Donovan Mitchell surprised everybody wrote off Utah Jazz so quickly: ‘They got hoopers’

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The Utah Jazz have been one of the more surprising teams in the NBA to start the 2022-23 season, winning six of their first eight games.

They looked to be heading towards a full-blown rebuild this season after they traded away Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell and Bojan Bogdanovic in the offseason. However, Utah has shown that it is still going to compete, knocking off teams like the Memphis Grizzlies (twice), Denver Nuggets, New Orleans Pelicans and Minnesota Timberwolves to start this season.

Of Utah’s six wins, five have come against teams that made the playoffs in the Western Conference last season.

Mitchell, who was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for Collin Sexton, Lauri Markkanen, Ochai Agbaji three unprotected first-round picks and two pick swaps, had some major praise for his former team.

“They got hoopers,” Mitchell told Heavy Sports. “I don’t know why everybody was so quick to write them off.

“I think they got phenomenal leaders in that locker room. Mike Conley is a phenomenal leader. Jordan Clarkson is a phenomenal leader. Then they got Collin Sexton and Lauri Markkanen, guys who can really go … Malik Beasley. Like, they’re just not some slump. They have guys that can really go.”

Conley and Clarkson are two of the key veterans that the team held onto this offseason, and they have come up big early on in the 2022-23 season.

Clarkson is second on the team averaging 16.5 points per game while Conley leads the team dishing out 7.0 assists per night. As a team, the Jazz are shooting 36.3 percent from beyond the arc, which is good for 12th in the NBA.

Markkanen, the former Cavalier, has been the biggest addition to Utah’s roster this season. He is averaging a team-high 22.6 points per game while shooting 50.7 percent from the field and 31.5 percent from beyond the arc.

Even though the Jazz traded away All-Stars like Mitchell and Gobert, the team has come together to at least start the season strong. Utah will still have plenty of competition in a loaded Western Conference for a playoff spot, but the team is showing that it can get things done without a true star player on the roster.

Mitchell’s 2022-23 season has also gotten off to a great start, as he and the Cavs are 5-1 despite missing Darius Garland (eye injury) for most of the 2022-23 season.

That has thrust Mitchell into a bit more of a role as the team’s point guard, but he’s thrived in it averaging 32.2 points, 4.5 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game while shooting 49.6 percent from the field and 45.5 percent from beyond the arc.

Mitchell explained that he and the Cavs have their eyes on an NBA title this season.

“I think we’re a group that’s trying to get, not just to the playoffs, but continue to get to a championship level,” Mitchell said. “And, you know, when you have guys that are continuously working and working, and we all have something to prove and everything aligns, that’s what you’re seeing in this group — continuing to fight and fight for something big.”

Even though Mitchell is no longer with Utah, it’s great to see him supporting his former teammates while also thriving in his new role in Cleveland.

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Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.