With Baylor heating up on its way to the national title game tonight, Junior guard, Davion Mitchell has been gaining momentum on draft boards, moving from the 18-25 range on most boards to as high as 6-14 on many. And NBA draft analysts have the average fan drooling as they profile Mitchell stepping onto an NBA roster next year and providing solid playmaking, shooting, leadership, and elite-level defense from day one. In a recent tweet, Mike Schmitz from ESPN/Draft Express, called out Mitchell as, “…the best on-ball defender I’ve ever evaluated. Will also be a terror to keep in front with NBA spacing, especially when the pull-up 3 is falling. His slow-to-fast burst is elite.” The accolades continued to roll in today as Mitchell was recently named 2021 Naismith Defensive Player of the Year. Its all very impressive and well-earned by Mitchell who has really been consistent, verstaile, and the engine that makes the Baylor team go.
But there’s another player you should take a look at, a senior from another top Big 12 program but who is 2 months younger than Mitchell, with a different style game, but who also plays elite defense with an equal number of steals and blocks, is 4 inches taller, rebounds twice as much, and shoots 15 percentage points better from the free throw line. And what if this ‘other’ player also won the ESPN, Big 12, and 2020 Naismith Defensive Player of the Year awards and was in the 10 finalists for the 2021 award too?
From the headline, you already know who this ‘other’ player is, but for a pure numbers comparison take a look at the per 40 minute stats for these two players:
Garrett is rarely seen on top 60 draft boards from NBA draft analysts….as of now. But once individual workouts start and the NBA Draft Combine comes around, giving him an opportunity to show off his athleticism and measurements (length, lateral speed, vertical) at the NBA combine, all of that could change quickly. Once NBA analysts or writers start digging into the tape a bit deeper in doing their NBA draft prep, they will see the value proposition that Garrett represents. Now, I’m not trying to say that he should be picked over Mitchell, or that Mitchell doesn’t deserve to move up into the lottery based on his 45% three point shooting and aforementioned elite defense. What I am saying, is that there is good value in picking Garrett in the 35-50 range knowing that Garrett will be able to contribute immediately on D, on the boards, and setting up other guys, as he continues to work on improving the consistency of his jumper.
What will scare scouts and analysts off, somewhat logically, is (1) Garrett’s shooting inconsistency, and (2) his age (22–same as Mitchell, as I mentioned above). These are real concerns, and Garrett’s NBA swing skill will definitely be his shooting–as it will be for many prospects. That being said, he has improved his 3 point shooting percentage from 26.7% as a freshman to a reasonable 34.8% as a senior, and he has improved his free throw shooting from 49% as a freshman to 80.8% as a senior–both good indicators that he’s not afraid to put the work in and should continue to improve with good player development coaches in the NBA. This, in combination with his excellent floater game, speed/athleticism, and ability to beat guys off the dribble and finish around the rim, makes Garrett someone who should look even better with NBA spacing. And if his jump shot can continue improving he could play a similar role to Josh Richardson or Terry Rozier as a versatile guard who can play on or off the ball, have an impact defensively, score, be disruptive on defense, and use his solid basketball IQ, motor and experience to make winning basketball plays.
Watching Garrett throughout the last two seasons and then reviewing his highlights, I see shades of Rajon Rondo‘s Celtics days in the way Garrett has the ability to blow by his man and find daylight through a host of defenders to either get to the rim and finish or find teammates. Garrett, as happened with Rondo on numerous occasions when he played with Pierce/Garnett/Allen, looked in some games like the best player on the court, while in others, he blended in and got others involved while focusing on playing tenacious D.
And to top everything off, according to KUAthletics.com: Garrett was named the 2020-21 Senior CLASS Award® All-American First Team–an honor given to a student-athlete with notable achievements in the community, classroom, character and competition. He was a 2021 Academic All-Big 12 First Team selection and is a three-time member of the Athletic Director’s and Big 12 honor rolls. This past fall semester, Garrett recorded a 3.74 grade point average. On the court, Garrett was named to the 2020-21 All-Big 12 Second Team for the second straight year and was selected to the Big 12 All-Defensive Team for the third consecutive season. Needless to say, Garrett is an intelligent guy who should pass NBA interviews with flying colors.
Stats via SportsReference.com: