If Donovan Mitchell wants to continue emulating Kobe Bryant on the basketball court, he just received the ultimate endorsement in that quest.
According to Fox Sports Radio host Jason Smith, the answer is a resounding yes. Here’s why.
Donovan Mitchell has had a strong start to his career
The 13th overall pick out of Louisville in 2017, Donovan Mitchell has grown into one of the league’s top young players.
The 23-year-old made his first All-Star Game earlier this year and averaged 24 points, 4.4 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and a steal per night in 69 games. Mitchell tied his career-high in points (46) on January 16 in a loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.
Mitchell also grabbed a career-high 12 rebounds in a victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Oct. 23, 2019.
The duo of Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert has turned Utah into a formidable team in the Western Conference. Utah and Denver split the first two games of their Western Conference first-round matchup.
A radio host compared Donovan Mitchell to Kobe Bryant
Donovan Mitchell is one of the NBA’s top young players. At least one media member thinks he could soon be the face of the NBA.
Fox Sports Radio host Jason Smith said Mitchell is the “closest thing to Kobe Bryant that the NBA has right now” for two reasons.
Mitchell has the age — he doesn’t turn 24 until September 7 — and the “Mamba Mentality” that made Bryant so successful.
“And that’s why I say in two years, it’s going to be his league because I don’t see another player that has that and that captures our imagination and our interest, and that’s why I say that about Donovan Mitchell. It’s not about the other players. Hey look, they’re all great, but this is about Donovan Mitchell and the unique skill set that he has of what he can do on the basketball court at his age.”
Smith said Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard also has the ‘Mamba Mentality.’ However, Smith said Lillard’s age (he turned 30 in July) means he won’t be the face of the league for as long as Mitchell can.
Where do Mitchell and Bryant stack up against one another?
Jason Smith believes Donovan Mitchell is the league’s closest active player to Kobe Bryant. His reasoning, from the age to the mentality, makes sense.
In terms of on-court numbers, let’s look at how the two performed through their first three seasons.
- Donovan Mitchell: 22.7 points per game on 43.9% shooting and 35.5% from three-point range in 225 games (217 starts). Mitchell also averaged four assists, 4.1 rebounds, and 1.3 steals per night. He earned his first All-Star Game in his third season. Mitchell averaged 24.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.1 assists, and 1.4 steals in his first 18 playoff games (through Aug. 20, 2020).
- Kobe Bryant: 13.8 points per game on 43.9% shooting and 33.5% from three-point range in 200 games (57 starts). Bryant also averaged 2.4 assists, 3.2 rebounds, and one steal per night. He earned his first All-Star Game in his second season. Bryant also averaged 11.7 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 0.8 steals in his first 28 playoff games.
The comparison isn’t a perfect one. Mitchell joined Utah’s starting lineup on a full-time basis early in his rookie year, while Bryant came off the bench in his first two seasons.
The two also played in vastly different eras. The NBA relies more on three-point shooting than it did when Bryant entered the league in 1996.
Still, the comparisons are there, including identical field-goal percentages. If Donovan Mitchell has been this good through his first three seasons, Jazz fans have to be excited at what’s coming in the 2020s — so long as they sign him to an extension, of course.