Team: North Texas
Position: Power Forward
Expected draft position: 20-30
Basic statistics (courtesy of Draft Express)
College career: Tony Mitchell looked like a potential late-lottery pick in a deep draft after a productive first season at North Texas. One year later, with an even weaker draft class around him and another year of seasoning at the college level, it's far from a guarantee that he'll even be taken in the first round.
So, what happened?
After a freshman campaign that saw Mitchell show off some freakish athleticism and a high level of efficiency, he managed to regress in almost every statistical category. A lot of this could be attributed to a coaching change at NorthTexas, where Johnny Jones was replaced by former Marquette assistant Tony Benford. Mitchell and Benford didn't appear to get along well and the team as a whole more or less quit on Benford early in the season. Mitchell played with far less energy and discipline ,and as a result, he saw his efficiency, especially on two-point field goal attempts, go from pretty good to awful almost overnight.
It's also worth noting that Mitchell is a year older than the typical sophomore due to eligibility issues his freshman year. Essentially, he went to an unaccredited prep school on the advice of his AAU coach, then came back to Texas and tried to make up his coursework faster than the school district allowed. There's a bit more to this and it seems like he didn't do anything particularly objectionable -- are you really going to fault a kid for trying to take too many classes at once? -- but it's still not exactly a good thing.
Offense: Mitchell is a terrible jump shooter and a great dunker. Nonetheless, he seemed to be OK with two-thirds of his shots coming from the perimeter last year. He has a decent touch and made 74 percent of his free throws as a freshman, so he's not completely hopeless, but he's not going to go anywhere in the NBA if he's not taking the overwhelming majority of his shots at the basket. He's also a poor passer and ball handler, so it's unlikely he'll be anything more than a fourth or fifth option next year.
Despite his many shortcomings, Mitchell could nonetheless find a way to be a plus offensive player down the line. He's an elite athlete who made 80 percent of his shots at the rim last year and drew fouls at a good clip. He's also very quick running the break, and his ability to finish in transition should mesh perfectly with the passing of Wall and Bradley Beal. Shawn Marion was able to put up 20 a night off of dunks and corner threes back in the day and Mitchell could play a similar offensive role if he ever learns how to move without the ball and reign in his shot selection. Then again, that's far, far easier said than done.
Defense: Mitchell averaged more than three blocks and one steal per pace adjusted 40 minutes in college to go along with his impressive rebounding totals. He's a quick second jumper, has decent lateral quickness for his size and has the size and length (6'8 in shoes with a 7'2.5 wingspan) to be one of the top defensive power forwards in the NBA.
That said, he still hasn't begun to apply himself on that end of the court. Mitchell tends to gamble for blocks and is a very inattentive defender. Even though opponents struggled to score in one-on-one situations due to Mitchell's physical gifts, North Texas was a weak defensive team overall and Mitchell was, if not part of the problem, then at the very least not part of the solution. He'd routinely get caught ball-watching, especially in his second year as he seemed to tune out the new coaching staff, and gave up far too many easy layups and dunks due to his poor positioning. He could and should be better once he's in a new environment, but for a player who's most attractive attribute is his defensive upside, it's not a good sign that he's so undisciplined.
Pro potential/Wizards fit: Mitchell is as athletic as they come and warrants serious consideration with any pick outside of the top 15. That said, there's a difference between considering someone and actually pulling the trigger on draft day.
Small-ball power forwards are all the rage these days and Mitchell has the physical tools to guard almost every single one of them. Unfortunately, Mitchell appears to be more concerned with making plays in the paint than he is with preventing them from developing. This is the same mindset that Javale McGee had back when he would block half a dozen shots and Washington would still give up 100 points. While Washington has done a good job of bringing in talented youngsters, the organization still hasn't shown any ability whatsoever to develop young big men.
That said, in the right system and with the right organization, he could be a highly productive player capable of putting up numbers reminiscent of Gerald Wallace during his Bobcat days. I just don't see him developing into that in Washington.