With the Dallas Mavericks picking ninth in the June 22 NBA Draft, they’re going to miss out on the top talent available. That’s not to say that they can’t get a good player to insert into their young core, though. Conventional wisdom has the Mavs taking either Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen or Frank Ntilikina out of France. Markkanen draws comparisons to Dirk Nowitzki, though he shouldn’t, and Ntilikina is a tall 18-year old point guard already playing professionally overseas. If either of them is off the board or Dallas chooses to buck the Internet’s conventional wisdom, one intriguing player who could be around when the Mavs are on the clock is Louisville’s Donovan Mitchell.
Mitchell enters the draft after two years under Rick Pitino and has made marked improvements to his game. Coming off the bench his freshman season, Mitchell averaged 7.4 points on 44.2 percent shooting, a mark held down because of his poor 25% 3-point shooting, 3.4 rebounds, and 1.7 assists in 19.1 minutes. During his sophomore year he saw his overall field goal shooting drop to 40.8 percent. However, his 3-point shooting improved dramatically to 35.4 percent. He also posted averages of 15.6 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 2.1 steals.
Athletically, one would be hard pressed to find someone more gifted than Mitchell. At the draft combine, he posted the best standing vertical (36.5 inches) and a max vertical of 40.5. He also clocked in at 3.01 seconds in the three-quarter quart sprint, the fastest time since 2008.
Mitchell is listed at 6’3 with shoes on, short for a shooting guard. But he has an impressive 6’10” wingspan. This, combined with his listed weight of 210 pounds, should allow him to defend both guard positions in the NBA despite his short stature. His selection to First Team All-ACC and All-Defensive Team further the case that he is ready to make the leap to the pros. If he hopes to see minutes during his rookie season, especially playing for Rick Carlisle, he’ll have to rely on his defensive abilities first and foremost.
If there is a knock on Mitchell, it’s that he’s inconsistent both with his jumper and his decision making. He was able to make simple reads and work the pick and roll during his second year at Louisville but he can still be reckless at times, needing to slow down and make the right play. He also isn’t great at getting to the rim and finishing. But this length and his outside shooting give him the framework of a 3-and-D player who can work off the ball in the halfcourt until he finds his footing in the league.
Joining the Mavericks would mean a bench roll for Mitchell. Unfortunately for him, Dallas already has a number of guards coming off the bench. If Seth Curry is moved into the starting lineup next season, Mitchell would be competing with J.J. Barea, Devin Harris, and Yogi Ferrell for playing time. However, with his ability to play defense at a high level, he could squeak out a living as a stopper, giving the Mavs another lengthy player to play alongside Dorian Finney-Smith on the perimeter.
Mark Cuban said that the Mavs would take the best available player in the draft. We’ll have to wait and see who they think that is. However, if they were to take Donovan Mitchell, it wouldn’t be the worst thing they’ve done on draft day*.
For more on the Mavericks' draft options, follow Doyle Rader on Twitter at @TheKobeBeef.
*editor's note: I tried to come up with the worst thing the Mavericks have done on draft day, but gave up after the initial list reached the twentieth bullet point