The New York Knicks are a team looking to improve their entire roster. Something pretty rare for a second seed in the playoffs. Most fans have zeroed in on the point guard position as one that could use immediate depth and a starter in the near future. However, power forward is a position with a lot of money invested in it with Amare Stoudemire often on the sidelines and Carmelo Anthony playing out of position. Drafting a power forward could allow the Knicks to keep Stoudemire on a time restriction, while finding his future replacement and allowing Anthony to return to his natural position. Could North Texas sophomore Tony Mitchell be the man they're looking for?
Tony Mitchell is a 6'9", 236 pound power forward from Dallas, Texas with a 7' 2 1/2" wingspan. He has the potential to be a better NBA player than he was as a college big. He has great physical attributes, excellent athleticism, and a solid frame that can be added to. When you add all of that together along with his impressive wingspan, his ability to block shots, rebounding and finishing around the basket and all of a sudden you have a prospect with the potential future as a starter on the NBA level.
Mitchell is a top ten talent but he, and his entire team, regressed this season after a coaching change that didn't appear to fit very well. He went from a player of great efficiency finishing on post-ups and lay-ups around the basket and instead fell in love with perimeter play. He lacked the effort to get open down low despite normally having a physical advantage over most of his competition. While the step back for him and North Texas was bad for him it may be a major bonus for the New York Knicks. Instead of him being out of the Knicks reach at 24, he's now projected to be a mid to late first round selection.
While Mitchell has the tools to have a powerful post game he relied on his physical tools far too much. Mitchell needs to work on his fundamentals and how to consistently create good shots. He also needs to establish a go-to move. He'll greatly benefit from coaching at the NBA level.
His rebounding numbers also dipped as a result of staying out around the three-point arc. Clearly a main focus for coaches will be to get him to remain in the paint where he belongs. Defensively Mitchell also took a step back. That can be blamed on a decreased effort and urgency. While there's no excuse, when Johnny Jones went to LSU and was replaced by former Marquette assistant coach Tony Benford the entire North Texas team virtually gave up.
Clearly there was a maturity issue at North Texas but that doesn't make Mitchell any less talented. Mitchell's defense is inconsistent and he needs to be coached up in playing man-to-man. There's no reason to believe Mike Woodson couldn't be the voice Mitchell needs in order to learn how to be efficient on the defensive end.
Okay, we've discussed the negative. How about the positive? Mitchell is an athletic freak. He can dominate with his physical gifts alone and can put on a show as a shot blocker. Mitchell has a true inside-outside threat. He can score with jumpers in the face-up game and is a skilled finisher off cuts to the basket. He's good at getting offensive rebounds, transition opportunities and short drives from the power forward position.
Mitchell is explosive around the basket and has shown great end to end speed. He knows exactly how to use his length and quickness to make plays all over the court. His wingspan, athleticism and intensity level allows him to be a productive rebounder. Mitchell's a well above average player who simply needs better coaching and a higher level of competition to overcome his setbacks.
Mitchell's physical attributes and flashes of overall skill makes him someone the Knicks need to take a serious look at. His main need for improvement is with his motor and in his focus. Mitchell's long-term success will heavily depend on where he is drafted and how he applies himself at the next level. There's no reason he can't become a successful player in the NBA.
Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork reports Mitchell thinks he can fill the Knicks need at power forward.
The Pacers out rebounded and outscored the Knicks in the paint throughout the series. Carmelo Anthony was the Knicks' only consistent scoring threat in the post. And their only other big with a legitimate offensive skill set – Amar'e Stoudemire – wasn't available to play big minutes.
So the Knicks have a void to fill on the front line this offseason. Top prospect Tony Mitchell thinks he's the guy who can fill it.
"I think I can fill that void by being a stretch four or pick and pop or pick and roll, whatever they want me to do," Mitchell said on Friday after his workout with the Knicks.
"I'm sure I could bring excitement and athleticism; dunking the ball, blocking shots. Just whatever they need me to do, rebound the ball, defend somebody," Mitchell said. "I'm just trying to contribute and help the team win, help the organization win."
It's no surprise Mitchell impressed the Knicks in his pre-draft workout Friday, June 7. Despite the negativity surrounding his setbacks this season he was still able to average 13.0 points and 8.5 rebounds. During his freshman year he averaged 14.7 points and 10.3 rebounds during 2012 season. As you can see despite the setbacks his statistics weren't that far off. That shows how skilled of a player he truly is.
Quite frankly, Mitchell was in an awful situation at North Texas. In summation, his athleticism, shot blocking ability and rebounding skills are something the Knicks desperately need in their frontcourt. His length, explosiveness, speed and quickness is unique for a forward. He's also someone who can keep up with the guards running the floor in transition. Plus, he can guard multiple positions which Mike Woodson should love.
However great of a prospect Mitchell seems to be, he's still a bit of a risk. If everything clicks and he lives up to his potential, Mitchell could be a star on the NBA level. However, if he fails to reach his potential he'll likely only become an average player at best.
One thing is for sure, Mitchell's an imposing presence on the offensive end of the floor and someone who can send your shot into the tenth row on the defensive end. If he put more weight on his frame he'd likely become even more of a presence down low. Mitchell has a lot of potential to develop into a solid defender in this league. That's something the Knicks could surely use from their power forward position.
If Mitchell is still on the board when the 24th pick comes around no one should be surprised if the Knicks call his name. After all, Chad Ford of ESPN reports the Knicks are "especially high" on Mitchell. Quite frankly, they should be. It's not every draft that you can draft someone with top ten talent in the bottom third of the first round. If Mitchell's available the Knicks would be wise to make Madison Square Garden his new home.
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