Finding a Niche For: Tony MitchellMay 9, 2012
After a strong sophomore season that put him firmly on the NBA radar screen, Alabama's Tony Mitchell took a significant step backwards both in terms of productivity and reputation as a junior, being suspended by Alabama coach Anthony Grant for the remainder of the season for conduct detrimental to the team in early February. The 6'6” Mitchell continues to have many of the questions marks that make his status as a prospect murkier, despite his elite physical tools.
Standing 6'6” with a long wingspan, a strong, wiry frame, and excellent athleticism, Mitchell has the physical profile that could form the basis of a very impactful wing defender. His contributions on this end of the court (7.2 defensive rebounds, 1.3 steals, 1.9 blocks per 40 minutes, pace adjusted) put him in fairly elite company for a wing prospect, and he's more than capable of making a highlight reel defensive play to spark his team.
When engaged, Mitchell has been the best defender on an Alabama team that was one of the best in the nation on this end of the court. At times, Mitchell can lose focus, particularly when he's struggling on the offensive end. He appears to give the necessary effort, and it's more an exercise in improving focus than overall effort level.
Offensively, Mitchell still has many of the same question marks he did in years past. His overall efficiency on jump shots has seen an improvement, from 0.852 points per possession as a sophomore to 0.945 points per possession this past year, according to Synergy Sports Technology.
The improvement has mainly come from mid-range, where he has looked more comfortable both in catch and shoot situations and even using one or two dribbles to setup a pull-up jumper on occasion. His form and balance appear to be inconsistent, and so have the results, at times looking like it could develop into a real weapon for him if given enough repetition and at times coming off flat and with little touch.
He has struggled to extend his range out to the collegiate three point line, making only 31.1% of his 3.4 attempts per game. Extending his range and consistency from long range is imperative for his long-term NBA future, especially with his lack of shot creation ability.
Mitchell is not a great ball-handler. He has little in the way of misdirection moves or creativity off the dribble, and he has a very underdeveloped left hand that becomes a hindrance when teams overplay his right. He has a reasonably quick crossover dribble, but because of his weak off hand this is only used to setup a pull-up jumper. Should he be able to improve his ball handling skills, he has a very quick first step with long, rangy strides that could be a weapon, but he has a long ways to go before he's able to use this with any consistency.
Because of his lack of ball-handling ability, Mitchell gets to the line fairly infrequently. His 3.2 free throw attempts per 40 minutes rank towards the bottom third of wing prospects in our database. The combination of inconsistency from three and his relative inability to get to the free throw line creates a relatively inefficient offensive player, particularly as he's been asked to generate more of Alabama's half-court offense. To make matters worse, his 2 point FG% fell drastically this year, from 58.1% his sophomore year to 50.5% this year, and he has struggled at times to finish at the rim when challenged by a shot blocker.
Mitchell is quick and incredibly explosive off his feet, which makes him a superb finisher around the basket off offensive rebounds, cuts, and in transition. He does a very good job controlling offensive rebounds for tips and putbacks, and with his athleticism he's capable of spectacular highlight reel plays that landed him on Sportscenter on numerous occasions.
Mitchell's improvement as a mid-range catch and shoot player was an encouraging step, but working to extend his range, form, balance, and consistency in his jump shot would go a long way towards projecting his viability as an offensive contributor. If he's able to do that, he has the physical tools to be a contributor in a defensive scheme.
That being said, even more of a concern then his ball handling or consistency in his jump shot has been his demeanor and attitude. Mitchell's body language and demeanor can vary from energetic and supportive of his teammates to frustrated, and his effort level can vary accordingly.
His suspension and eventual release from Alabama put a black cloud over his character, and he'll likely have a tough time alleviating these concerns in the minds of decision makers from now until June. Without an incredible skill-level that would make general manager's and scouts overlook these concerns, his performance in interviews during the draft process will take priority over anything he does on the basketball court in the next six weeks.
While its not out of the question that a team decides to take a flyer on him in the second round, in the long-term Mitchell may be best suited withdrawing his name from this year's draft and trying to rebuild his image with a strong professional season on and off the court in the NBA Development League. With added maturation, stronger recommendations from a new coaching staff, and hopefully an increased skill-level after being able to focus solely on basketball for an entire season, Mitchell's draft stock could look considerably better in a year from now.
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Top NBA Draft Prospects in the SEC, Part One (#1-10)October 25, 2011
After a solid freshman season, Alabama's Tony Mitchell
continued to make progress as a sophomore, playing more minutes and providing the Crimson Tide with a second scoring weapon alongside JaMychel Green. While Mitchell is still not a big name on the national scene, he's one of the batter overall players in the SEC, and he's able to impact the game in a number of ways at the college level.
