Louisville’s NCAA tournament ban took the spotlight off them last year, but they have one of the more intriguing returning cores in all of college basketball. Anas Mahmoud is a super athletic and mobile 7-0 center, and Ray Spalding, Deng Adel, and Donovan Mitchell are all three very athletic soon to be sophomores who produced some last year. Mitchell was the most productive of the bunch, and stands out as the most exciting long-term prospect.
Any conversation about Mitchell begins and ends with his leaping ability. The dude is a dunk contest winning level of freaky jumper. I mean just watch this.
And that wasn’t even his best dunk of the season!
Mitchell’s athleticism stands out in all parts of his game. He’s powerfully built and explosive, allowing him to attack defenders with his first step and finish in the lane. On defense, he flies all over the court in Louisville’s pressure schemes and does a great job using his strength to bottle up offensive players.
Listed at only 6-3 Mitchell is a bit undersized for a 2-guard, but his combination of athleticism and strength allow him to guard bigger players. His wingspan hasn’t been formally measured, but he looks to me as if he’s built similarly to the only 6-3 Norman Powell who boasts a 6-11 wingspan to compensate.
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Mitchell’s an exciting prospect because he isn’t just an athlete, even though his athleticism is apparent in all parts of his game. He’s more of a wing than a point on offense, but he’s got pretty advanced vision for a wing player and was second on Louisville’s team in assist rate last season. When he attacks the basket Mitchell does a great job of hopping side to side with his natural bounce and then just blowing by guys. He doesn’t have a super advanced handle, but he creates a lot of space with the moves he does possess due to his bounce.
The big question for Mitchell’s offensive game, and his NBA future, is his outside shot. His form is solid and he shoots the ball with confidence, but he only shot 25 percent from three last season. He was a 75 percent free throw shooter and considering he took about five three pointers per 40 minutes it is fair to believe he’s a better outside shooter than he’s shown so far.
If he can improve his outside shot, he would become a very intriguing 3-and-D wing prospect. With defenses forced to respect his jump shot he could get into the lane even more to create for both himself and others, and would be a great player at attacking closeouts due to his burst and passing vision. On defense, he’s not an elite prospect due to being undersized, but he’s not lost on that end either, and is able to use his raw tools to make things happen. He’s a particularly outstanding rebounder for his size, averaging 7.0 rebounds per 40 minutes despite standing only 6-3.
Players with Mitchell’s off-the-charts athleticism simply don’t come around very often. Particularly guys with some actual offensive feel and good form on their jumper. I’ll be watching closely to see how his outside shot comes along, and how many more highlight dunks he unleashes.