CRAWFORD | Louisville's Mitchell, Adel, Johnson to test draft waters, three thoughts on Mitchell's decision
Rick Pitino says Donovan Mitchell, Deng Adel and Jaylen Johnson will test the NBA Draft waters, but that he expects the trio to be back. Eric Crawford talks about factors that may weigh on Mitchell's decision.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino says three of his players will put their names forward for NBA Draft consideration -- sophomores Donovan Mitchell and Deng Adel and junior Jaylen Johnson -- all will test the draft waters without hiring agents.
Pitino said he encouraged the players to go through the process, not only to see where they stand in relation to the NBA Draft, but to learn what they need to improve if the feedback they get isn’t what they want.
“I wouldn’t expect them to stay in,” Pitino told WDRB. “But you never know. I didn’t expect Chinanu Onuaku to go last season. But it’s a good thing for all of them to do.”
In addition, Pitino told John Ramsey and Mike Rutherford's radio program on 93.9 The Ville this afternoon that he does have a contingency plan if Mitchell does elect to remain in the draft, and gave about a 20 percent chance of Mitchell deciding to remain in the draft.
"There will be mistakes made by some players, there always are," Pitino told Ramsey and Rutherford, "but it won't be by Donovan Mitchell, or by our guys."
Mitchell announced his decision in a post on Instagram, saying, “I have decided to test the waters and not hire an agent! I am excited to work out this summer for teams and hopefully participate in the NBA combine! I want it to be clear I have not decided to leave Louisville!"
Mitchell is the most likely draft candidate. He currently is listed as the 21st overall pick by Draft Express in its mock draft, and has been as high as No. 19.
Pitino said his advice to Mitchell was that if he could reach the NBA Draft Lottery, that he should go. Otherwise, he expects the guard to return. He said he discouraged Mitchell from taking part in the combine, something the guard wants to do. He said Mitchell wants to compete against some of the guards expected to be drafted ahead of him, but Pitino advised him that many of those players won’t be taking part in the combine, and that he might only hurt himself by playing there.
Regardless, Mitchell, and the others, figure to benefit from the process, which allows players to work out for NBA teams but maintain their college eligibility if they don’t hire agents.
“I tell them, going through that process can only make you a better basketball player,“ Pitino said.
Mitchell averaged 15.6 points and five rebounds per game during a sophomore season in which he was named first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference. He shot 35.4 percent from three-point range and 80.6 percent from the free-throw line.
Neither Adel nor Johnson appeared in the first or second round of the latest mock draft from Draft Express. Adel averaged 12.1 points and 4.5 rebounds and shot 34.6 percent from three-point range, but began to come on in the final weeks of the season. Johnson averaged eight points and 5.8 rebounds per game and shot 58.9 percent from the field.
Several factors may weigh into Mitchell’s decision:
1). POSITION. Mitchell will have to be a point guard in the NBA, and his best basketball -- and arguably Louisville’s as a team -- came when he took over the point during an injury to Quentin Snider this past season. Mitchell could use another season of experience at point, but with Snider returning for his senior season and a freshman point guard on the way, it’s hard to see Mitchell getting a ton of time at point at Louisville next year, though Pitino has employed dual-point guards before, most notably during the 2013 NCAA championship run with Peyton Siva and Russ Smith. Today, on Ramsey and Rutherford's radio program, Pitino directly said that Mitchell and Snider would compete at the point.
2). DRAFT STRENGTH. This year’s draft, by most accounts, is deeper and more talented than next year’s is expected to be. If Mitchell had the chance to go in the lottery after a big college season -- or if he isn’t assured of a first round slot this season -- then it might make more sense for him to return to Louisville.
3). DRAFT POSITION. This might be the main factor for Mitchell. If he looks to be a solid first-round projection, it’s easy to see where he might decide that he can develop his point guard skills while getting paid in the NBA, especially if his chances to play the point at Louisville might be limited. This can backfire. Montrezl Harrell declared for the draft after his junior season and slipped to the second round. He wound up negotiating a three-year deal, but nothing was guaranteed.
For Louisville, there are plenty of options. Assuming that Adel and Johnson definitely return, they have plenty of talent back, and an influx of new talent.
If Mitchell returns, the Cardinals could be ranked No. 1 in the preseason going into 2017-18. If he leaves, the Cardinals still probably are a Top 10 team in the preseason, and it opens up room for V.J. King or Deng Adel to slide into the shooting guard spot, something either or both may be doing anyway.
Pitino also mentioned to Ramsey and Rutherford today "something on the horizon that remains to be seen," but did not elaborate.
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