The Utah Jazz shook up the draft by trading away Trey Lyles and the No. 24 pick in order to select Louisville star Donovan Mitchell at No. 13. Will the Jazz end up with the steal of the draft, or will Lyles make the Jazz regret the trade?
If Dennis Lindsey has made one thing clear since taking over as GM for the Utah Jazz, it’s this: He is not afraid to make draft-night trades.
There isn’t too much anticipation from fans of teams with the 24th and 30th picks in the NBA Draft, because the chances of landing a star at that position aren’t great. For Jazz fans, though, it’s almost always entertaining. The team has a history of getting steals outside of the lottery.
Paul Millsap, Rodney Hood, Rudy Gobert, CJ Miles, Mo Williams and Andrei Kirilenko are just a few who were all selected in the late first or second rounds of the draft. They even picked up undrafted Wes Matthews who was a great piece and still a contributing NBA player.
Lindsey has added a different level of excitement with his propensity to make trades on draft night.
Once again, Lindsey generated excitement for Jazz fans on Thursday by trading away the No. 24 pick and Trey Lyles, in exchange for the No. 13 pick. That pick was used to select Louisville star Donovan Mitchell.
Who is Donovan Mitchell?
A week ago I wrote an article profiling players the Jazz should be targeting in the draft. I initially had Donovan Mitchell on that list, but looking at mock drafts at the time, nobody had him going later than the 14th pick to Miami.
Mitchell was one of the high risers on draft boards following the NCAA Tournament. On April 6, Bleacher Report posted a mock draft that had him going No. 25 to……the Utah Jazz.
Just a few days prior, Chad Ford released his mock draft, and Mitchell wasn’t even projected to go in the first round.
As a sophomore at Louisville, he averaged 15.6 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.1 steals per game, leading the Cardinals to a 25-9 record and a berth into the NCAA Tournament. Those numbers earned him All-ACC First Team and All-Defensive Team honors.
Then he went to the NBA Draft Combine and started working out for teams, and his stock exploded.
At the combine, his measurements were off the chart. He measured in at 6-foot-3 with a 6-foot-10 wingspan. He also had the highest standing vertical at 36.5 inches and a max vertical of 40.5 inches. Those measurables and athleticism led to plays like this:
Reports also said he came across as extremely positive in team interviews.
How does Mitchell fit in with the Jazz?
Heading into the draft and free agency, the Jazz were in need of another playmaker — someone who can come off the bench while Gordon Hayward and Rodney Hood are resting and create their own shot. Too often the Jazz offense would go stagnant when they went to the bench.
Mitchell is an aggressive offensive player. He can create his own shot off of drives to the basket, and pull-up jump shots. He needs to refine his 3-point stroke (he shot 35 percent from three last season), but he was streaky and capable of catching fire.
During his last season at Louisville he showed that he can score in a variety of ways, but he also didn’t force shots. He moved the ball well and took what the defense gave him.
He showed that against Syracuse in late February. He scored 25 points with a solid mix of creating shots on his own, hitting spot-up jumpers and moving without the ball. He also added five rebounds, four assists and two steals.
One of the biggest positives for Mitchell coming to Utah is that he fits the Jazz culture of hard-nosed defense.
"Perhaps the most appealing part of Mitchell’s profile, particularly early on in his career, lies on the defensive end. Two years under Rick Pitino has benefited him greatly in this regard, as he’s emerged as a multi-positional stopper who a coach can sic on point guards, shooting guards and even some small forwards and expect results. Mitchell has outstanding physical tools to get the job done, with his elite length, chiseled frame and quick feet, but also the mentality, as he’s a highly competitive guy who is willing to pick up full court, get on the floor for loose balls, and generally make life difficult for opposing players."
Sounds like a player who will fit right into the Jazz roster. He plays with an intensity on the defensive side of the court and appears to take his match-ups personally. Just look at how he picked up Notre Dame full court:
With that 6-foot-10 wingspan, his physical frame and athleticism, he can be a terror on the defensive end. It’s not just his measurables though. Everything he says proves that he has the mindset to be a defensive stopper.
Heading into next season, he can make an immediate contribution off the bench. Both as an offensive spark who can get hot and create shots for himself and others, and as a defensive specialist.
Does replacing Trey Lyles with Donovan Mitchell make the Jazz better or worse?
This is one of the biggest questions whenever a trade is made. Which team came out on top? Who won the trade?
I really like Trey Lyles, and it was hard to see the Jazz let him go. I think the Nuggets are getting a very talented forward who perfectly fits the mold of a modern-day stretch four.
Against smaller players, he can shoot the three over the top of the defender, or he is skilled enough to post them up. Against most bigs, he can get the ball on the perimeter, and has the handles and speed to drive past them to the hoop.
He’s a mismatch waiting to happen.
However, even with all of his skills, he was not an effective player this last season. He struggled to get going with inconsistent playing time, and when he did get the chance to play, he settled for threes (48 percent of all his shots), and seemed timid.
Still, given the chance, I think he can turn into a very productive player.
That being said, Donovan Mitchell is one of the few players who the Jazz could’ve gotten that I think is worth dealing Lyles.
A combo guard with the ability to play both the point and wing positions, while simultaneously being able to guard three positions, he fits a big need for the Jazz.
With George Hill and Alec Burks potentially on the way out, the Jazz needed another guard who could provide offense while also not sacrificing their defensive mentality. Donovan Mitchell will make it easier to handle.
If Hill stays, Mitchell can still have a role assuming Burks’ minutes, while also providing spot point guard minutes. He’s not ready to be a starting point guard in the league, but he has the skills necessary to immediately provide another 3-and-D wing off the bench for the Jazz.
As for the loss of Lyles, a healthy Derrick Favors and the potential rise of Joel Bolomboy, can mitigate that loss. It may also be a position the Jazz believe they can fill via the upcoming free agency.
Ultimately, based on Mitchell’s upside, I think the trade will improve the Jazz going forward. Now, enjoy the top plays of Donovan Mitchell’s sophomore season at Louisville!
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I can hardly wait to see him pull off moves like that in a Jazz uniform!