It’s rare for supremely talented players to be available for trade so when they are, teams should do everything in their power to acquire them. The Toronto Raptors are in a rare position to move very valuable assets and still have a nucleus that is both built for the future and poised to compete for a championship in the present. The Toronto Raptors have been rumored to have interest in All-Star shooting guard Donovan Mitchell, and this move could turn out amazing for them.
Donovan Mitchell is a 25-year-old, three-time All Star who has led the Utah Jazz to many successful seasons and playoff berths. This past season he averaged 25.9 PPG, 5.3 APG, and 4.2 RPG (58 percent true shooting). He is one of the league’s best backcourt stars and would improve the Toronto Raptors’ offense substantially. Mitchell is one of the league’s premier slashers and that level of rim pressure would add an entire new element of offense to Toronto. Mitchell shoots 59 percent at the rim, and he gets there and finishes so frequently due to his insanely quick first step and nuclear athleticism. Mitchell can get downhill very well in pick and roll with his tight handle and his great change of direction, and he is capable of passing out of it as well. He shot 53.9 percent on more than 15 drives per game last season — marks reached by only three other players.
This threat of driving means defenders have to guard him in a more cautious way, which leads to Mitchell getting plenty pull-up mid range shots — which he shoots 48 percent on. Which doesn’t even mention his 3-point shooting, where he shot 35.6 percent, a mark not reached by a single Raptor last year. With the potential spacing Toronto would be able to put on the floor with Mitchell, he might be able to get downhill at an even better rate than he did in Utah. Not only would this rim pressure create scoring opportunities for Mitchell, it would allow the other Toronto stars and role players alike to find easier scoring opportunities. Heavy rim pressure players make the defense rotate in order to help stop the rim attempt and Mitchell’s case is no different. Picture Pascal Siakam being able to attack a tilted defense, thus creating an easier path to the rim or matchup for him. Mitchell would also create easier and more Fred VanVleet catch-and-shoot threes as well.
Donovan Mitchell is also a rare case of being both an explosive athlete and a good shooter (36 percent for his career), which helps the Raptors both on and off ball. Mitchell shot about 35 percent on catch and shoot three pointers this past season, which lets him be used as a floor spacer while one of Toronto’s many other ball handlers has the ball. Donovan Mitchell would bring a level of creation ability to Toronto that would take them over the top, especially in the playoffs. Mitchell has playoff averages of 28 points 5 rebounds and 5 assists, and we have seen his pull up shot creation rise to an extremely high level during his many playoff runs. This is valuable to a Toronto team that found itself heavily relying on Pascal Siakam in the past playoff run, albeit through injury issues for others. Mitchell would help take the load of Siakam, allowing him to pick and choose when to attack, and his ability to tilt defenses with drives and pullups would also widen the gaps for Siakam’s game. They’d be a brilliant duo on the offensive end.
Potential on Defense
Donovan Mitchell is by no means a defensive stopper, but that does not mean that he can’t improve on that end. The Jazz employed Rudy Gobert to clean up misses at the rim, but they lacked long, rangy wings the attack passing and driving lanes and shrink the court. The Raptors are built of such players, and they could make Mitchell’s job on defense much easier. Toronto loves to switch and rotate, meaning Mitchell allowing blowbys still wouldn’t be a death knell for the defense.
Furthermore, Donovan Mitchell had a usage rate of 32 percent, which is good for 98th percentile in the league. In short this means he was tasked with a very large load offensively for the Utah Jazz, and this may play a factor in his lack of effectiveness on defense. Mitchell has the footspeed, athleticism, and length (6-foot-10 wingspan) to at least be a neutral defender, especially with the immense help he would potentially have in Toronto. Perhaps the drop in usage that would undoubtedly come from playing next to, say, VanVleet, Siakam, and Barnes would allow Mitchell to have the energy to put in actual effort on defense. Even if his defense did not improve, the boost it would bring to the offense would heavily outweigh the hit the defense takes by bringing him on.
Donovan Mitchell is one of the best offensive engines that the NBA has, and he will be just 26 at the start of the 2022-23 NBA season. There may be some qualms about the assets necessary to acquire him but at the end of the day when you can get a player like this on your team right around his prime years, you do it. Like all teams that aren’t already championship favourites, the Raptors need talent, and Mitchell has that in spades. It helps all the more that his exact abilities are just what the Raptors need to take the next step forward on offense.