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Donovan Mitchell – 6’3″ Shooting Guard, University of Louisville, 20 Years Old
Donovan Mitchell is a shooting guard from the University of Louisville who is projected to be taken in the mid-late first round. In his sophomore season he had 15.6 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game. He shot 46.3% on two-point field goals and 35.4% on three-point field goals (per DraftExpress). He had a player efficiency rating of 21.7 and 2.1 steals per game, too (per Sports Reference). Mitchell has a very high ceiling as a two-way guard in the NBA who doesn’t shy away from the big moment.
Mitchell is one of the prospects I love in this draft. He didn’t shoot at a high percentage, but he was also the primary shot maker at Louisville. This guy was at his best in Atlantic Coast Conference play, and that’s saying something in what was a loaded schedule. I’ll make it simple: he knows how to put the ball in the basket. Mitchell has range all the way to the three, as he was 40% from there in conference play (per Sports Reference). He can shoot effectively on the catch, as well as create for himself off the dribble. His hop step into his shot allows him to shoot from the NBA three, and those mechanics translate well. Now to the bounce. He can get so much separation with his tight handle. This enables Mitchell to get open against bigger defenders on the wing, and he’s effective on his mid-range stepbacks. He’s a player that can put pressure on the defense with his drives, too.
With a 6’10 wingspan, he is a tremendous finisher above the rim. I frequently saw him finish lobs with authority for a 6’3″ guard. Let’s jump to the defensive end. The aforementioned 6’10” wingspan is something that leaps off the screen. He can really smother opposing guards with his length. He can even check from small forwards. Mitchell led the ACC in steals and steals per game, as he has good anticipation and plays with sound technique on and off-ball. Against perimeter players, he can really sit down and play fundamental defense. He doesn’t have to gamble, and just allows his wingspan to do the work. For a two-guard, he can actually block shots at the rim coming from both the weak and strong side. His strength is impressive on the backboard and he always gives maximum effort, too.
The biggest weakness to me is the lack of height. For a two-guard in today’s league, 6’3″ is not ideal. In addition, Mitchell is not a natural point guard. That is makes it tougher for him to produce on a consistent basis. Being a tweener makes it harder to project how he turns out long-term. Moreover, the 20-year old is a hot-and-cold performer. He only shot 40.8% on the season, which is pretty low. Too many times he would take bad shots keep missing for long stretches. The efficiency needs to improve, there’s no question about that. His player efficiency rating per 40 minutes was only 19.5 (per DraftExpress). You’d like to see him try to affect the game in other ways offensively besides scoring when he’s not in rhythm. He also settles too often and evades contact in the lane, which can negate him being a good free throw shooter.
That said, Mitchell needs to improve his playmaking. He only had 0.19 assists per possession on a team filled with quality bigs and wings. Part of that is he’s a short two-guard, which can be a detriment to his vision in pick-and-roll opportunities. In terms of the defensive end, he can have problems with fouls. Since he is such a good competitor that can pick up 94 feet, Mitchell can be too aggressive at times and register unnecessary whistles (3.0 fouls per game in conference play). That said, he plays a lot bigger than his height defensively and you can live with the aggression fouls.
It’s going to be tough for this guy early on. He has the arrow pointing up as he’s only 20, but it’s going to take a lot of work. I don’t see him as a starter for a few seasons due to his tweener issue. For now, he looks like a backup combo guard for two to three years. According to mynbadraft.com, he could be a solid three-and-D player with his current skill sets. I personally see much more than that if he can get in the right situation. If Mitchell improves his ball-handling and court vision (especially in the screen-and-roll), he can become an effective NBA starter by year four. I personally don’t see him blossoming into an All-Star, but I could definitely be wrong. He has the versatility to guard up to three positions in some matchups, and he is not afraid to carry a team on his back. Whoever drafts Mitchell is going to get a dude who is as gritty as they come and will maximize his ability on both ends. Being second in the ACC last season in overall box plus/minus (per Sports Reference) demonstrates the overall game this kid has.
NBA Player Comparison
As I’ve stated before, Mitchell needs to play both point and shooting guard. However, I’m not going to doubt that he’ll be able to do that. An intriguing comparison for him I noticed on nbascoutingreport.net. They thought his skill set translated in a similar way to Eric Bledsoe of the Phoenix Suns and Marcus Smart of the Boston Celtics. I agree with that in some respects, as both are not really pure point or shooting guards. Bledsoe and Smart are also very athletic and play bigger than their height as undersized combo guards. However, I believe Mitchell can be a much better perimeter shooter than both of those names at the next level. Based on his potential to be a big shot maker and capable playmaker for bigs, I see some of Dion Waiters of the Miami Heat in Mitchell, too. Mitchell plays with a chip on his shoulder and does whatever it takes to win, much like Waiters. Waiters also has a much-improved perimeter shot to couple with an already established pull-up game. Mitchell is already as good of a pure shooter at all levels and is probably more athletic at the rim than “Google Me.”
Look for Donovan Mitchell to land between 15-25 on draft night, and be sure to stay updated with our complete coverage of the 2017 NBA Draft!