Draft Workouts: Donovan Mitchell
June 15, 2017 - Louisville SG Donovan Mitchell spoke with Pacers.com's Wheat Hotchkiss following his pre-draft workout on Thursday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
June 15, 2017 - Louisville SG Donovan Mitchell spoke with Pacers.com's Wheat Hotchkiss following his pre-draft workout on Thursday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
June 15, 2017 - UNC forward Justin Jackson spoke to Pacers.com following his pre-draft workout at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Thursday afternoon.
June 15, 2017 - After his pre-draft workout for Indiana, Clemson guard Jaron Blossomgame spoke to Pacers.com's Wheat Hotchkiss.
June 15, 2017 - Houston guard Damyean Dotson spoke to Pacers.com after his pre-draft workout at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
June 15, 2017 - After his pre-draft workout for Indiana, Vanderbilt center Luke Kornet spoke to Pacers.com's Wheat Hotchkiss.
June 15, 2017 - After his pre-draft workout for Indiana, Marquette center Luke Fischer spoke to Pacers.com's Wheat Hotchkiss.
Jackson, Mitchell Could Offer Pacers Help on the Wing
North Carolina Swingman and Louisville Combo Guard Headline Thursday's Pre-Draft Workout
For prospects, the pre-draft process can be a grueling endeavor. From the NBA Draft Combine in early May to weeks of workouts, flying from city to city to audition for teams, even some of the world's best athletes feel the toll on their bodies.
The ultimate goal, however, is to earn a spot on an NBA roster. For some prospects, like Louisville guard Donovan Mitchell, it's starting to set in that that childhood dream will soon become a reality.
On Wednesday, Mitchell, a probable first-round pick, received an invitation to attend the 2017 NBA Draft and sit in the green room at the Barclays Center on June 22.
"I kind of went off the wall yesterday just screaming and yelling in my pillow," Mitchell said after Thursday's pre-draft workout for the Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. "I'm excited, but I've still got a few workouts to go."
Along with Mitchell, another participant in Thursday's workout for Indiana — North Carolina forward Justin Jackson — also received a green room invite. Both players could be options for the Pacers, who currently own the 18th overall pick in next week's draft.
Mitchell is a player that seems to be flying up draft boards, thanks to a strong showing during the pre-draft process. Some mock drafts have him going as early as the 11th pick, meaning the Pacers might have to trade up if they want to take him (though the usual caveat applies that mock drafts are nothing more than semi-educated guesses).
It is easy to see why scouts love Mitchell as a prospect. He improved tremendously in his sophomore season at Louisville, more than doubling his scoring average from his freshman season from 7.4 to 15.6 points per game. He led the Cardinals in scoring, averaged 4.9 points and 2.7 assists per contest, and led the ACC with 70 steals on the season (2.1 per game).
But those numbers only scratch the surface of what makes Mitchell such an enticing prospect. His athletic measurements are off the charts.
Though he is just 6-1 1/4 without shoes, Mitchell has a freakishly long 6-10 wingspan. For perspective, former Pacers guard George Hill — nicknamed "The Creature" for his own absurd measurements — was the same height but with a wingspan an inch shorter when he went through the draft process in 2008.
Mitchell also had a 36.5-inch standing vertical leap at the combine, the highest measurement of any prospect who took part in testing and the same number that Pacers high-flyer and reigning NBA Slam Dunk champion Glenn Robinson III put up at the 2014 combine.
With those measurements, it's easy to see why Mitchell would impress in pre-draft workouts. It doesn't hurt that he can also impress teams by saying the right things in interviews.
"I just credit it to just being a perfectionist," Mitchell said about his rising draft stock. "Every little detail — it doesn't matter if I'm working out for (the team with the) 24(th pick), 25, or number one. I treat the workout like it's the same everywhere I go and really focus on the little things."
Offensively, Mitchell has improved as a shooter. After making just 18 3-pointers as a freshman, he knocked down 80 as a sophomore while increasing his 3-point percentage from .250 to .354.
Though he played mostly off the ball in college, Mitchell wants to show teams that he can run the point at the next level, though his defensive prowess may mean that he can remain at shooting guard despite his height. Similar-sized players like Avery Bradley have found success at that position by playing strong defense.
Mitchell's wingspan certainly allows him to bother bigger players on the perimeter. He said on Thursday he thinks he can even guard certain power forwards and credits his success on that end to two years in Louisville coach Rick Pitino's aggressive defensive system.
"You don't see the floor unless you play defense," Mitchell said. "I think that is really what helped me get ahead of certain guys in this process. Even if I play great defense and a guy hits a shot, I still get mad at myself and I want to get another stop. That mentality I think will help me."
