Each year, we do a themed preview series to ready for the season. This year’s theme is "Playoff Push."
What is the No. 1 thing Tony Mitchell can step up to do to help the Pistons make the playoffs?
Play hard all the time
The Pistons basically made Mitchell promise he’d play hard before they drafted him, and it’s imperative he his word immediately. I don’t know whether Mitchell will get any meaningful minutes this season – he’ll likely split time between the inactive list and the D-League – but there’s a good chance any substantial playing time would be given rather than earned. By that, I mean the Pistons are likely too deep at power forward for him to outplay someone into the rotation. But in the event of injury, he could play – and if he plays hard, maybe even play well. But if he’s not playing hard, I’m sure he’d be a liability, and already down multiple players in that scenario, that would be a big problem.
Be the new Amir Johnson
Realistically, as entertainingly athletic as Mitchell is, he’s not likely to contribute this year. One of my favorite Pistons of all-time is D-League Amir Johnson. Johnson barely played his first two seasons as a Piston, but put up absolutely dominant numbers in D-League stints that had me convinced he was a future rotation player. That didn’t really work out for the Pistons because of an unwillingness by coaches to play anyone younger than like 31-years-old in those days, but Johnson ultimately became an energetic, productive NBA player, and I have similar hopes for Mitchell.
Make the most of floor time
Mitchell, a second round pick out of North Texas, is a really interesting player. He was a top prospect who was forced to go to North Texas because of grades, had a great freshman year but fell off tremendously in his sophomore campaign. He had a great Summer League in Orlando, where Pistons coaches raved about him. Considering the expectations for him, Mitchell must showcase all of his skills in the limited time he’ll see this season. He has been a good shooter, scorer and shot blocker in college, and he will have a chance to show that this season. He won’t get a lot of playing time this year, but it’s going to be exciting how he plays at the next level.
Always be ready
There isn’t a whole lot to Tony Mitchell as a player. He’s going to rebound, he’s going to block some shots, and he’s going to provide an athletic presence on both sides of the court. The dilemma is that the Pistons already have a bigger, better version of that in Andre Drummond. Mitchell’s going to be a situational guy this season, but if he can focus on being an energy guy/rebounder/defender in limited minutes — basically, Jason Maxiell — he’ll be just fine.
- Brady Fredericksen