As we mentioned before, Mitchell has solid physical tools for an NBA wing prospect, and he continued to display the energy and toughness that we saw from him as a freshman. He was one of the only two shooting guard prospects in our database to average over a block and a steal per game last season, along with Marshon Brooks
, highlighting what he brings to the table with his size, length, and athleticism on the defensive end. He also led all shooting guards in our database in rebounds per-40 pace adjusted, despite a slight dip from his freshman season.
Offensively, Mitchell didn't make any major breakthroughs as a sophomore, but he did manage to show slight improvements in most all areas. He played a larger role and picked up his scoring, while starting to show some potential creating his own shot. He still has work to do in terms of refining his moves off the dribble and tightening his handle, but he was more than just an off the ball player who scored off of cuts, offensive rebounds, and transition opportunities, like he primarily did as a freshman. Most importantly, Mitchell actually improved his overall field goal percentage, shooting an impressive 52%, while carrying a larger load for the Crimson Tide offensively.
Mitchell also made strides as a jump shooter, connecting on 32% of his jumpers as compared to only 27% as a freshman, while also improving from the free throw line and from 3-point range. He still has work to do, though, to make himself into a proficient outside shooter, which could be a big factor in his professional potential down the road.
As a 22 year old junior this upcoming season, Mitchell will need to continue to show improvement and give scouts a reason to pay attention to him as a legitimate NBA prospect. His physical tools and defensive potential on the wing give him a nice base to build on, but his offensive identity as an NBA prospect is likely still in question.
He's not a good enough shot-creator to be a guy who would have the ball in his hands creating offense, and his decision-making skills and playmaking ability are average at best. Off the ball, his athleticism and energy help him as a finisher and in transition, but he doesn't shoot the ball well enough from the perimeter to provide the spacing that NBA teams want to see in the halfcourt.
Judging from the progress he made from his freshman to sophomore season, it wouldn't be surprising to see Mitchell have a big year as a junior for what could be a solid Alabama team. He certainly has some intriguing qualities as an NBA wing prospect, and if he can continue to improve as a perimeter shooter and add polish to his game off the dribble, he'll be a player who could be talked about much more in NBA Draft discussion.
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Top NBA Draft Prospects in the SEC, Part Two (#6-10) September 30, 2010
Tony Mitchell failed to qualify academically for Alabama as a member of the 2008 high school class, but was able to get his grades in order at prep school and had a successful 2009-2010 season, being named to the SEC's all-freshman team.
The now-21-year old sophomore has intriguing physical tools as a 6-6 small forward, showing a nice frame, long arms and very nice athleticism, but still has work to do in terms of rounding out his skill-set and becoming a complete player.
Mitchell's role as a freshman was a pretty limited one, mostly being asked to operate without the ball, run the floor in transition, crash the glass and provide his team with energy—something he did a good job of in that limited scope. He scored the ball at a solid rate (16.1 points per-40p), was pretty efficient from the field (56% 2P), and proved to be an excellent rebounder at over 10 boards per-40p.
With that said, his limitations are pretty obvious at the same time. Mitchell is a below average ball-handler who struggles trying to create his own shot, as he lacks the ability to change directions with the ball and doesn't have much of a left hand. He didn't get to the free throw line very much last season, generated only a few assists, and rarely committed any turnovers because of how little he was asked to do with the ball.
Unless he improves his shot-creating ability dramatically, Mitchell will need to be a much more effective long-range shooter if he's to be able to emerge as a legit NBA prospect down the road. He made just 15 of 57 3-point attempts last season, or 26%, and only converted 59% of his free throw attempts.
Mitchell's shooting mechanics aren't bad, even if he does have a bit of a low release point, but he needs plenty of work on his consistency and touch. He's not a reliable threat at this point even when open with his feet set, and he similarly struggles shooting the ball off the dribble.
Defensively, Mitchell has good tools to work with, including his frame, length and athleticism, and was able to make his presence felt fairly well for a freshman at the SEC level. He ranked amongst the conference leaders in steals on a per-minute basis and blocked fair number of shots, also averaging over 10 rebounds per-40 minutes pace adjusted. His fundamentals and awareness on this end can leave something to be desired at times, as he clearly lacks experience, but he has all the tools needed to develop into an excellent defender down the road, particularly in terms of the toughness and effort he brings to the table.
Already 21 years old, Mitchell will need to show improvement on the offensive end if he's to hold NBA decision makers' attention span by the time he's ready to enter the draft. With Alabama's primary ball-handler Mikhail Torrance graduating last spring, Mitchell will have a chance to take on more offensive responsibility alongside JaMychal Green in his sophomore season.
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