Tag Archives: Tony Mitchell

Pistons send Tony Mitchell to D-League

The Detroit Pistons have sent Tony Mitchell, a favorite of this blog, down to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants of the NBA Developmental League. Mitchell was selected by the Pistons in the second round of the 2013 NBA Draft with the 37th overall pick out of the University of North Texas. Peyton Siva, another second round pick by Detroit, was also reassigned to the D-League with Mitchell.

Moving Mitchell to the D-League was an inevitability.  He appeared in only 10 games, totaling 37 minutes on the court. His per 36 minutes numbers of 10.7 points, 10.7 rebounds, one assist, one steal, 1.9 blocks, and 1.9 turnovers are promising. However, with Detroit’s frontcourt composed of Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe, and Josh Smith, there are few minutes to be distributed to a 6’8″ rookie.

Mitchell should hone his skills in the D-League as he will see more playing time. Unfortunately, the move down could hurt his chances of appearing in the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest during All Star Weekend. None of the participants have been named yet, but Mitchell’s dunking ability warrants notice and has appeared in various Vines throughout the season.

There is a dunk contest in the D-League but it doesn’t draw a large audience. The NBA’s dunk contest has been lackluster in recent years and needs revitalization. It needs Tony Mitchell.

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The Detroit Pistons: on the Cusp

Hope again (The Associated Press)

Hope again (The Associated Press)

Summer League brings with it a new sense of hope. It alleviates the summer doldrums that occur after the Finals have ended, the NBA Draft, and the start of training camps. This renewed feeling of enthusiasm is especially true for teams that have been mediocre or worse for a number of years. Perhaps the sense of renewal will never completely pan out in the long-term. However, for a time, it allows for a glimmer of what might be, new heights, and a new beginning.

The Detroit Pistons have not had a winning record since the 2007-08 season. Detroit’s fall from grace mirrored the fall of the city’s overall economic collapse, though basketball had nothing to do with the underlying issues that the city succumbed to. Nonetheless, as often is the case, sports teams are symbols of a city or region. They serve as an escape from the realities of everyday life. For Detroit, though, the Pistons are not an escape. The team and city have been through so much since the Pistons won the NBA Championship in 2004 that it is a distant memory. With Summer League in full swing now, the Pistons, and their fans, may actually have something to look forward to.

With the eighth pick in this summer’s Draft, the Pistons selected Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, a guard out of Georgia. Caldwell-Pope’s best asset is his ability to pull up and make pump shots. With the frontcourt duo of Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe clogging the middle and drawing double-teams, Caldwell-Pope’s opportunities, should he be on the court with one or the other, to get open looks should be frequent.

In the second round, Detroit selected North Texas’ Tony Mitchell. If ever there was a pure athlete, Mitchell is it. (I wrote about him in detail here.) What he brings to the table is an NBA body combined with phenomenal leaping ability. He is also adept at finishing at, but more than likely above, the rim as well as blocking shots.

The Piston’s also selected point guard Peyton Siva, from Louisville, in the second round. Silva is more of a defender than offensive threat, however he manages the pick-and-roll well. This skill will come in handy with the aforementioned frontcourt players as well as Mitchell. Of course, as with all rookies, his skills will only be in service if he sees playing time. Nonetheless, the Pistons hauled a promising young group of players in this year’s Draft.

Perhaps, though, the biggest addition to the Detroit roster is the free agent signing of Josh Smith. Smith has proven time and again that he has the capability of playing at an extremely high level and was one of the most coveted free agents this summer. The Pistons now have a star to build around and many pieces are already in place. However, Smith is not the most refined player. He is prone to taking jumpshots all to often, as shown here. Where Smith is most efficient and effective is within nine feet of the basket. Therefore, his role in Detroit is a tricky one to figure out.

With Monroe likely remaining as the starting power forward, Smith will move into the small forward spot. Drummond and Monroe do much of the heavy lifting inside. With his propensity to take so many ill-advised and low percentage jumpers, Smith could once again drift from the paint with it occupied. If this happens, it could turn out poorly for the Pistons. It will take a degree of ingenuity on the part of new Head Coach Maurice Cheeks to open up lanes and allow Smith to get his shots on the inside.

A solid model to study would be that of last year’s Denver Nuggets. That team took the vast majority of their shots, 55.74 percent, within eight feet of the basket. With so many big men, Mitchell included, who can score well inside, it would behoove Detroit to attempt something similar.

