With the 12th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, the Detroit Pistons selected Luke Kennard. The Denver Nuggets selected Donovan Mitchell one pick later and promptly traded him to the Utah Jazz. Mitchell would later say that he was surprised Detroit didn’t select him. He and Stan Van Gundy watched film together, and Mitchell felt his analysis went well.
When I watched him play his rookie season, I, too, was surprised Detroit selected a different shooting guard.
Donovan Mitchell is currently a four-time All-Star and was All-Rookie First Team and All-NBA Second Team last year. He’s been exactly the type of shooting guard the Detroit Pistons have needed since Richard Hamilton.
The Detroit Pistons’ answer may be on their bench in Jaden Ivey
Jaden Ivey’s speed, athleticism, and quickness give me a sense that he could be a similar player to Mitchell. To make that leap, Ivey would need to improve his perimeter shooting and develop tighter footwork, but the similarities are there.
This season, Ivey is averaging 11 points, 2.1 rebounds, and 2.4 assists on 57% eFG in 19.4 minutes per game. His shooting is up from 47% eFG his rookie season and his scoring is only down five points a contest in 12 fewer minutes.
Ivey has become more efficient in his second season, and as he develops that efficiency, he’ll put his physical abilities to better use. The floor will open, the game will slow down, and he’ll be better able to break down defenses.
In Utah, Spider Mitchell was used in about a third of the Jazz’s plays. In one finals series, Utah continued putting Mitchell in a progressively higher pick-and-roll with Rudy Gobert, forcing him to score in isolation. In that series against the Rockets, Utah simply didn’t have an alternative offensive scheme. Mitchell began to drag, and the Jazz lost.
In Cleveland with a more balanced roster, Mitchell’s usage rate has gone down slightly and his eFG has risen to 57%, the same as Ivey’s.
Mitchell is doing this on volume and he’s being asked to create his own shot. While Ivey isn’t there yet, we can glimpse the future in Mitchell’s style of play.
Mitchell is fast. He likes to attack the paint and either score or dish. He changes speed on the drive and uses his footwork to get his defender off balance. While Ivey hasn’t developed his bag quite like Mitchell, he has all of these tendencies. He likes to rely on speed and quickness, and he can change speeds on the dribble.
Mitchell works well in space, but he can step back and knock down a perimeter shot to keep his opponent honest. Ivey will improve this skill in time. At the moment, his shot is decent, especially as he’s gotten more efficient and has been playing against reserves. He’s improved both his three-point and field-goal percentages.
Ivey isn’t Mitchell, but the similarities are there. Spider Mitchell might be the prototype for a Jaden Ivey of the future, and as Ivey improves, he’ll be a better complement to the other players on the Detroit Pistons’ roster.