Since the days of Rip Hamilton, Chauncey Billups, and the Wallaces roaming the Motor City, the Pistons have been lacking in quite a few areas. Obviously, the win column has taken a hit, as they have went from annual playoff contenders to crossing their fingers on ping pong balls. Another sometimes unnoticed area that has been lacking, though, is excitement. Well, ladies and gentleman, that is over, as Tony Mitchell has arrived in Detroit.
Even though Mitchell was only a second round draft choice, he had more than enough talent to go in the first, especially in this year’s draft. The problem wasn’t his ability, those were pretty clear, but what was wrong with Mitchell in the eyes of scouts was his mental makeup, as well as a drop in production from year one to year two at North Texas.
In his first year, he was one of the most efficient players in the country, posting a PER of nearly 30. His shooting percentages were through the roof, and if he would have left school, he more than likely could have been a lottery pick. He decided to stick around in Denton, and he paid a price for it.
North Texas had lost their previous head coach, Johnny Jones, to LSU during the offseason, and hired Tony Benford to replace him. Right away, things didn’t click between these two, and it was clear that the team as a whole started to tune him out. This was clear on the court, as NTU heavily underperformed on their way to a 12-20 record. Mitchell was part of this, and he seemed disinterested at times, and saw his PER drop about 10 points all the way down to 20. His numbers were down in just about every area, and you could tell that he wasn’t going to be sticking around for another year with Benford.
Luckily for Mitchell, he comes into a situation in Detroit where the team has just hired a “player’s coach” in Maurice Cheeks. On top of that, the Pistons have a familiar face in Rasheed Wallace on the coaching staff who should be able to keep Mitchell concentrate, and also to continue his development as an all around force.
So now that you know a little background on Mitchell, just why is he going to excite the fans? Well, here’s a highlight tape from this summer to give you an idea.
His ability to get up high above the rim will have fans watching him for every moment he’s on offense. His 12 foot (!!) vertical reach is the stuff of legends, and means that he can go 2 feet above the rim to throw down alley-oops. This type of athleticism comes in handy on offense, and it certainly will on defense, too.
He averaged 2.9 blocks per game over his career, and if he can figure out how to put his 7’3 wingspan to good use, that could continue on to the pro level. As you saw in the highlight film, he is known for his chase-down blocks (much like LeBron James), and his combination of speed and leaping ability make these possible.
He is very quick to get to his second jump, which makes his timing a bit less important. This is important for a rookie, as obviously he will not be totally adjusted to the pro game right out of the gate. His upside is undeniable though, and that should add a even more intrigue to the table.
Regardless of what kind of player he turns out to be, one thing is for sure, in the 5-10 minutes per night that Tony Mitchell gets to play this season, he’s going to be the most entertaining player to watch on the court.
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