Friday's matchup between the Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz should've been a showdown between two of the league's brightest young stars, but an ankle injury will prevent Donovan Mitchell from going head-to-head with Devin Booker.
Still, with this being the last time the Suns and Jazz will meet before the playoffs, it got our NBA.com Staff thinking about which one of Mitchell and Booker they'd rather build around.
NBA Australia's Benyam Kidane and NBA Canada's Carlan Gay make their case to the jury.
Who would you rather have right now: Donovan Mitchell or Devin Booker?
Benyam Kidane (@BenyamKidane): I feel like we're going to be having this debate for the next five years, but for now, I'm going with Donovan Mitchell ... just.
I probably would have gone with Booker in previous seasons, but the leap Mitchell has made in 2020-21 deserves more credit than he's getting.
Don't let the Jazz's equal-opportunity offence and team-first mentality fool you, Mitchell is the most important player on the league's best team, ranking fourth in the NBA in usage rate at 32.7 percent.
But more importantly, he's doing it efficiently.
Long gone are the days of his inefficient scoring outputs. The 24-year-old has tightened things up with his shot selection, welcoming contact at the rim, drawing fouls and has become an elite pull-up shooter from the 3-point line. This has culminated in him becoming a top 10 scorer at 26.4 points per game on 38.6 percent shooting from the 3-point line, the third-best mark from deep among the top 10 behind only Kyrie Irving and Nikola Jokic, whose volume from deep doesn't compare.
It's no surprise the Jazz have somewhat sputtered through the recent patch Mitchell has missed with a right ankle sprain (3-3), which includes losses to the Lakers and twice to the Timberwolves. I don't think that happens with Mitchell in the lineup.
When things get tight and the ball isn't moving like it usually does for the Jazz, Mitchell is the guy that can create his own shots and make things happen, especially late in games. He currently ranks 12th in the league in fourth-quarter points, ahead of the likes of LeBron James, Luka Doncic, Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard, Nikola Jokic and even Chris Paul.
The last time the Jazz and Suns played, Phoenix emerged with a nail-biting 117-113 win in overtime, but Mitchell left it all out there, dropping 18 of his 41 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, including the bucket to send it to OT ... a pull-up triple, of course.
MONSTER 3 pic.twitter.com/fN04dmfsa0- utahjazz (@utahjazz) April 8, 2021
While he's already established himself as the best player on a championship-contending team, he is still scratching the surface of his potential, which is reason enough for Jazz fans to be excited about not only the future of the franchise but what they're capable of right now.
Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay): You can't go wrong with either guy ... actually you can. The easy choice for me is Devin Booker.
No one will mistake these two for being lockdown defenders and even still Booker has probably got Mitchell beat there.
What we're really talking about here is their offence, though.
If you want to talk about high usage players, Booker has been in at least the 97th percentile in usage rate for his position every year since his sophomore season, according to Cleaning the Glass, this season included. And he's maintained his efficiency throughout with a career 57.0 true shooting percentage.
Booker is a true three-level scorer who has proven he can be a nightmare inside and outside. This season, Booker is shooting 63.0 percent at the rim (four feet and in), 50.0 percent in the midrange and a respectable 35.0 percent from 3-point range.
There's very little Booker can't do offensively. As a pick-and-roll ball-handler, he's deadly, ranking in the 80th percentile in efficiency according to NBA Stats. As a post-up threat, he's a beast, ranking in the 76th percentile in post-up efficiency. Without the ball, he's a valuable floor spacer with the ability to knock down open looks. Booker is shooting 38.6 percent on catch-and-shoot 3s this season.
Mitchell has made strides with his playmaking but still isn't on the same level as Booker. The last two seasons before Chris Paul arrived in Phoenix, Booker averaged 6.8 and 6.5 assists per game. Mitchell is in the midst of a career year at 5.2 assists per game.
And let's not forget that Booker is a dude who once scored 70 points in an NBA game. Mitchell's career-high of 57 points still isn't even better than Booker's second-highest scoring game.
Where Mitchell might have Booker beat is that Booker has yet to play in the playoffs and prove that he can do his thing on the grand stage. He'll get that opportunity this season and I'm confident he'll elevate his game to new heights and put this debate to rest.
Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles), NBA Canada : Both are incredible talents, but I'm a big fan of Booker's versatility.
As Carlan alluded to, the Suns basically turned him into a point guard last season to impressive results. With Paul now on board, he's shifted to a more traditional shooting guard role and has thrived as an off-ball scorer who can do a little bit of everything at a high level. I also have a little more trust in Booker late in games, despite the fact that we have yet to see him in the playoffs and his clutch numbers this season are ... not good. (Neither are Mitchell's, for what it's worth, but he has proven himself in the playoffs).
What happens in this season's playoffs could provide some more clarity - it's going to be an important postseason for the two of them - but I side with Booker for now.
Agustín Aboy (@aboyagustin), NBA Argentina: It's not an easy selection, but my gut says Mitchell.
We're talking about two multi-time All-Stars here, but if I need someone to lead my team, I want to have someone with the proven ability of Mitchell to make things happen on the big stage. It is not that Booker can't do that, but he hasn't had a chance to prove it in the playoffs ... yet.
Teams play a lot more hero ball in the playoffs, and Mitchell's isolation numbers this season show how much better he is in those situations, ranking in the 76th percentile with 1.01 points per possession. Booker, meanwhile, is in the 39th percentile with 0.83 points per possession. Mitchell scores more and takes much better care of the ball. (He's never averaged more than 2.8 turnovers per game despite always having an usage over 29.0 percent).
Additionally, Mitchell has been the No. 1 option on an elite Jazz team this season, whereas we haven't quite seen Booker in that role to this point of his career. (He plays a leading role on these Suns, but Chris Paul calls the shots for the most part). Mitchell has Mike Conley at the guard position, but Conley is not at the same level as Paul.
Booker may seem to be a better scorer, but in the clutch he is being actually a little bit less efficient. And although he has the reputation of being a better long range shooter, Mitchell is the one who has improved the most in that area, shooting 38.6 percent from 3-point range on 8.7 attempts per game this season compared to 34.5 percent on 5.7 attempts per game for Booker. The difference is even bigger on pull-up 3s: 36.3 percent for Mitchell compared to 31.1 percent for Booker.
Yash Matange (@yashmatange2694), NBA India: My gut goes with Donovan Mitchell as well.
They are both the same age but the Jazz guard just has more playoff experience and despite putting the league on notice in his rookie season, the Jazz guard has improved each year since. Not just in his points per game average but also in his 3-point shooting, considered to be the weaker aspects of his game.
Booker failing to make the playoffs so far is more on the franchise than him. He's shown the ability to take over games and this season he's done it a few times in more ways than one but if I had to choose now, I'd go with the guard that has more playoff experience, and a better sense of 'team play' when it matters.
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