NBA

How would Donovan Mitchell and Bradley Beal fit in at the Wizards?

ADVERTISEMENT

It’s not often that the Washington Wizards are mentioned in rumors involving potential blockbuster trades, at least from reliable and legitimate reporters. Whether they are often involved in these kinds of discussions or not, the front office is keen to keep these conversations behind closed doors. They rarely go out.

Sometimes, though, like when John Wall was traded for Russell Westbrook. It leaked and about a week later it finally turned out to be true.

ADVERTISEMENT

The point here is that the Wizards’ interest in trading for jazz star Donovan Mitchell, which was reported by Athletic on Monday, is a rare occurrence. And whether or not that’s entirely realistic given the likely asking price (especially in light of what Utah got for Rudy Gobert), it’s a fun possibility to discuss and dissect.

Among the questions at stake is how Mitchell would fit in alongside Bradley Beal. Can a Spida share terrain with a Panda? Someone call David Attenborough.

Both are three-time All-Stars and elite offensive players, but they also play in the same shooting position. The Wizards would have a bit of an untraditional backcourt with two twos instead of one one and one two.

Let’s look at the offensive end of the floor first. On the one hand, there would be some redundancy in that they are both high-use players. Mitchell was sixth in usage last season (32.9%) while Beal would have ranked 13th (30.8%) had he played enough games to qualify (according to Basketball Reference). For comparison, only one pairing included two teammates in the top 15 in this category last season; Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown of the Celtics. Certainly, Boston ended up qualifying for the NBA Finals.

A lot of shots would go to two players on the wizard roster and that might not leave much room for the third option. That said, offense probably wouldn’t be a problem for Washington as they would have two of the best goaltenders in the league.

Additionally, Beal had his best years alongside heavily used players at Wall and Westbrook. On a related note, Beal has had his best seasons playing alongside a guard who comes to the edge. Mitchell finished 10th among qualified players last season in shots per game (15.2).

In fact, their shooting profiles would balance out pretty well. Mitchell is essentially an analysis prototype in that he shoots a large majority of his attempts from three or around the edge. He averaged 9.8 3-point attempts last season, which was 47.5% of his total shots (20.5/g). Mitchell attempted just 14.9 percent of his shots from 10 feet to the 3-point line.

Donovan Mitchell % of FGA in 2021-22

0-3 feet – 14%

3-10 ft – 23.6%

10-16 ft – 7.7%

16-3PT – 7.2%

3PT – 47.5%

(per basketball reference)

Beal also comes a long way to the edge for a guard, as last year he would have ranked sixth in drives per game (17.4) had he qualified for the ratings. But he also had 27.9 of his 10-foot attempts from the 3-point line, slightly more than he took from three (27.2%). While it’s safe to say an adjustment could be made there, he and Mitchell wouldn’t necessarily be aiming for the same spots on the floor. The midrange would be there for Beal to attack.

Bradley Beal’s FGA % in 2021-22

0-3 feet – 19.7%

3-10 ft – 25.2%

10-16 feet – 17.1%

16-3PT – 10.8%

3PT – 27.2%

(per basketball reference)

Mitchell usually gets a lot of attention from the defense. Last season, he averaged 25.9 points per game while shooting 44.8% from the field and 35.5% from three. He’s not the passer that Wall and Westbrook were, but it’s a level of scoring that neither achieved when they were in Washington.

Passing, however, would be an obvious question mark. Who is leading the offense in this scenario, and given that neither is necessarily a natural leader, would that work? Two potential positives would be 1) Beal and Mitchell are both assisting guys for their position, with Beal at 6.6 per game and Mitchell at 5.3 last season, and 2) neither is a major handicap in terms of turnover.

Yes, Beal tied a career high with 3.4 turnovers per game last season, but his utilization rate is important context. His 13.6% turnover rate was also a career high, but would have been the 42nd highest in the NBA had he played enough games to qualify. Mitchell’s turnover percentage (11.7), meanwhile, was 76th highest in the league. Those numbers could go up if both players take on primary ball-handling responsibilities, but that’s not a prohibitive concern.

Now for the defense. Admittedly, this could be an entirely different story from the offensive end. That’s partly because Beal and Mitchell are top scorers, but also because neither is really known for their defense. Beal has had consistency issues in that regard, and while Mitchell has been part of one of the NBA’s best defenses over the past half-decade, he’s had the luxury of playing in front of one of the best. all-time defensive players in Gobert. .

What stands out right away is the fact that they would be an undersized duo with Beal at 6-foot-3 and Mitchell at 6-foot-1. This could pose challenges for many NBA teams as some point guards would dominate both. It wouldn’t be ideal, but the Wizards could make up for it in size in other places.

If Beal and Mitchell are your backcourt, but you have Deni Avdija (6-foot-9) at three, Kyle Kuzma (6-foot-10) at four, and Kristaps Porzingis (7-foot-3) at five, your lineup would have plenty in size as a whole. That they’ll keep all those guys in a trade for Mitchell isn’t guaranteed, of course, but the point remains.

Beal and Mitchell may have some overlap, but sometimes talent can and should outweigh those concerns. If both are healthy, the Wizards would have two top-20 players, each with the potential to rank higher on this list. Offensively, they could each be top-10 players if everything works out right.

As a duo, they’d probably raise the wizarding floor and ceiling considerably. After missing the playoffs three of the last four years, Washington could look like perennial playoff contenders with the potential for long playoffs, depending on the plays around them.

There is another element to such a trade that can be overlooked. The Wizards have now signed Beal for five more years, while Mitchell is contracted for three more years plus a player option in 2025-26. Say you give up a ton of draft picks for Mitchell. Well, if that didn’t work, you might have not one but two players who could get a substantial commercial return in case the franchise needs to change course. The stars represent massive insurance plans in the event of a potential rebuild, just look at what the Jazz are doing now.

Securing a deal for Mitchell would be a lot easier said than done, but chances are he and Beal would be great together and it would certainly be a lot of fun to watch.

ADVERTISEMENT