The Detroit Pistons selected North Texas forward Tony Mitchell with the 37th pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. Mitchell, who was regarded as a lottery pick after a strong freshman season (14.7 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3 blocks), saw his draft stock plummet after an underwhelming sophomore campaign where he averaged 13 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.7 blocks.
The statistical drop off between his freshman and sophomore seasons isn’t drastic, but given the type of physical specimen that Mitchell is, he should have dominated the Sun Belt Conference.
For that reason, Mitchell’s draft stock crashed and red flags were raised that questioned his work ethic, attitude and motor. With all these questions brought to the forefront, it still didn’t prevent Joe Dumars from pulling the trigger on Mitchell early in the second round. Dumars and the Pistons brass were willing to take a chance on the 21-year-old Mitchell and add him to an already deep and talented frontcourt.
But, given the depth of the Pistons frontcourt, can Mitchell make an immediate impact and find a way to earn valuable minutes?
Here’s why I think he will:
Mitchell, standing at 6-foot-9 and 236 pounds, is an unbelievably gifted athlete. Any Twitter handler has probably seen the many posts and videos pertaining to Mitchell’s uncanny dunking ability. At the Orlando Summer League, Mitchell threw down a slew of powerful dunks and displayed springboard-like hops while dominating the offensive glass and emphatically swatting shots away (20 offensive rebounds and four blocks in five contests). Mitchell could be a major factor coming off the bench and rebounding from either forward position. He will also give the team a bench player that can match up physically with big, point-forward type players like Lebron James.
It’s feasible that the Pistons don’t want too much on Mitchell’s plate inititially and would love to have Mitchell do what Mitchell does: rebound, block shots and dunk. It seems beneficial for both sides to have him just use his athletic gifts to terrorize teams on the boards. This will allow Mitchell to progress his game on both ends of the floor on the practice court and alleviate any pressure he may feel as a rookie. At the same time, this will give the Pistons a major boost in terms of being able to slowly bring a young player with a high ceiling along and still get something substantially important out of him.
Mitchell is known for his freakishly athletic gifts and Herculic frame, but he also has shown a nice touch on the offensive end of the floor. Mitchell highlights usually consist of rim-rattling dunks and thunderous blocks, yet it’s forgotten that he displays a smooth touch from around 15 feet.
During the summer, Mitchell showcased his capable shooting ability, but there is much room for improvement. Having Mitchell on the floor will lead to teams sagging off and giving him that jump shot. If Mitchell can take advantage and prove to the team and the league that he can hit that jumper at a consistent clip, his minutes and role will drastically increase.
The Pistons are salivating at the thought of using him as a mismatch against all types of forwards around the league. Many small forwards would have difficulties dealing with his immense size and strength while power forwards have to deal with his overwhelming athleticism and energy.
Mitchell’s role coming off the Pistons bench will take shape throughout the season. The Pistons are in the fortunate spot of not having to thrust Mitchell into the mix immediately, but for the reasons I gave above, it may prove to be too difficult to keep him off the floor.
Regardless of Mitchell’s role and production this upcoming season, the NBA should have an invite sent to Mitchell already asking for his participation in this year’s Slam Dunk Contest, and if that happens–my money is on Mitchell.