This year’s rising star during the NBA Draft process is Donovan Mitchell, and he’s emerging as a legitimate candidate for the Knicks.Every year during the NBA Draft process there’s a prospect who comes out of nowhere to have their stock rise at the last minute. Typically it’s because they had an excellent performance at the draft combine which makes the talent evaluators in the Association see tremendous potential. Last year the guy was Marquese Chriss.
Chriss was a nobody before he showed up at the combine and blew people away with his 7-foot wingspan, 8’9″ standing reach, and 38.5-inch max vertical. The Suns were in a position to draft a project and with two picks in the top 10 couldn’t pass on those physical gifts. They scooped Chriss up with the eighth overall pick.
This year’s Chriss is Louisville’s Donovan Mitchell, and he’s emerging as a legitimate candidate for the Knicks with their No. 8 pick. Mitchell was a rockstar at the combine in Chicago last month when he put his elite athleticism on display for the entire NBA world to see.
Despite being labeled as undersized for a shooting guard (he measured at 6’3″ in shoes) Mitchell stood out as much as any other prospect in attendance. The 20-year-old logged the best standing vertical leap and three-quarter sprint while also finishing fifth in the max vertical leap (via NBA.com).
The skill displayed by Mitchell suggests that he can create his shot and the stats back it up. Per hoop-math.com, over 80 percent of his shots at the rim were unassisted while over 90 percent of his two-point jumpers were unassisted.
Mitchell’s breakout season catapulted him into the NBA conversation. With the increased workload and minutes, he saw his scoring numbers go through the roof. A big part of that was his improved three-point shooting. Mitchell was a dreadful 25 percent from the outside as a freshman. Then as a sophomore, he completely remade himself from beyond the arc. Over half of his shots were from downtown, and he converted at a 35.4 percent clip.
It’s shot selection where he needs to improve. Over 70 percent of Mitchell’s field goal attempts were jumpers, but he has the athleticism to get to the rim at will. Especially against college-level defenders. The native of Elmsford, N.Y., was a good finisher at the rim but shot just 35 percent on his two-point jumpers. Overall, he was only 46.3 percent on two-point attempts.
Mitchell has all the physical tools to become a legitimate threat on offense. Between his strength, athleticism, and speed he will be a threat on the fast break and drives immediately. It’s just a matter of how he can develop. For right now, New York would be drafting this dude for his defense.
Mitchell hopes his 6’10” wingspan will help make up for his size on defense. That length helped him become one of the best defenders in the ACC last season. He was first in steals and third in defensive win shares, and a big reason that the Cardinals were ranked seventh in defensive efficiency for the seventh straight season, per KenPom.com.
Mitchell is already thinking about guarding some of the league’s best guards: “The more important thing is [on defense] … being able to guard guys as quick as [Russell] Westbrook [and the] same size as Klay Thompson,” (via The Ringer).
Early projections for Mitchell suggested that he would be a shooting guard at the next level. His head coach at Louisville, the legendary Rick Pitino, disagrees. Pitino says that despite Mitchell playing both seasons with the Cardinals off the ball, “point guard is his natural position” via Marc Berman of The New York Post.
Taking Mitchell at No. 8 could be a reach, but if New York falls in love with him, then they should make the pick. They could also make the bold move to trade down. Mitchell is projected as a late lottery pick after all.
The rules in today’s NBA game have changed, and Mitchell can fit right into the small ball culture. He can guard multiple positions, shoot the three, and run in transition. The Cavs would sure like to have him right now.
The Knicks are caught up in the Donovan Mitchell hype, and that’s a good thing. These combine stars can be hit-or-miss, but Mitchell is legit, and the Knicks know it. That’s why he’s emerging as a candidate for that coveted No. 8 pick.