I wrote this the day after the NBA Draft Combine ended in 2017- just hours after I had finished a marathon of Donovan Mitchell footage. Enjoy:
The consensus for the Mavs’ pick at #9 seems to be point guard. However, which point guard to take is the debate. Markelle Fultz is unlikely to be available unless Dallas lands the top spot, Lonzo Ball and De’Aaron Fox would need to drop farther than projections to land in Dallas, and some people have mocked Dallas taking Dennis Smith or Frank Ntilikina. While each of those players have compelling cases to be a Maverick, I think fans should start exploring another option:
Donovan Mitchell of Louisville.
Here is my scouting report on Donovan Mitchell, but in case you don’t want to click that, let me summarize here:
Mitchell has an NBA ready shot. He has NBA 3 point range and has good mechanics, but at times will fall in love with his jump shot. He shot 35% from 3 and 80% from the free throw line this season in an improved sophomore season. For those that do not know, free throw percentage is a solid predictor for NBA 3 point shooting. 80% is a good sign of NBA shooting.
Mitchell also plays good defense, but his focus can slip at times, similar to many other draft prospects. A lot of guys fix defensive focus and intensity, but those that do not suffer on the defensive end in the NBA. The main area of concern I have noticed on Mitchell’s defense is his struggle versus screens at times. Many times on the perimeter, he’d get lost on off-ball screens, allowing for his man to get open spot up opportunities. However, when Mitchell’s defense is on, his long arms and quickness help him stay in front of his man and for him to recover more easily than other guards.
So, how does Donovan Mitchell fit with the Mavs?
Rick Carlisle has a type for point guards: high basketball IQ (and selflessness), shooting abilities, and defensive strength. See: Jason Kidd (his shot improved a lot in his second time with Dallas), JJ Barea (defensive strength is relative for him), Devin Harris, and others. If you’ve been reading, you’d know that Mitchell meets these requirements. He played for an excellent college coach in Rick Pitino, and is generally composed with the ball. Donovan Mitchell had 56 total turnovers this season, which averages to 1.6 per game. To put that in perspective, he had a 24% usage rate with that turnover ratio, whereas Lonzo Ball had 89 turnovers for the year, averaging to 2.5 per game on 18% usage rate. Another combo guard near the top of the class is Malik Monk, and their turnover ratios were rather different: Monk had 2 turnovers per game (75 total) on 27% usage rate.
Mitchell is a combo guard. He wouldn’t be seen as just a shooting guard or just a point guard. Carlisle runs many lineups with two guard ball handlers/ two point guards pretty frequently. We’ve even seen him run 3 point guard lineups before, as painful as that may be. While Mavs fans may be quick to dismiss this idea due to Mitchell being just 6’3, he would be the longest point guard on the roster. His game is very similar to Devin Harris, and should the Mavs keep Harris, Mitchell would benefit a lot from both Devin Harris and Wesley Matthews.
Lastly, the Mavs’ offense has generally relied on lots of pick and roll. One of Mitchell’s best traits is his pick and roll ability. He has a quick change of direction, allowing him to weave through screens very easily. He also is intelligent in deciding when to pass to the roll/pop man and when to attack the basket. Mitchell poses a serious threat in the P&R because of his ability to slash and his intelligent passing.
While Mitchell doesn’t possess an elite trait like the other top point guards do (Fultz-scoring, Ball-passing, Smith-athleticism, Ntilikina-length), Mitchell does a little bit of everything. He’s athletic, quick, and has scoring abilities. He has a high floor and decently high ceiling. I really like Devin Harris as a comparison- don’t forget he was an all star one year. Mitchell is an underrated athlete with good quickness and a 40 inch vertical.
Overall, Mitchell does everything Rick Carlisle wants in a guard, and everything the Mavs need in a guard. He provides flexibility, P&R offense, 3 point shooting, and above average defense. Mitchell is quickly rising and had a strong NBA combine day 1. He is being mocked in the late teens to very early 20s, but I think with strong measurements, he will be mocked closer towards the end and middle of the lottery. The Mavericks’ front office should be looking at Mitchell as an option at #9 if they are uncertain about any of the other point guards ahead of him.