Tuesday, July 2, 2013

New Motors: Tony Mitchell

Tony Mitchell   |   Sophomore PF   |   North Texas
6'9", 236 lbs7'2.5" wingspan8'10.5" standing reach
4.4-9.9 FG (44.0%)8.5 rebounds/game2.7 blocks/game

With their second selection in the 2013 draft, the Pistons took Tony Mitchell, a  6'9" power forward from North Texas. After a spectacular freshman campaign where Mitchell was considered a potential lottery pick, he returned to school for a lackluster sophomore season and fell all the way to 37th overall. Mitchell's falloff is largely attributed to a coaching change at North Texas which affected both his personal numbers and the team's overall performance (the team finished 12-20 overall--7-13 in conference--a far cry for the 18-14 overall, 9-7 in conference record from the previous season). Caveats about his sophomore season notwithstanding, Mitchell has the athleticism and potential to make him a serious contributor in the NBA.

Mitchell's player profile has an eerily similar NBA comparable: Josh Smith. Smith was a high school-to-pro first rounder in 2004 and has been an enigma in the league ever since. In spite of his myriad athletic gifts, Smith is notorious for off-the-court disruption and on-court malaise. Though his defense rarely wavers, offensively, Smith can quickly fall in love with his jump shot and become an ineffective ball stopper. Even with all of these concerns, Smith is still a player that gets considered for max contracts because of his ability to take over games, and someone the Pistons are in hot pursuit of.

Smith stands as Mitchell's ceiling, though, not his expected performance, and noted effort issues make his boom or bust proposition all the more harrowing. But drafting even the potential of Smith 37th overall in a weak draft is an absolute steal.

So what can Mitchell reasonably give the Pistons in the coming years? The new coaching staff will have their hands full trying to mold Mitchell into a functional player, but his athleticism and rebounding can help the team immediately. His minutes will largely depend on whether or not the Pistons re-sign Jason Maxiell, who currently occupies the off-the-bench, high-energy rebounder position, but is unlikely to return to the team. Mitchell comes to the Pistons in a good position, though. His jump shot is iffy, but his skills around the basket are considerable. The Pistons likely won't have him taking long jumpers, so Mitchell can focus his energy on putbacks, slashing, and the defensive end of the court.

Mitchell could end up being the Andre Drummond of this year's class for the Pistons: a high-ceiling player with questions about his ability to adapt to the NBA game. Last year, Drummond succeeded with flying colors. If Mitchell can replicate that transition, he could become an important piece of the puzzle for the rebuilding process. On the other hand, Mitchell could lack the drive to become the player he needs to be and spend most of the season relegated to garbage minutes. More than anyone else on the team, Mitchell is the player to watch during the preseason.

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