In advance of the 2020 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops is evaluating prospects with a look at what the Atlanta Hawks might be considering from now until the selection process occurs. Dozens of prospects will be profiled in this space and, today, we glance at San Diego State forward Matt Mitchell.
Like many of his counterparts, San Diego State forward Matt Mitchell could choose to return to college after declaring for the 2020 NBA Draft. The 21-year-old did not sign with an agent when choosing to explore his professional options and, considering Mitchell’s place in the pecking order — in conjunction with public comments — it is far from a lock that he will still be in the player pool when Oct. 16 arrives.
“The NBA is a lifelong dream of mine and I am going to do everything in my power to pursue this goal,” Mitchell said when he announced his declaration. “If this does not end up being the right time to begin my professional career, I am excited about the opportunity to return for my senior season and what our Aztec team can accomplish in 2020-21.”
Still, Mitchell made significant strides during the 2019-20 season and, considering his profile and the looming uncertainty with college basketball, it is possible that he could see the 2020 draft as his best path. The 6’6, 240-pound forward displays a sturdy, strong frame, and Mitchell also has a 6’10 wingspan that is quite useful, particularly on the defensive end.
After a bit of a rough sophomore campaign in 2018-19, Mitchell appeared to be in improved shape during the 2019-20 campaign. It is possible that Mitchell could still benefit from losing a bit more weight to increase explosiveness but, at the same time, part of his appeal stems from the physicality that he plays with, especially when projecting him as a switchable defensive piece in a professional setting.
Offensively, Mitchell has a few strong indicators that can make useful in a relatively limited role. He knocked down 39.3 percent of his three-point attempts (on 8.2 per 100 possessions) as a junior, and he converted 87 percent of his shots at the free throw line. While he doesn’t necessarily profile as a game-changer in this regard, Mitchell’s ability as a floor-spacer is a positive, especially when taking his relatively substantial volume into account.
Elsewhere, Mitchell shot nearly 75 percent at the rim during his junior season, and his strength is incredibly evident as a finisher. The versatile forward can attack close-outs effectively and, he partnered well with fellow 2020 draft candidate Malachi Flynn to engineer San Diego State’s offense. On the whole, Mitchell’s combination of three-point marksmanship, free throw creation (and conversion) and finishing near the rim provides an exceptionally efficient profile for professional teams to scout.
As a passer, Mitchell isn’t transcendent by any means, but he does have a bit of ball-handling to display and that helps to ease the transition, even when acknowledging that he isn’t likely to bend defenses. He turned the ball over a bit too much and, as an overall passer, Mitchell could be described as average. Still, his development in this area, both as an on-ball threat and a ball mover, was notable in his third college season.
Defensively, Mitchell also has significant appeal, especially if deployed correctly. He posted a 2.5 percent steal rate and a 1.7 percent block rate this season, contributing “event” opportunities defensively with solid regularity. From there, he is incredibly strong, with the ability to defend college big men with effectiveness and a profile that could extend to defending NBA power forwards in the future.
Mitchell also made strides as a rebounder, both on the offensive and defensive glass, as a junior. It would be fair to say he at least slightly above-average when evaluating him as a wing and, even at the 4, Mitchell should be able to contribute on the glass and hold his own.
As noted above, it is possible — or even likely — that Mitchell elects to return to San Diego State. If he does, he will be a preseason All-Conference player in the Mountain West and, even when pointing out his age, there is a path for Mitchell to improve his draft stock with another collegiate season.
At the same time, Mitchell does bring a skill set that could be valuable in the NBA, particularly if a team is convinced by his long-distance shooting and versatile defensive profile. Mitchell isn’t an overly explosive athlete, which is certainly a concern, but the improvement of his body, coupled with his strength, could lead to a better outcome in that category. In tandem, his offensive efficiency was truly notable as a junior, and the Aztecs were simply better with him on the court, even in a secondary role overall.
Mitchell likely projects to be undrafted at this stage and, as such, he would be competing for Two-Way contract offers and training camp invites. Because the Hawks own the No. 52 pick, though, he is worth considering as a relatively low-upside play that has a path to a real NBA role in the not-too-distant future.