Jazz rookie guard Donovan Mitchell intended to return to Louisville for his junior season when tested the draft waters, Tim MacMahon of ESPN reports. Mitchell paid his expenses to the Creative Artists Agency pre-draft camp because he wanted to see what improvements he needed in his game before returning to college, MacMahon continues. Chris Paul and Paul George convinced Mitchell during the camp that he was good enough to be a first-round selection. The Jazz targeted him after an interview during the Chicago pre-draft camp and traded into the lottery to snag him, MacMahon adds.
In other news involving the Northwest Division:
- Nuggets coach Michael Malone downplays the feeling that the franchise made a mistake dealing Mitchell, the No. 13 pick, to the Jazz, Eric Woodyard of the Deseret News tweets. “The only thing I can say is obviously we got (forward) Trey Lyles in that deal and Trey Lyles has been great for us,“ Malone told Woodyard. Mitchell doesn’t hold any grudges against Denver for trading him, Kyle Goon of the Salt Lake Tribune tweets.
- Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen is the biggest reason why the franchise is wallowing in mediocrity, John Canzano of The Oregonian opines. Allen’s hands-on approach has been a failure, which has led to numerous GM and coaching changes, Canzano continues. The best way for the franchise to move forward is for Allen to let his basketball staff and coaches do their jobs without his constant meddling, Canzano adds.
- The acquisitions of Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson have transformed the Timberwolves, as coach Tom Thibodeau told Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star Tribune and other reporters. “Just the toughness,” Thibodeau said. “You’re talking about two elite defenders and knowing how important defense is and making the right plays offensively. … You can ask (Butler) to guard any player on the floor and he does it. They don’t take any possessions off and they understand how hard you have to play on every possession. With young guys, sometimes they don’t understand that. You can’t take plays off and you can’t pick and choose when you’re going to play defense.”