Michael Jordan is one of the greatest NBA players of all time. As such, many other players are measured against his amazing standard. Jazz favorite Donovan Mitchell is a promising player whom many fans and pundits compare and contrast with Jordan. Mitchell had a fantastic rookie season, breaking Jordan’s record for the number of points scored in the first two games of a playoff series by a rookie. Mitchell scored 55 points, beating Jordan by two.
But how does Mitchell really stack up against Jordan? While there’s no way to know exactly how they would compare if pitted against each other with Jordan in his prime, their rookie statistics can provide some valuable insight into what type of player they both are.
Here’s a closer look:
Height - Mitchell stands at 6-feet 3-inches tall, while Jordan is 6-feet 6-inches tall. While it’s only a 3-inch difference, those inches make a difference, especially when it comes to rebounding the ball and blocking opponents.
Points - In his rookie season (1984-85) with the Chicago Bulls, Jordan averaged 28.2 points per game during the regular season (82 games), while averaging 29.3 points in the postseason (4 games). In contrast, Mitchell averaged 20.5 points during the regular season (79 games), while averaging 24.4 points in the postseason (11).
Field goal percentage - During his rookie season, Jordan averaged 51.5 percent for field goals attempted and made, while Mitchell had 43.6 percent. While there’s a fairly stark difference between the regular season averages, Jordan and Mitchell were relatively close during their rookie playoff runs. Jordan was 43.6 percent for field goals while Mitchell was 42 percent. However, Jordan played less than half the games than Mitchell played with the Jazz.
3-point percentage - If Jordan lacks for any stat, it’s in his comfort shooting behind the arc. While extremely effective below the net, he rarely attempted 3-pointers. During his rookie season, Jordan averaged 0.1-of-0.6 3-pointers per game, giving him 17.3 percent accuracy. He was 12.5 percent from the arc during the playoffs that year.
In contrast, Mitchell is more comfortable shooting 3-pointers. In the 2017-18 season, Mitchell was 2.4-of-7.0, giving him a 34 percent for 3-pointers. He was 31.3 percent during the playoffs. While Jordan’s accuracy with shooting threes improved in subsequent seasons (with the exception of the 1987-88 season), he continued to dominate more below the net and rarely attempted 3-pointers.
Rebounds - Rebounding the ball is one area where Jordan’s extra three inches probably help. During the 1984-85 season, Jordan averaged 6.5 rebounds per game, with 2 offensive rebounds and 4.5 defensive rebounds. During the playoffs, he similarly averaged 1.8 offensive rebounds and 4 defensive rebounds per game.
Mitchell was a great defensive rebounder during the Jazz playoff run, averaging 5.1 defensive rebounds per game while averaging 0.8 offensive rebounds. While his regular season stats for offensive rebounds were similar (0.7), he only averaged 2.4 defensive rebounds per game.
Assists - When it comes to assists, Jordan also put up better stats than Mitchell during his rookie season, with an average 5.9 assists per game in the regular season and 8.5 during the playoffs. Mitchell had an average 3.7 assists per game in the regular season, with 4.2 during the 2018 playoffs.
Blocks - Neither player is a very dominant blocker; however, Jordan put up higher stats during his rookie season, averaging 0.8 blocks per game during the regular season and 1 block per game during the playoffs. Mitchell averaged 0.3 blocks per game during the regular season while averaging 0.4 during the playoffs.
Free throw percentage - Mitchell and Jordan put up similar free throw percentages during their rookie seasons. However, while Jordan had a stronger showing during the regular season, Mitchell had a higher average during playoff games, even though he also played more games in his rookie playoff run. During the 2018 NBA Playoffs, Mitchell averaged 3.5-of-3.9 free throws per game, giving a percentage of 90.7. During the regular season, he averaged 3.0-of-3.8.
During his rookie season, Jordan was 84.5 percent from the free throw line, while he shot 82.8 percent during the playoffs.
Turnovers - During his rookie season, Mitchell averaged 2.7 turnovers per game during the regular season and 2.9 turnovers during the playoffs. In contrast, Jordan averaged 3.5 turnovers during the regular season and 3.8 during the playoffs.
While these stats indicate that Mitchell had better control of the ball and was less likely to commit turnovers, this type of stat is more subjective. Players who have the ball more often have a greater chance of committing a turnover just because they have possession, so there’s a good chance that Jordan’s stats might be higher because he was given the ball more often.
Steals - Jordan also had higher stats for steals. He stole the ball an average of 2.4 times per game during the regular season and averaged 2.8 steals per game during the postseason. Mitchell averaged 1.5 steals per game during both the regular and postseason.
While Jordan reigns supreme in many areas, Mitchell gives him a run for his money when it comes to three-point shooting and turnovers. However, these types of stats don’t take into account other considerations. Each player competed for different types of teams composed of unique players. Style of play has also changed during the three-decade gap between their rookie seasons.
While many factors can be taken into account for the comparison, the fact of the matter is that both players are excellent in their own right. Jordan is a household name, while Mitchell is still making a name. Anyone who has seen Mitchell play, however, can vouch for the fact that he has remarkable potential. He wins fans by the day who are eager to watch his career progress to new heights.