In hindsight, the workout said everything.
On May 27, 2017, the Utah Jazz brought in expected lottery pick Donovan Mitchell for a predraft workout even though they owned the No. 24 and No. 30 selections in the first round.
As is now Jazz lore, Mitchell was incredible during the workout, and the same was true during his media availability immediately afterward.
The Jazz, of course, traded the 24th pick (Tyler Lydon) and Trey Lyles to the Denver Nuggets for Mitchell — the 13th pick — on June 22, 2017, and thus officially began a stretch that saw Mitchell become one of the best young players in the NBA.
Here’s a look back at some of Mitchell’s top moments, as told by fans.
Mitchell burst onto the scene at summer league a week and a half after he got drafted (his debut came the night before Gordon Hayward left for the Boston Celtics), but then he began his rookie year as a reserve playing behind Rodney Hood (he did make an emergency start in his first game).
By just the 12th game of the season, however, Mitchell replaced Hood in the starting lineup, having already scored at least 22 points three times.
Three weeks after the lineup change, Mitchell took things to a whole new level in a Dec. 1 home game against the New Orleans Pelicans, scoring 41 points, including 17 in the fourth quarter as the Jazz won in comeback fashion.
Mitchell’s ascension was fast, as evidenced by the fact that he ended up participating in the dunk contest during NBA All-Star Weekend his rookie year.
Well, he didn’t just participate. He won the thing in spectacular fashion, and his stardom accelerated even more.
The playoff series vs OKC. Just ALL of it. All of that whole series is my favorite Donovan Mitchell "moment" 😍— Shark! Jazz Shark Mandy (@MndyH_JazzShark) September 1, 2022
Despite Mitchell’s great start, the Jazz — as many predicted once Hayward left — got off to a rough start and were just 19-28 through Mitchell’s first 47 games.
But over the last 35 of the regular season, the Jazz were incredible, going 29-6 and earning the No. 5 seed in the playoffs, where they were a pretty significant first-round underdog against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Behind an average of 28.5 points per game from Mitchell, however, the Jazz stunned everybody by winning the series in six games, which set the franchise’s tone for the next four years.
In truth, it could be said that Mitchell was usually at his best in the playoffs, as he twice scored 50 points in the 2020 first-round series against the Denver Nuggets in the NBA’s bubble in Orlando. In one, Denver’s Jamal Murray also eclipsed 50 in an incredible showdown of two young players.
His battle with Jamal Murray in the bubble where they both dropped 50 points. Super competitive game for both teams.— Jana Adams (@JLAdamswx) September 1, 2022
But back to Mitchell’s rookie year, following the season he finished second in Rookie of the Year voting behind Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons (much to the dismay of Jazz fans).
He had already endeared himself in Utah to a great degree, but he took it to a greater level when he asked on social media if anyone was having Fourth of July celebrations, and then he actually pulled up at some.
When he tweeted out asking where the 4th of July parties were and then actually pulled up to a few. That was pretty cool.— Michael Creger (@MikeCreger) September 1, 2022
Mitchell did that a lot, involving himself in the community by going to various events, particularly before the pandemic hit in 2020. Even this year, despite being a three-time NBA All-Star now, he began doing it more again as restrictions eased.
Some other memories of Mitchell’s Jazz tenure that fans recalled:
Playing exhibition game for Team USA vs Australia in Melbourne and he stopped to sign my D.O.N #1 shoes— Ray Ray (@JazzRaytion) September 2, 2022
Clippers game his first year. showed me he was for real. every subsequent game thereafter— Tyson Broschinsky (@Bro_Tyson) September 1, 2022
My daughter is a Suns fan. As a surprise we flew out to Phoenix for a Jazz/Suns game on 04/07/2021 where winner would be in 1st place in the west. Don drained a CLUTCH pull up 3 with 10 seconds left to send it to OT. Jazz which made my kid happy but that shot was awesome to see! pic.twitter.com/Bu3ghaZKLi— David (@babydave13) September 1, 2022
The first time I saw him in person was his rookie year against the Cavs. Don went off and beat Lebron and D-Wade’s Cavs. He had a highlight dunk where his head was nearly above the rim.— AJ (@45ForMVP) September 2, 2022
Watching him live was incredible and I couldn’t believe the Jazz had a player like that.