot the NBA champions. But what they can do is throw versatile, lengthy players the Warriors’ way and try to disrupt their rhythm, and get them off balance and/or out of range.
The timing for players such as Mitchell couldn’t be better. Long ago, a player’s height was what people noted. The taller the better. But gradually the perspective changed. Teams don’t want anyone built like a Tyrannosaurus.
Enter Mitchell, an Atlantic Coast Conference All-Defensive Team selection who blocked 17 shots last year.
His reach isn’t just there for showboating.
“When I got to the (draft) combine, everybody started going crazy over it. I was kind of like, ‘Maybe I do have kind of long arms,’” Mitchell said. “I never really thought about it until now.”
The Jazz sure did.
How much will Donovan Mitchell help the Jazz?— Deseret News Sports (@desnewssports) June 28, 2017
“There is a wingspan differential, if you will, that does show, given the right athleticism, given the right skills, given the right mindset,” Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey said. “It can’t be just wingspan, absent all those other characteristics. So we’ve tried to have guys that are either big and/or long, and with a defensive mindset.”
It makes sense the Jazz would choose length and defense as their calling card. Golden State has both of those, as well as great shooting. Kevin Durant is 6-10, with a 7-5 wingspan.
The length issue didn’t just arrive. It’s been there lurking for decades. Scottie Pippen was 6-8, with a 7-3 reach. Kevin McHale is said to have been just 6-10, but possessing an 8-foot wingspan. Wilt Chamberlain was seven inches longer in reach than height. Manute Bol, the 7-7 former player, had an 8-foot reach.
It’s not all limited to mid- or large-size players, either. Jerry West was just 6-2, but had a 6-9 span.
San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard is just 6-7, but can stretch his arms to 7-4.
As Lindsey notes, nowadays length must be combined with athleticism. Mitchell covers that nicely, with a 40-inch vertical.
Rudy Gobert, at 7-2, has an 8-foot wingspan. George Hill is 6-2, but has a 7-foot reach. Gordon Hayward is 6-8 with 7-foot reach.
Lindsey admits the Jazz’s length is a big part of their recent success.
“Certainly, two-way ability is important, and obviously to have two-way ability — size and length for a position is important,” Lindsey said.
This is good news for Mitchell, Bradley and Williams-Goss. Mitchell was not a great college shooter, but recent video of him sinking perimeter shoots at practice are convincing. Thus on Wednesday, the Jazz rolled out their 2017 draftees at the Grand America Hotel, and it was a fittingly grand affair. Every major Utah media outlet was on hand. Lindsey looked as relaxed as a general manager can be, just days away from the free agency period.
Meanwhile, Mitchell, wearing a Jazz cap and an unforced smile, looked happy. That’s how it goes when you’re, well, reaching for the stars.
“It took me awhile to find shirts you wouldn’t be able to find in stores,” Mitchell said.
Now he can get them tailor-made, just as he’s made for the Jazz.
How long will it take Donovan Mitchell to become a starter?— Deseret News Sports (@desnewssports) June 28, 2017