As someone who has always nerded-out over the NFL and NBA draft, there's one major difference these two great event that I deeply enjoy: speed. The NFL draft takes forever in every sense of the term. If your team doesn't make the playoffs ('sup, Bears), there's nearly four full months between the end of the season and draft day. And while the NFL has made strides by hasten the actual proceedings in recent years by cutting down on first round clock time for each team by five minutes, the event still feels like it drags for everyone but the biggest diehards.
The NBA draft is total opposite. If the Heat and Spurs go to a Game 7 (they have to, right?), the draft will take place just one week after the end of the season. That rules. Also: there's no lollygagging around. Is there even a clock in the NBA draft? I think it's just five minutes. Point is, the NBA draft has a tendency to sneak up on folks, and right now happens to be the very thin part of the calendar when it is particularly relevant.
We know the Chicago Bulls don't like tipping their hand when it comes to the draft. If memory serves, there wasn't much hype surrounding Marquis Teague or Jimmy Butler in the run-up to 2011 and 2012. Since the Bulls aren't going to give us much news to work with, we might as well guess at who they may be looking at, or more appropriately, shine a spotlight on the players I think are good/cool/worth your time. This will be the first in a segment I'm creatively titling THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE FIT, all with a focus on players who could be available at No. 20 and how they would mesh with your Chicago Bulls.
The first player I want to look at is North Texas power forward Tony Mitchell. (Before we get started, PLEASE read Jonathan Tjarks on Mitchell at SB Nation if you haven't already. It's an essential breakdown.)
TheMoon already gave us a great statistical look at Mitchell. Read that, too. I'm going to take a look at things from a surface-level, scouting-based place, because I think both are valuable when it comes to evaluating basketball players.
There is a lot like about Tony Mitchell (scouting report). For one, he possess elite-level NBA athleticism for a power forward. Don't believe me?
I mean, look at that shit. Dude is throwing down 360 under-the-leg dunks like it's nothing. He can do windmills in his sleep. He jumps so high you have to worry he'll one day give himself a concussion by smashing his head against the rim.
I don't think it's controversial to say the NBA houses the best athletes in the world, and power forward might sport the biggest collection of freaks. If you're going to play power forward in the NBA, you need to be 6'8 or taller, you need to have incredible leaping ability and your fundamental skills need to be refined. It's a small talent pool. Only a few guys have the physical tools (let alone the mental aspect) to do it, and Tony Mitchell is certainly one of those guys.
Tony Mitchell is a quarter-inch away from being 6'9, he weighs 236 lbs., he was measured at the combine as having a vertical leap of 38". To put that in perspective, Boozer had a 28.5" vertical at the 2002 draft combine. Blake Griffin had a 35.5" vertical a few years ago. Derrick Rose only jumped two inches higher than Mitchell.
So yeah, Tony Mitchell can fly. He's as big as a house, too.
But does he have any skills? The answer to that question is an emphatic 'yes'. Tony Mitchell is ridiculously talented.
Mitchell was rated as the No. 12 overall player and No. 2 power forward by Rivals out of high school in the Class of 2010, only behind guys like Kyrie Irving, Harrison Barnes, and Enes Kanter. Of the 11 guys who ranked in front of him in high school, Josh Selby (ironically, ranked No. 1) is the only one who wasn't a first round pick and might not play in the NBA next season. Mitchell signed with Missouri, where he surely would have pushed a very good Tigers team over the top. The problem was he couldn't qualify academically, so he had to go to North Texas.
This is not a problem in terms of his NBA draft stock: no one is going to ask him to solve a logarithm in order to get a rebound. That would be pretty weird if they did.
His freshman year at North Texas, all Tony Mitchell did is destroy whoever was put in front of him. Mitchell averaged 14.7 points, 10.3 rebounds, and three blocks per game. He did this on a LeBron-like 56.7 percent shooting from the field with 43.9 percent shooting from three-point range on 1.8 attempts per game. These are not insignificant numbers.
His sophomore year was a bit of a downer, but Tjarks detailed the reasons for that. Fact is, Tony Mitchell has star potential. Whether he reaches it is anyone's guess, and there's certainly a reason he's projected to go in the 20s of this draft. But we all know there are plenty of very good players who have been selected in the 20s and later in recent drafts, and Mitchell would seem to possess all the physical tools it takes to be a very good player. I find it strange his stock isn't higher.
You're not supposed to regress in college and Mitchell did. There are valid reasons for it, sure, but a player of Mitchell's size and caliber probably should have been able to dominate the Sun Belt regardless of how bad his guards and shooters were. It's certainly tough on a front court player when the opposing team is gearing its entire game plan towards stopping you, but Mitchell's sophomore numbers still leave a bit to be desired.
The other question, I suppose, is his mental makeup. This does not worry me much, though I'm sure NBA teams are rightfully doing their due diligence here. It doesn't worry me because I spoke with Mitchell at the draft combine and he came across as genuine and engaging. He seemed a decent enough person. He spoke well and seemed to give all the right answers to the media folk asking him questions.
I mentioned this last last week too, but it's pretty easy to make the argument that the only two positions the Bulls have totally locked down are point guard and power forward. The Bulls will run with Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson this upcoming season. The year after, most signs point to Boozer getting amnestied and Nikola Mirotic filling his role.
So the question the Bulls must answer is: it it worth using the No. 20 pick on a developmental prospect when there's more ready-made pros available at positions of greater need? If Mitchell turns out to be an All-Star, or even much better than Gibson and Mirotic, the Bulls will be kicking themselves, and they'll have plenty of company. But if Mitchell flames out, then you swung-and-missed on star power when you could have played it safer and added someone who would more immediately contribute.
Big risk, big reward. It's kind of the reason the NBA draft is the greatest.
What I see in Tony Mitchell is someone who has all the tools to be a very good NBA player. I don't think it's out of the question that he could one day make an All-Star team. In fact, you could point to Mitchell as a prototype for a new style of forward that is going to be taking the NBA over for the next decade.
I covered the McDonald's All-American Game and practices this year. There's a reason you've heard so much hype about the 2014 draft class, and it isn't all just because of Andrew Wiggins. Wiggins will be great (my NBA comparison for him: Dominque Wilkins), but there are also a few forwards who are going to be spectacular. Namely, Julius Randle and Aaron Gordon.
Wait until you watch Randle at Kentucky and Gordon at Arizona next season. They're going to be great. Each are huge and ferociously athletic, but what sets sets them apart are their skills. Randle is a killer ball handler and passer. Gordon looks like he could develop into a very good jump shooter, and already has a nice handle.
Mitchell is in the same vein. He can shoot it, pass it and handle the rock, all skills that can push a freakishly athletic 6'9 guy onto a level of stardom. Randle and Gordon are going to be top five picks next year. You can almost certainly get Tony Mitchell at No. 20 this year.
Is that a risk worth taking?