Donovan Mitchell may be the draft’s most underrated prospect
Coming out of college, the NBA had a hard time projecting Avery Bradley. A former top 5 prospect in high school, Bradley didn’t stand out in his lone season in Texas. He only shot 43.2%, including a horrid 54.5% from the free throw line. He didn’t do much playmaking, either — with 2.1 assists per game. At only 6’2″, he had the size of a point guard, but not a “point guard” skill set. Where exactly did that leave him as an NBA player?
As a result of that confusion, Bradley fell to the #19 pick, where the Boston Celtics snatched him up. They realized that Bradley didn’t fit the prototypical game of a guard, but did have tools in his arsenal. He shot 37.5% from three in college and had long arms, athleticism, and an aggressive defensive mentality. Essentially, Bradley could thrive as a “3-and-D” player.
Normally we think of “3-and-D” players as swingmen, but Bradley is one of a select few “3-and-D” point guards, along with Utah’s George Hill and Houston’s Patrick Beverly. They’re ideal guards to have when your team relies on another superstar, like James Harden for example. Harden can run the offense and kick it out to the spacer Beverly — but on defense, Beverly is there to pick up PGs. It’s become a rare, but valuable, template in a modern player.
I see Louisville’s Donovan Mitchell as potentially fitting that mold. He’s only 6’3″, but he’s not a traditional point guard: averaging just 2.7 assists per game. However, he’s shown signs of being a “3-and-D” guard. This past season at Louisville, he hit 35.4% of his threes (on 6.6 attempts per game) which leads you to suspect he can continue to develop that shot. Better yet, he’s a strong defensive presence, with athleticism and long arms (measured with a 6’10” wingspan). There’s a reason that he grabbed 2.1 steals per game this season.
Now, it’s hard to claim that Mitchell is as good of a prospect as Avery Bradley was. Bradley was a legitimate top 5 recruit in college (ESPN had him #1). Mitchell was only top 50. Perhaps even more crucially, Mitchell is a year behind Bradley in his developmental curve. Bradley had one season in college, whereas Mitchell had his “breakout” as a sophomore. That’s a minor red flag.
Still, I like Mitchell’s tools and potential as a “3-and-D” point guard. The NBA must agree because he’s been steadily rising up the draft. Right now, he may even crack the lottery.
Like Bradley (and Beverly), FIT will be crucial for Mitchell’s success. Like those two, he’d be best suited to play alongside a playmaking superstar who will have the ball on offense but needs someone like Mitchell to stick with quicker guards. Examples of that could be: Denver at #13, where Jokic will have the ball quite a bit, and Chicago at #16, where Jimmy Butler tends to run the offense.
Conversely, if Mitchell lands in a situation where he’s expected to be a pure PG or a pure SG, he may struggle. Hopefully, he lands in the right situation to develop his talents.