Mitchell recently had another chance to put his defensive skills to the test, when he and other draft prospects (including Duke's Luke Kennard, Wake Forest's John Collins, and Oregon's Jordan Bell) worked out with Pacers All-Star forward Paul George in California.
"Working out with Paul is awesome," Mitchell said. "He's a veteran. He knows his stuff. He gave me the work a few times, he gave me a few buckets. But being able to go against that, it helps you prepare for guys who are your own age.
"When you go against guys who's faced guys the likes of LeBron, Kawhi, even Kobe — it definitely helps you become a better defender...If you can guard guys like him and keep guys in front of you like that, it will definitely help you. I think that's one of the big reasons I've improved."
Would Mitchell enjoy the opportunity to potentially play alongside George?
"100 percent," he said. "I love Indiana and I've been around Paul for a little bit, so I like talking to him, I like communicating with him. He's a great guy and I love this organization."
Jackson is another intriguing first-round option for the Pacers.
The 6-8 small forward went through the pre-draft process after his sophomore season, but elected to return to school. It was most definitely the right decision for Jackson, who was the ACC Player of the Year and a consensus first-team All-American as a junior, when he averaged 18.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game and led the Tar Heels to a national championship.
Jackson said on Thursday that having interviews with NBA teams last season helped him get a good grasp on where he needed to show improvement to boost his draft stock.
"Getting stronger and being able to shoot the three ball more consistently," Jackson said. "Those were kind of the two main things. And then defensively, trying to be a little more active and better on the defensive end."
Jackson took that advice to heart and showed significant improvement, especially shooting the basketball. He turned into a real weapon from 3-point range, converting threes at a 37-percent clip after only shooting 29.2 percent from beyond the arc as a sophomore.
With good size and an improved shooting stroke, Jackson can offer teams a versatile offensive game. He's tall enough to see over defenses and make smart passes, handles the ball well for a player his size, and has a go-to move with a floater he can convert at a high rate with either hand thanks to his soft touch and 6-11 wingspan.
A week before the draft, Jackson said he still doesn't have a feel for when he might hear his name called. He could come off the board in the latter half of the lottery or he could still be available when the Pacers are on the clock with the 18th pick.
"It's hard for me because my range (is) a little bit bigger, like from 10 to 20," Jackson said. "There's not necessarily one or two teams that were really serious about 'Okay, we want him.' It can get to your nerves a little bit."
Like Mitchell, Jackson has a connection to a current Pacers star. Both he and Pacers center Myles Turner were high school stars in Texas and two of the top recruits in the class of 2014. Turner attended Thursday's pre-draft workout and chatted with Jackson for a few minutes afterwards.
"Basketball players respect other good basketball players," Jackson said. "I've played with him a little bit, I played against him at (the) McDonald's (All-American) Game and some of the camps and things like that.
"Obviously, he's turned out to be a really good player in the NBA. I respect him a ton. He's a great guy. Hopefully I can get to where he's at."
Clemson's Jaron Blossomgame (left) and Houston's Damyean Dotson (right) hoped to impress Pacers scouts on Thursday.
Blossomgame, Dotson Offer Second-Round Options on the Perimeter
While Mitchell and Jackson will come off the board in the first round, there are plenty of intriguing wings that should be available in the second round, where the Pacers own the 47th overall selection.
Two possible options are Clemson's Jarron Blossomgame and Houston's Damyean Dotson, both of whom also took part in Thursday's workout.
Like Jackson, Blossomgame tested the draft waters a year ago before electing to return to school. His primary focus in his senior season at Clemson was on his defensive development, something he sees as his ticket to early playing time in the NBA.
The Tigers' system allowed their players to switch ball screens, which gave Blossomgame the opportunity to use his 6-7, 219-pound frame against a variety of different players. That experience has served him well in workouts like Thursday's.
"Personally, I think it went pretty good," Blossomgame said of his audition for the Pacers. "I wanted to do a good job of showing my versatility defensively, being able to guard guys like Justin and Donovan and then switch on the big guys like Luke."
Blossomgame averaged 17.7 points and 6.3 rebounds per game as a senior, primarily playing the power forward position. In the NBA, he seems best suited for a hybrid role playing as both a small forward or a power forward in smaller lineups.
Blossomgame's strengths stem primarily from his energy and effort. He moves well in transition and crashes the glass well, particularly on the offensive end. Combined with defensive abilities, he has a good feel for the type of role he might be asked to fill.
"I think you can put me in right away and I can kind of do what Andre Iguodala does — be an energy guy, defend at a high level, and play in transition," Blossomgame said.
The biggest question mark in regard to Blossomgame is his inconsistent shooting percentage. He attempted right around three 3-pointers per game as both a junior and a senior, but with vastly different results. After posting a .446 3-point percentage in 2015-16, Blossomgame converted just 25.5 percent of his shots from beyond the arc last season.
