NBA Journey Week Seven: A New Band Leader

The 2017-18 NBA season is a quarter of the way done. There will be scores of articles about questioning good teams, declaring individual award races over, and the bickering over true shooting percentage and defensive rating. There is also a feeling surrounding this season that we're headed towards the inevitability of a Golden State Warriors championship. Thus, some of the fun is met with a bit of gloom. Cheer up, lover of hoops. Basketball is a sport in which the journey of the season is just as important as its destination in the Finals. Here at TSFJ, we're going to highlight some things and people the basketball realm can be excited for between now and June.

Song of the Week: "Stand Out", A Goofy Movie (1995)

Point guard: the Jet Li movie about parallel universes and Neo Anderson of "The Matrix" of positions in basketball. The One. The lead, floor general, and every synonym of conductor and pacesetter that exists in hoops.

In today's NBA, point guard is the position with an enormous pool of talent. For perspective, Mike Conley Jr. is a wonderful player and he has yet to make an All-Star team in ten seasons. It is not his fault his contemporaries like Steph Curry and Kyrie Irving are some of the best players in the world.

The 2017 NBA Draft included highly-touted prospects at the point guard position. Three of the first five picks, and five of the first nine, were one-guards. The basketball universe is enamored with the top of the class, as it should be. However, I'd like to reach deeper into the well and highlight a player selected later who is having a surprising impact in his first year.

At the onset of the season, Donovan Mitchell was slated to get spot minutes for the Utah Jazz. The team had traded for Ricky Rubio, Dante Exum was healthy and returning from yet another injury, Raul Neto and Alec Burks are both promising backcourt talents and Mitchell — the 13th pick out of Louisville — was to learn slowly. Mitchell became a darling of the Summer League, making highlight reel plays. He has carried his infectious energy into the regular season, averaging 16 points per game in 29 minutes.

The 2017 NBA Draft was full of tremendous point guard prospects, which is how a guy like Mitchell can be overlooked. (Sports Hungry)

Donovan Mitchell is tough. He appears to have that proverbial bulldog mentality — an in-your-face moxie that shines through on both ends of the floor. His understated athleticism and quickness with the ball has led to a few remarkable plays, like this finish on an alley-oop. Mitchell's best game to date is a 41-point outing against the New Orleans Pelicans.

Highlighting Mitchell is in no way an effort in diminishing any of the other rookie guards who, while obviously talented and productive, have struggled at times. Even Mitchell has had an off night, only tallying four points against the Chicago Bulls on November 22. Like the more veteran point guards, the depth of talent among the rookie guards is deeper than the narrative may suggest. Let's hope all of them reach their fullest potential.

We go to the blurbs!

  • LeBron got ejected for the first time in his career. I have nothing to add, other than that is hilarious in both that it hadn't happened in fifteen seasons and that the first ejection came fifteen seasons in. The only thing more hilarious in that realm is that the aformentioned Mike Conley Jr. has yet to pick up a technical foul.
  • The Sixers need to do right by Jahlil Okafor and trade him. I get that his game belongs in 1992, but he can help somebody, or at least bring back assets that continue The Process. Sitting on the bench doesn't help player or franchise.
  • Steph Curry is closing in on 2,000 career threes made. While there are already seven players who have eclipsed that mark, each of them needed at least 1,200 games to do so. Curry will surpass the 2,000 mark in half as many games. There is no bigger sign of the "new" NBA than this. Curry further cements himself as the best shooter who ever lived.

Seven weeks of the Association. We continue on. Happy NBA, folks.

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