Donovan Mitchell is the Utah Jazz’s leading scorer, averaging 26.4 points per game over the season. He’s more often than not the player that is initiating the offense and has the ball in his hands more than any other guy on the team.
So what happens now that he’s sidelined with an injury? How will the Jazz’s offense and defense change?
Well, the Jazz are hoping that while Mitchell recovers from his ankle sprain that not much on the court will change.
“I thought it was going to be different, but we are really playing great basketball,” Bojan Bogdanovic said after Wednesday’s win over Houston. “We’re moving the ball, every other day we are ending up with like with five or six players with the same number of shots, so we are team playing like we are No. 1. ... I think that’s why we are playing good basketball and we are successful even without our best player and our leader.”
Mitchell is scheduled to be reevaluated Saturday, a week after injuring his ankle in a win against the Indiana Pacers. But, in the meantime, the Jazz don’t want to change things up too much and lose the continuity they’ve built over the course of the season.
Instead, the work the Jazz do while Mitchell is out will be more about minor tweaks and increased workload for the rest of the team.
“Obviously, with Donovan out, I just have the ball a bit more,” Mike Conley said. “I’m able to just dissect and play the game and be the man I know I can be. And that’s credit to our team and coaching staff and the system. I’m just trying to play within that game.”
Mitchell has only missed three games so far, but with the ankle sprain being termed as “significant,” and with the Jazz playing mostly sub-.500 teams through the rest of the regular season, it’s likely that Mitchell is out for a bit longer, and there’s not really a reason to rush him back before he is ready to go.
Though, with the lofty postseason goals the Jazz have, there is a balance that needs to be struck between going into the playoffs with some momentum and fighting to keep the No. 1 seed, but also remaining healthy and fresh for what could be a trying postseason run.
That’s not to say that things will be easy without Mitchell, however long that ends up being. But the Jazz have the depth and talent to be able to maintain their position without him for a bit.
“With a guy of Donovan’s talent and how important to our team he is, we obviously miss him out there,” Joe Ingles said Wednesday. “We’ve done a good job this trip of picking up the pace a little bit. ... I think everyone realizes what he brings to our team and what he does for our team. So we all know we’ve got to kind of step up.”
The Jazz will get back to the court on Saturday with a game at home against the Minnesota Timberwolves, then they’ll start a three-game road trip with a game at Minnesota on Monday.