Donovan Mitchell Takes Blame for Jazz Not Rising to Level of 'Championship Team'

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVApril 29, 2022

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell pauses on the court following the team's loss in Game 6 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday, April 28, 2022, in Salt Lake City. The Mavericks advanced to the second round of the playoffs. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

Donovan Mitchell said he's willing to accept responsibility for the Utah Jazz failing to "rise to the level of a championship team."

The Jazz were eliminated in the first round of the 2022 NBA playoffs by the Dallas Mavericks, who scored a 98-96 win in Game 6 on Thursday night to advance.

"This hurts, we fell short of our goal. I'm hurting right now. ... I'm speechless," Mitchell told reporters. "There were times this season when the ball was rolled out that we didn't show that we wanted to be a team with championship aspirations."

The three-time All-Star averaged 25.5 points, 5.7 assists and 4.3 rebounds in the series, but he struggled with his offensive efficiency. He shot just 39.8 percent from the field, including 20.8 percent on threes.

While it's hard to pin the blame for the early exit on the team's leading scorer, it's clear something isn't working in Utah as it attempts to emerge as a title contender.

The Jazz have reached the postseason in six straight years, including all five since Mitchell arrived as a first-round pick in the 2017 draft, but they've never advanced beyond the second round.

Part of the problem has been a lack of high-end talent around Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, but even the secondary contributors the front office has acquired struggled in the big moments. Mike Conley averaged just 9.2 points on 33.3 percent shooting in the Mavs series.

Mitchell explained his belief the Jazz could eventually get over the hump, but he didn't want to discuss any roster changes that may be on the horizon:

"I'm a competitor, and I feel like if you give us another crack at it, we can go get it. But in the same token, there's things that could change. I'm not ready to discuss that, to be honest with you right now. I'm not. Mentally, I'm just not in that headspace, to be completely honest with you. I'm really not. To me, it sucks, yo. If you ask me that in a week, maybe, but right now I'm not in a headspace to answer that for you."

The biggest question is whether either Mitchell or Gobert could be moved over the summer as part of a significant roster haul in Utah.

Tony Jones of The Athletic reported there are "multiple teams" interested in Gobert and there "probably is more of a chance" he's moved than Mitchell.

It's easier to build around a do-it-all guard than an old-school center in the modern NBA, so trying to keep Mitchell is understandable.

Yet Gobert isn't just any post player. He's a three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year who would leave a massive void at that end of the floor.

All told, the Jazz can't run it back with the same group given the lack of playoff success, but finding a path to guaranteed better results next season won't be an easy task.