“He made strides as a playmaker in his sophomore season and operating out of the pick and roll … However, he still plays too fast at times, not always reading the defense and making the simple play … He also lacks the ideal height and court vision to see over the top of the defense, especially with bigger opponents guarding him … He has a tendency to settle for tough, contested two-point jumpers, partially due to his inability to consistently get all the way to the rim, and also because of his average decision making skills … While he can make some of these attempts, it will not be a reliable way to score at the next level, and it will decrease his overall offensive efficiency, as it has in college.”
From NBAdraft.net, that was part of last year’s scouting report on Donovan Mitchell. Those concerns led to him being passed over by 12 teams and then traded by the one that did select him. Mitchell was viewed as an undersized player for his position who needed to land in the right situation to be successful.
He blew away expectations, of course, providing the Jazz with the go-to scorer they needed after the loss of free agent Gordon Hayward. Mitchell became a finalist for the Rookie of the Year award and reminded us that the draft remains hard to predict, no matter how closely the prospects are studied.
It’s easy to criticize the teams that didn’t see Mitchell as a future star. It’s much harder to pick out a similar surprise from this year’s crop. The first 10 selections in the latest mock draft by ESPN’s Jonathan Givony are Deandre Ayton, Marvin Bagley III, Jaren Jackson Jr., Luka Doncic, Mo Bamba, Wendell Carter Jr., Michael Porter Jr., Trae Young, Kevin Knox and Mikal Bridges. The next version of Mitchell might be somewhere outside that group. Here are a few candidates:
- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander — The late-blooming Kentucky star has exceptional size for a point guard, standing 6’6″ with a nearly 7-foot wing span. He is an aggressive defender who can guard several positions, and scouts are confident that his offense will improve as he ages.
- Lonnie Walker — Miami’s shooting guard is blessed with considerable athletic ability and a nice shooting stroke that should transfer well into the NBA. He was impressive at the combine both on and off the court, as teams took notice of how he smoothly conducted himself with the media.
- Collin Sexton — For all the attention that went to Young, Alabama’s Sexton may have been the best pure point guard in college basketball. He displayed a combination of strength, speed and agility and seemed to raise his game in big moments.
- Zhaire Smith — Athleticism stands out for the Texas Tech freshman, who proved to be a dangerous scorer from all over the court and is particularly adept at drawing fouls. He also made strides on defense and as a rebounder and could develop into an all-around player.
- Miles Bridges — An A-plus athlete who can match up with guards and forwards, Bridges might have been a certain lottery pick if he had left Michigan State last year. He has a smooth jumper and can get easy points on cuts to the basket, but scouts are most impressed by his athleticism and competitive drive.
Of course, there are a lot more candidates, and we want to get your input. Which player projected to be drafted outside the top 10 has the best chance to turn into a star? Please leave your feedback in the comments section below.