There are still a lot of uncertainties with the Pistons. It is a new new for all respects. Yet, there is reason to believe that this could be the start of Detroit’s turnaround. They had a solid draft and brought in a big-name All Star. Not only that, but a member of Detroit’s last championship team, the beloved Rasheed Wallace, has joined Cheeks’ coaching staff as an assistant. That in and of itself should be reason to take interest in this year’s team.

Summer League has a funny way of leading to the “what-ifs” of the season to come. Detroit’s team has shown promise, especially the play of Drummond. While nothing may pan out, we can all  hope for the best. Right now, that is all Detroit has but at least  the pieces are there to make things interesting until opening day. And that is the joy of Summer League.

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NBA Lockout: Day 2

Sonny-er in Europe

In what will hopefully become a daily segment here at the Beef (depending on our work schedules and social lives) we will bring you a diary of sorts on topics related, directly or indirectly, to the NBA lockout. In a sense these entries will be little different from regular postings found here but since NBA news is scarce right now these musings will have to fill the void.

Several days ago I wrote about the possible exodus of young talent jumping ship and headed towards leagues overseas to continue their careers. Many players, including veterans hinted at the notion throughout the season as CBA talks stalled but I was speaking more along the lines of players who had previously attempted to join the league via free agency or who had gone undrafted. However, today brought news that Sonny Weems of the Toronto Raptors has decided to play in Europe for the coming season. He is not the first to make the decision to play in Europe. Nenad Krstic, Hilton Armstrong, and David Andersen have all chosen to play overseas next season. Like Weems, all of them became free agents this summer. Yet, Weems is more of a recognizable figure, to those who follow the sport, as a rising talent mired on a dreadful team.

Weems saw increases in his minutes and scoring last season with the Raptors and made the most of the opportunities before him. Toronto extended a qualifying offer to him but he turned it down as the current lockout leaves the entire NBA season up in the air for the foreseeable future. It is unknown where Weems will sign but the deal will be for one year, allowing him to return to the NBA after what will likely be a lockout shortened season.

The transition to the European style of play should not be difficult for Weems as General Manager Bryan Colangelo has cultivated a Euro-centric team in Toronto. Shooting big men, bad defense, and hard to spell names are the norm there. With the fifth overall pick in this year’s NBA Draft, the Raptors selected Jonas Valanciunas. Names do not get more Eastern European than that. Valanciunas is a 6’11” center from Lithuania that has been compared to Krstic. No one knows for sure if he has quite the folded chair throwing abilities that Krstic has, though.

Colangelo and the Raptors were widely criticized by fans when they drafted Valanciunas as it was seen as Colangelo simply going after the most European name in the draft. However, some have come around to the notion that Valanciunas could be a viable contributor in the NBA. They cite his performance in an exhibition game against the Team USA Under 19 squad as evidence of that. In the friendly, Valanciunas scored 23 points and had 11 rebounds as Lithuania routed the United States 108-75. Unfortunately for him, no player in the NBA is under the age of 19 and he will be matched up against the best frontcourt players in the world. Obviously his performance against Team USA U19 must be taken with a heavy dose of salt but it is something to note.

As for Team USA U19 there is one player to keep an eye on: Tony Mitchell. He has been one of the team’s best players as they have advanced through the FIBA U19 World Championships in Latvia. Mitchell did not score in the most recent contest versus China but had eight rebounds to go along with smothering defense that helped Team USA shut down the Chinese. For the tournament, he is averaging six points on 50 percent shooting from inside the arc, nine rebounds (which leads the team), and 1.3 assists.

Mitchell is exactly the kind of player that the NBA cannot afford to lose as the lockout drags on. Yes, he has yet to play a single college game at the University of North Texas, but his upside is what teams are looking for when they are scouting college talent. He has already proved that he is a good rebounder with defensive instincts. Those two assets always translate well to the NBA. What the lockout may do is cause Mitchell to take pause when he must choose between another year of college or entering the draft next year, depending on how long the lockout goes on. It can be said that Harrison Barnes chose to remain in college rather than enter the draft this year because of the impending work stoppage. Perhaps a trend of players staying college longer than a year will emerge after a prolonged lockout. This is all speculation of course.

What is not speculation is that Mitchell should be watched. His stock is on the rise and if he can grow during the regular season it would not be surprising to hear his name more frequently as the NCAA basketball season approaches and beyond that. What he is doing with Team USA right now is very positive for his future.

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