NBA: Reacting to ESPN’s ‘Top 25 players under 25’ list

Utah Jazz Donovan Mitchell (Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports)
Utah Jazz Donovan Mitchell (Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports) /
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NBA Utah Jazz Donovan Mitchell (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

Breaking down ESPN’s Top 25 under 25 list that has sparked conversation across the NBA. 

ESPN released its annual “Top 25 under 25” on Tuesday; a list of the best young players in the league by future potential. The first two off the board (Luka Doncic and Zion Williamson) were no-brainers, but after that it gets pretty interesting.

These rankings have already spurred much debate across NBA Twitter, so let’s react to it.

NBA players over-ranked by ESPN 

Donovan Mitchell (#4)

Donovan Mitchell appeared to be destined for superstardom after his rookie season in 2018, but since then has settled into more of a top-25ish player than an all-NBA guy. And at age 24, I’d expect less future growth from him than some of the other players on this list.

Mitchell has developed into a pretty lethal bomber from deep – hitting the seventh-most pull-up threes in the NBA this year (shooting 37.4% on them, up from 31.5% career prior to this season). He’s also continued to make improvements as a play-maker in Quin Snyder’s “blender” offense.

At the same time, Mitchell still has too many limitations to be ranked this highly, in my opinion. Since he’s just 6-foot-1.25 in socks, he’ll never be a heliocentric initiator in the LeBron/Harden/Luka mold. Despite the shooting gains, Mitchell still doesn’t get to the basket nearly enough.

He has a maddening tendency to pick the ball up too early on his drives. The lack of explosiveness off one-foot limits his effectiveness once he gets there. As a result, Mitchell’s never been above league average in scoring efficiency and his two-point percentage (46.8%) this season ranks 31st out of the 32 20 point per-game scorers (ahead of only John Wall, and yes somehow behind Russell Westbrook).

Donovan Mitchell is still an outstanding player to be sure. His ability to bust switches and get buckets one-on-one will only be magnified come playoff time. I would just take several other guards over him, both for this year and in the long-term.