With only a month until the NBA Draft, prospects are beginning to gain an understanding of where their career will take them.
Some, though, have still have trouble gauging where they will be taken, for the right and wrong reasons.
Tony Mitchell, once regarded as a potential lottery pick following a stellar freshman season, experienced a rough campaign at North Texas and is now plummeting on draft boards.
On the contrary, Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan Wolverines guard, has put himself on many team’s radars with his fine play in the NCAA tournament and at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago.
Both players are talented, but one can’t seem to develop into the player many expected him to be.
Mitchell was originally set to play college basketball at Missouri, but he was deemed academically ineligible and never saw a second of court time there, a red flag almost immediately for teams. However, he burst onto the scene at North Texas during his freshman season, and many thought that Mitchell could be a lottery pick. Despite that, he elected to return to school, which seems to be a mistake. He regressed in nearly every major category from last season to this one and his motor and basketball IQ were both questioned. Playing against inferior competition, Mitchell would settle for jump shots, not hustle back on defense and get lost on the floor multiple times during the course of a game.
Now this once lottery pick is floating around in the mid-20’s ... and dropping.
The one thing keeping Mitchell in the first round is his size and potential. At 6’9" 236 pounds, he can play both small forward and power forward. The athletic tools are also there, he actually recorded the highest vertical leap at the Draft Combine. It was so high they had to prop up the bar for his second attempt. However, many scouts can’t shake the nagging suspicion that he's still a very raw talent whose effort remains a huge question mark. With his skills, he should have been a tantalizing force in a mid-major conference, not one that couldn’t even get his team over .500.
Hardaway Jr. is trending in the opposite direction. Like Mitchell, he had a fantastic freshman year, but then saw a major drop-off in production during his sophomore campaign. However, the difference between the two is that Hardaway returned to school for his junior season, and played again like his freshman self. He posted similar numbers to his first season at Michigan and was a vital part of the team that went to the NCAA Finals this past spring.
Hardaway Jr’s. climb didn’t stopped there. At the combine in Chicago, the swingman wowed scouts and executives by shooting 19 of 25 in a three-point shooting drill. Chad Ford of ESPN praised the son of the Heat great, "His (Hardaway) performance at the combine, shooting the ball in the athletic testing, and in Friday's live action 3-on-3's put him in the same groupings with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Jamaal Franklin, Glen Rice Jr. and Allen Crabbe for the next 2-guard to come off the board after (Ben) McLemore and (Victor) Oladipo get drafted."
Again, similar to Mitchell, Hardaway dealt with his fair share of issues as a sophomore, namely his attitude. Hardaway let his emotions get the best of him when he went through shooting slumps and let it affect his entire game. Then in his junior season he came to work with a different approach.
"(Last year) I just wanted to make sure I was a positive guy throughout the entire season, even when things weren't going my way. ... Being an energy giver. No matter what," Hardaway said about his positive attitude at the combine. His play and leadership actually led to him being named team captain during the middle of the season.
Now, Ford has Hardaway Jr. ranked #32 on his big board, with Mitchell at #20. DraftExpress.com’s latest mock draft has Mitchell going #21 to the Jazz, one before the Nets pick, and Hardaway going #32 overall to the Thunder. Word is they may soon get closer.
How does this tie into the Nets? Well, the team doesn’t have a long-term solution at shooting guard past Joe Johnson, unless MarShon Brooks and/or Bojan Bogdanovic develop quickly. The team has experimented with small ball lineups during the season, so could Hardaway Jr. be a potential shooting guard with Johnson moving to small forward? Hardaway seems likely to be there at #22, which will make the Nets think about it.
Mitchell, on the other hand, may not be there when the Nets are up, for teams may be too intrigued by his athletic abilities, overlooking his shortcomings in his most recent season. Tough to see where teams stand with the North Texas product, but if one player were to slip outside of the lottery, it could be Mitchell. He may even slip further to where the Nets pick. It doesn’t seem that Mitchell possesses anything unique that the Nets don’t already have ... and his question marks are likely to make them think twice...or more.