And If You Don't Know, Now You Know
Donovan Mitchell is for real. This guy just does not look like a rookie. And he is a problem for the Oklahoma City Thunder. You knew he was good. You didn't know he was this good. He had a hell of a rookie season, and if not for the transcendent talent that is Ben Simmons, he would have been Rookie of the Year. A big time rookie season doesn't usually translate to success in the playoffs. Most great rookie seasons don't lead to a playoff appearance. And usually when the playoffs arrive the rookies are exposed. Not so much this year.
Jayson Tatum looks like a vet. With no Kyrie Irving or Marcus Smart or Gordon Hayward or Daniel Theis... the Celtics were looking around the locker room wondering who could take the reigns in Game 1 of their series against the Bucks. The answer was a 20-year old rookie. Tatum played 44 minutes, going 8-18, with 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and a block and scoring 19 points. More important than the numbers was the way he went about his business. He exuded a confidence beyond his years. Watch him shake the Freak:
Play after play, he left his imprint on the game, including the clutch layup in overtime:
And culminating with the game-sealing block:
His numbers came back to earth a bit in Game 2, but they didn't need as much out of him since Jaylen Brown went berserk. He only had to play 30 minutes and although he struggled from the field still managed 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals and a block, finishing plus 11 in the win.
Ben Simmons is the epicenter of all rumblings out of the Springfield Tire Fire of sports that is Philadelphia. The Sixers are without their All Star center, Joel Embiid. But Ben Simmons has put the city on his back. At this point, I think JoJo is playing second fiddle when he returns. The man that can't shoot is averaging 50% from the floor with 9 rebounds, 11 assists, a steal, a block and 20.5 points per game in the playoffs. After putting up 17 points, 9 rebounds and 14 assists in his NBA playoffs debut win, the Heat looked to force him to shoot and limit his ability to create for his teammates. It was effective to an extent, and along with Dwyane Wade's willful domination, Miami got the win. However, forcing Simmons to make shots rather than find open teammates did not change much in the box score. Simmons managed to shoot 58% and had 24 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists and 2 blocks. He is their leader. He is their substance. He is their courage under fire. Very un-rookie-like.
Erstwhile, in Utah...
Donovan Mitchell is seizing the moment. He is grabbing it with both hands. He wants it. Rookie is he? Gonna put Paul George on him are you? He doesn't care. Mitchell is averaging 27.5 points on 44% shooting with 8 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.5 steals and 0.5 blocks in 39 minutes per game. Historically speaking, he scored 55 points in his first 2 playoff games surpassing Michael Jordan for most points scored by a guard, and the most by a player at any position since David Robinson in 1990. In Game 1 he played 35 minutes and scored 27 points on 11-22 shooting with 10 rebounds, 3 assists2 steals and a block. In Game 2 the Thunder were ready for him and game planned against him. He went for 28 points, 6 boards, 2 assists and a steal in 42 minutes and completely took over down the stretch:
That is not normal rookie behavior. From any of them. I don't remember 3 guys in a single rookie class coming in and making an impression like this. Ever. These guys impressed all season, but with these playoff performances they have officially arrived. These rooks are coming of age in their first NBA spring. Just when you thought "It was all a dream..." you were proven wrong. These guys are the real thing. And if you don't know, now you know...