Although it looked downright atrocious most of the time, there were some silver linings when it came to the Chicago Bulls offense. It was when Jimmy Butler was surrounded by shooters who can spread the floor along with some decent defenders where it looked watchable. Ideally since Chicago’s offense does run through Butler (and should always run through Butler), the guy who plays alongside him in the backcourt should be a “3 and D” type player. Someone who can spread the floor while being capable of holding their own defensively. They had the chance to take a player like that in Wade Baldwin Jr. last year but passed on him to take Denzel Valentine. If Chicago really wants to complement Butler, they need to really consider Louisville guard Donovan Mitchell, who is a solid two-way player.
The sophomore was a big part of Louisville’s success last season, averaging 15.6 points on 40.8% shooting while grabbing 4.9 rebounds per game. Let’s take a look at his game.
One of the things that stands out about Mitchell is his athleticism. Although he is only 6’3, he has a 40.5 inch vertical, which allows him to get up to the rim and resulted in some crazy alley-oops last season.
Mitchell is a very good defender, registering a 4.8 defensive box plus/minus last season. His athleticism aids him out a ton on defense as he is able to use his 6’10 wingspan to help contest on jump shots. The long arms also helped Mitchell average 2.1 steals per game which led the ACC last season. His quick feet allows him to stay in front of his man and he is tenacious on defense. Even though he isn’t tall, Mitchell’s length and speed allows him to guard multiple positions, not just at shooting guard. This type of versatility could be key for a Bulls team which doesn’t have a lot of good wing defenders. Given Chicago’s inability to deal with fast point guards this season, Mitchell’s quickness on defense will be of use and could help take some pressure off Butler defensively if need be.
Offensively he has shown promise too, especially when it comes to shooting the ball. After shooting a dismal 25% from three in his freshman year, Mitchell improved his shot and bumped up the percentage to 35.4% the following season. It’s even more impressive when you consider Mitchell’s 3-point attempts increased from 2.3 to 6.6 and his percentage jumped up by a significant margin.
His speed also helps him offensively. Mitchell uses that quickness to get to the rim with ease as well along with getting to his comfort spots on the court. He is a shot maker and is comfortable being the guy on offense as he showed while playing for the Cardinals, attempting 13.1 field goals per game. Mitchell’s aggressiveness can be viewed as positive since it shows he can be a guy who you can rely on when Chicago rolls out their bench lineups. His three-point shooting is something that will be much needed, especially when Butler drives and needs a consistent kick-out option.
Most, if not all, of Mitchell’s weaknesses are on the offensive end. One of them is poor percentages when it comes to scoring at the rim. As noted by Draft Express, Mitchell only shoots 49.4% at the basket, which is something he needs to improve drastically. He can get to the basket with ease with his speed and athleticism but it doesn't mean anything if he can’t make the shot. This also points to another problem in Mitchell’s game: his decision making. He is prone to making things tougher on offense for himself and his team by taking tough jumpers instead of passing the ball off. It’s less of him being a ball-hog and more of him being more aggressive than he needs to be at times.
He just needs to let the game come to him and figure out when are the best times to be aggressive. A lot of these things will come to him as he plays more and more minutes in the NBA. It takes time to adjust for any rookie and Mitchell is no exception. This problem will also surely cut down in Chicago where Mitchell doesn’t have to be the man offensively. He just needs to work on his three-point shooting, which is showing improvement but at 35.4%, he still has work to do. The key for Mitchell will be his ability to shoot well from deep. It will help keep defenses honest and it takes away a huge part of his game if he can’t knock it down on a consistent basis.
His size will certainly be a problem defensively and he will be overmatched against bigger players. But his speed and length will surely make up for it.
Overall, Mitchell would be a very solid fit for the Bulls. Jimmy Butler needs a “3 and D” player alongside him for the offense to really flourish. It will help spread the floor and allow Butler’s playmaking abilities to take over. Defensively Mitchell will be a great help as his ability to check both guard positions along with some forwards will allow Fred Hoiberg to roll him out in different lineups.
This sentiment about Mitchell is also expressed by Blog A Bull’s own Ricky O’Donnell, (who also suggested the Bulls should look at drafting Baldwin Jr. last year):
Donovan Mitchell would be a natural fit with the Bulls if they really did decide to put the ball in Jimmy Butler's hands on a regular basis. If that were to happen, the Bulls would need someone to defend point guards on the other and Mitchell is naturally suited for that.
I would really like Mitchell because I think he could play off Butler well, perhaps flanked by Denzel Valentine at the three. That would give the Bulls some shooting, some passing, some defense and some athleticism all on the floor at the same time.
The Bulls need to get more younger and athletic, and drafting Mitchell would be a great step in that direction.