That stark difference begs the question — which shooter will NBA teams be getting if they take a chance on Blossomgame?
"I think it's somewhere in the middle between those two numbers," he said. "I'm still improving on a lot of parts of my game, but shooting is one thing I need to really emphasize."
Dotson is a 6-5 shooting guard who turned heads with a strong showing at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament in mid-April, a showcase for the best senior prospects in the country. Dotson averaged 14.7 points, 6.0 assists, and 5.7 rebounds over the three-day event while shooting 55.9 percent from the field. His team captured the title and Dotson was named tournament MVP.
"I think I just played as a great teammate," Dotson said of his performance at Portsmouth. "I did all the little things, shared the ball, shot the ball well, and just played good defense and rebounded it well."
His performance at Portsmouth backed up what was an excellent senior season for Dotson. He averaged 17.4 points per game in his final year on campus and converted 44.3 percent of his 3-point shots, up significantly from the .367 percentage he had as a junior. Dotson credited the improvement to mechanical adjustments he made during workouts last summer.
One thing Dotson did exceptionally well at Houston was rebound the basketball. He played for two seasons at Oregon, where he averaged 3.5 and then 3.2 rebounds per game, but nearly doubled those averages after transferring. In his two seasons with the Cougars, Dotson averaged 6.8 and 6.9 rebounds per game, terrific averages for a player who played primarily as a guard.
Dotson credits his success on the glass to conversations he had with Houston head coach Kelvin Sampson.
"I feel like my coach pushed me a lot," Dotson said. "He told me I was very athletic and I've got a good first jump, so he wanted me to go out there and get the ball. That's what I did."
Since college, Dotson has focused on improving defensively and as a playmaker creating for others (his 6.0 assists per game at Portsmouth were a major jump up from his college numbers, where he never averaged more than 1.3 per contest). Thursday's workout was his 12th with an NBA team and he could very well hear his name called in the second round next week.
Marquette's Luke Fischer (left) and Vanderbilt's Luke Kornet (right) are two centers with very different skill sets.
Two Lukes Offer Different Options at Center Position
The last two prospects at Thursday's workout shared the same first name and stature. Luke Fischer (Marquette) and Luke Kornet (Vanderbilt) are both centers, but their games could not be more different.
The 6-11 Fischer is more of a traditional big man, while the 7-foot Kornet plays more on the perimeter.
Kornet holds the NCAA record for most 3-pointers made by a 7-footer, having converted 150-of-472 (31.8 percent) shots from 3-point range over his four years in college.
His smooth stroke was on full display on Thursday during the portion of the workout open to the media. Kornet knocked down shots from beyond the NBA arc at a remarkably high clip, drawing considerable attention from the media throng in attendance.
His performance also earned praise from the other players in Thursday's workout. Count Mitchell, who rather amusingly referred to Kornet as "tall Luke" even though he's just an inch taller than Fischer, among his fans.
"He can really shoot the ball," Mitchell said. "I'm really impressed."
Offensively, Kornet's comfort on the perimeter makes him an intriguing option in the pace-and-space era, where big men who can stretch the floor are an increasingly valuable commodity.
Defensively, Kornet was one of the best rim protectors in the country the past two seasons. He averaged 3.0 blocks per game as a junior and 2.0 as a senior and was named to the All-SEC Defensive team both years.
Despite his height, Kornet's defensive success did not come naturally.
"My first two years I honestly might have been the worst defender on our team," Kornet said. "And then being able to be all-conference defense, I worked really hard in the weight room to improve that side of my game."
Unlike Kornet, Fischer's game is based primarily in the post.
He actually began his career at Indiana and appeared in 13 games for the Hoosiers as a freshman before electing to transfer back to his home state of Wisconsin. Fischer's numbers were very consistent over his three seasons at Marquette and he averaged 10.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game as a senior.
"I can do a little bit of everything," Fischer said. "I can be like that hard-working, tough-nosed type of guy (who) rebounds, blocks shots, can guard the ball screens. I know that my game being a back-to-the-basket type of guy isn't going to translate super well to the NBA right away, so I'll do whatever it takes to get there."
Fischer did not take a huge volume of shots in college, but he was extremely efficient in his limited usage, shooting above 60 percent from the field in each of his three seasons with the Golden Eagles, including a career-best 64.7 percent as a senior.
But in stark contrast to Kornet, Fischer rarely utilized his jump shot. He did not attempt a single 3-pointer during his time in college, but knows he needs to expand his range to be able to earn playing time at the next level.
"I definitely have to change my game up a little bit, be able to step out and hit the 15-foot jump shot and hopefully eventually even a little bit further than that," Fischer said.