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Utah Jazz: No. 13 pick Donovan Mitchell matched Dennis Lindsey's profile perfectly

Published June 23, 2017 4:22 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Donovan Mitchell just had shook Adam Silver's hand on the stage at the Barclays Center while donning a Denver Nuggets cap and a Denver logo blazing in the background.

It was right as he took his last step off the stage that he caught a glimpse of a TV screen: His rights had been traded to the Utah Jazz.

"No disrespect to Denver, but I kind of gave a fist pump," Mitchell said an hour later Thursday night while wearing a crisp new Jazz hat. "Just really excited to go to Utah."



But as excited as Mitchell may have been on NBA Draft night, the power brokers within the Jazz organization at least matched his enthusiasm, packaging a former lottery pick in Trey Lyles with the No. 24 pick for a chance to move up to take a player that they saw as a perfect fit within the organization.

Some of the 6-foot-3 Louisville guard's comments from draft night read as though they could've been written by coach Quin Snyder.

"I want to work and be the best defender I can be," Mitchell said. "That's how you earn coaches' trust on the defensive end. A lot of guys can score 30 points, but can you stop the best player on the [other] team?"

Mitchell may have arrived publicly on Jazz fans' radar when he showed up in Utah in May for a workout, a bit of an upset for the Jazz given that he already was slotted as a lottery pick and well out of their range.

But general manager Dennis Lindsey's eye was on Mitchell long before the draft process began, when his son's Baylor team faced off against Mitchell in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas. Lindsey was allowed in a team dinner during which Baylor was scouting the Cardinals and described Mitchell as the "A, B, C and D" of the defensive game plan.

Although the Bears were able to beat Louisville the following day, Mitchell scored 17 points, had eight rebounds and notched four assists.

"It gave me a deep insight that we had to pay attention," Lindsey said.

Mitchell also jumped out to others in the organization, including Lindsey's predecessor Kevin O'Connor. After meeting with him in Chicago, the Jazz talked with his agent about bringing him in for a workout, and the interest was mutual.

Here's what they saw: A guard who can play either the 1 or 2 with a vulture-like 6-foot-10 wingspan and also ran the fast three-quarter court sprint at the NBA Draft Combine. Mitchell was also the leader of a Louisville team that ranked No. 8 in defensive efficiency last year, according to stat site KenPom.com. While his two steals per game might be attributable to Louisville's system — Mitchell said the Cardinals were taught to gamble defensively — his pride on defense was one of the things that Utah liked the most.

Lindsey said he "went at him" on some of his weaknesses in his game, trying to see if he could stir up a reaction. But what he saw was a clear-eyed, intelligent prospect who harbors few illusions about his game and how he translates into the NBA. Lindsey said "he passed with flying colors."

Since Mitchell also embraced basketball later in his high school career (his first love was baseball, which his father played), the Jazz also believe he has a lot of room to develop.

When asked what he needs to work on the most, Mitchell said his offensive efficiency.

"At Louisville you can take 25 shots as long as you play great defense, so obviously I'm not going to be able to take 25 shots my rookie year, or pretty much any year in the NBA," he said. "But I'm just going out there, really just working on better shot selection knowing you're going to get four shots a game, maybe sometimes two, and you just gotta be able to knock down shots when they count and do your role."

Mitchell's selection ended a chapter on Lyles, for whom the Jazz once had similar high hopes. After a promising rookie season with 33 starts and an impressive summer, Lyles slumped as a sophomore and struggled to get time behind acquisitions Boris Diaw and Joe Johnson, averaging 6.2 points and shooting just over 36 percent.

Lindsey said it was a "painful decision" to part with Lyles, but the Nuggets had been interested in him for a long time. The trade came about quickly, he said, once the Jazz saw Mitchell still was available at No. 13.

Mitchell's selection seems to raise questions for the future of Dante Exum, Utah's 2014 lottery pick, especially if the Jazz are able to re-sign George Hill or pick up another veteran point guard as they desire. But Lindsey said he sees Exum and Mitchell playing together, bringing length, speed and athletic ability to Utah's backcourt. They'll explore that during Utah Summer League in July.

It's not unusual for any team to hold so much optimism coming out of draft night. But Lindsey said in terms of looking for a match, Mitchell's profile is an extremely snug fit with the Jazz.

"It's been my experience the guys with tools, guys who love the game, guys with character and intelligence â€" those are always the guys who get better," he said. "We'll find out to what degree."

kgoon@sltrib.com

Twitter: @kylegoon —

Donovan Mitchell

• All-ACC at Louisville, averaging 15.6 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 2.1 spg

• 6 foot 3, 6-10 wingspan, ran fastest three-quarter sprint at NBA draft combine (3.01 seconds)

• Attended Brewster Academy in New Hampshire and was a five-star Scout prospect

• Father Donovan Mitchell Sr. played pro baseball with the Houston Astros

 

 

 

 

 

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