Back in the 1990s, the Utah Jazz had a Hall of Fame combination of Karl Malone and John Stockton. The duo fell short of winning the NBA Title in 1997 and 1998, losing in six games each time to Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls. They were members of Team USA, are both deserving Hall of Famers, and two of the best players of the 1990s, which makes Stephen A. Smith’s take on Donovan Mitchell on Friday morning pretty hard to square, at least right now.
Mitchell has been nothing short of spectacular for the Jazz, to be clear. At just 24, he’s made back-to-back All-Star Games, and this year has the Jazz as the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. Utah was an NBA-best 52-20 this year, and is currently up 2-0 in the Western Conference Semifinals against the Los Angeles Clippers.
In a wide open Western Conference, Utah may very well find itself in the NBA Finals for the first time since Jerry Sloan, Malone, and Stockton were in Salt Lake City. He may very well wind up being the greatest Jazz player ever, when it’s all said and done. Stephen A. Smith says he’s already there, calling him “Dwyane Wade 2.0.”
“Donovan Mitchell is a superstar,” Smith proclaimed on Get Up earlier today. “Make no mistake about it. What is he, averaging like 41 in this series on 52-percent shooting? Averaging over 32 per game in the postseason. Undefeated in the starting lineup because he missed Game 1 against the Memphis Grizzlies. Dropped 50+ last year a couple of times against the Denver Nuggets in the first round.”
“Donovan Mitchell is D-Wade 2.0. Donovan Mitchell is a closer. Donovan Mitchell is a superstar. Donovan Mitchell is outplaying both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Not one or the other. Both of them. And the brother’s 24.
“Got a J. Got a handle. Got an NBA body. Is strong. Can finish at the basket. Can take it to the hole. Can create his own shot. Can hit free throws. There’s nothing this brother cannot do. In Utah, already, I don’t wanna hear about Karl Malone. I don’t wanna hear about John Stockton. That’s the best player in the history of the Jazz organization right there. I just said it, and I ain’t stuttering.”
It’s about as strong as praise gets, especially for a player that hasn’t totally cemented himself in the modern pantheon of NBA players. With how he’s played this postseason, as Smith says, he may be on his way. And if the Brooklyn Nets aren’t at full strength, with James Harden and Jeff Green back, the Utah Jazz may be his favorite to win the NBA Title for the first time, with Mitchell leading the way.