Prospect Watch: Tony Mitchell

Tony Mitchell
Tony Mitchell (AP)

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Tony Mitchell
Tony Mitchell (AP)

College: North Texas
Class: Sophomore
Height: 6’9″
Weight: 236
Wingspan: 7’2.5″

Per-game stats: 32 G, 32.6 MIN, 13.0 PTS., 8.5 REB, 2.7 BLK, 0.8 AST, 2.7 TOV, .440 FG%, .287 3PT%, .675 FT%.

Why should the Nets draft Tony Mitchell? Mitchell is a lottery talent with the body of a forward, the quickness of a guard and the wingspan of a center. SLAM Magazine has Mitchell going to the Hawks at 18 and describes him as “akin to a springbok, a South African antelope that’s nearly as quick as it is brawny.” OK then.

The North Texas forward can rebound, block shots, and has a penchant for finishing strong around the rim. Mitchell isn’t a great shooter but has shown that he can hit the open three. He also has the leaping ability of Gerald Green, which might justify taking him with the 22nd pick for the alley-oops from Deron Williams we’ve missed alone.

As a combo-forward Mitchell would fill needs at the two least productive positions on the 2012-13 Brooklyn Nets roster. If he adequately adjusts to the NBA game, his speed and athleticism would allow new coach Jason Kidd to explore smallball lineups that many fans and pundits clamored for from Avery Johnson and P.J. Carlesimo. Mitchell has been known to take plays off, but the influence of Reggie Evans and Gerald Wallace might be just the antidote for any blasé play from the youngster.

Also, Mitchell is originally from the Dallas area, as is franchise point guard Williams. For whatever that’s worth.

Why shouldn’t the Nets draft Tony Mitchell? Mitchell may be a lottery talent, but he isn’t going in the lottery. While he has potential, he isn’t that young for a sophomore; Mitchell red-shirted his freshman year in 2010-11 and will be 21 on draft night. After a solid rookie season in 2011-12, his numbers declined across the board for North Texas in his sophomore season, including a 30% drop in his college PER. To add injury to insult, he missed nine games with leg ailments.

Even if we give him the benefit of the doubt with the injuries and the North Texas coaching change, 13 points per game in the Sun Belt Conference is weak for an NBA prospect.

And then there’s the question of the motor. Playing with the likes of Crash may motivate Mitchell but sitting on the bench may alienate and lessen the drive of a kid who is used to being the man. His poor basketball IQ won’t help the adjustment, either; Mitchell was routinely out of position on defense in college and had a 58.3% turnover rate when double teamed this year.

Brooklyn is in win-now mode, and while Mitchell might be the next Paul George, the Nets might be better suited at 22 going with someone who can help the 2013-14 Nets rather than the 2015-16 Nets. Also, let’s remember the last time the Nets took a forward from the state of Texas with a pick in the 20s, Damion James with the 24th pick just three years ago. That’s Damion James of the Bakersfield Jam of the NBADL.

Will Tony Mitchell be available at 22? Yes, no, maybe so. Just like his game, Mitchell’s draft projection is all over the place. Other than SLAM’s prediction of Mitchell at 18, SB Nation has him going at 16 to the Celtics for a Rondo-Mitchell alley oop combo reminiscent of Kidd-Martin, Chad Ford has him going to the Knicks at 25 and others have him as a late first-round or even early second-round pick.

If we weighted all the projections and averaged them out in Nate Silver’s computer, the answer would probably be yes, he will be available. But with a shiny talent like Mitchell all it takes is one team to fall in love with his upside and physical tools to make the point moot for the Nets.

If needed, should the Nets move up to draft Tony Mitchell? No. Mitchell may have all the raw tools, but he’s far from a sure thing and not worth giving up any substantial assets for. Take a chance on him at 22? Sure. But the Nets will live if the sprinbok doesn’t don the black and white.

Final verdict:

Mitchell is a tantalizing tweener that could end up being an All-Star or could end up out of the league in a few years. His age, work ethic and lack of dominance in college are all red flags, but this is the 22nd pick, so that’s par for the course. Mitchell’s upside and the fact that he fills a need as a backup PF or SF make him worth a look at 22, but not higher.