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Ajay Mitchell 2024 NBA Draft Profile

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UCSB standout Ajay Mitchell made a name for himself with his play in the Big West. ESPN’s Jonathan Givony described him as “one of the best mid-major players in college basketball”, but he’s also been tagged as an underrated prospect who still has a lot to prove.

Ajay Mitchell 2024 NBA Draft Profile

College Career

Mitchell played three years at UC Santa Barbara, consistently improving each year and leading them to a conference title in 2023. As a junior, the 22-year-old Belgian guard averaged 20 points per game while shooting 50% from the field, 39% from three and 85% from the free-throw line. He also put up four rebounds, four assists and 1.2 steals per game. A bona fide scorer, Mitchell’s feats include leading the team in points this year (580) and tying a school record 39 points against the UC Riverside on Dec. 30. His junior year ended with a 36-point outing in a tough overtime loss to CSUN in the first round of the Big West championships.

Mitchell’s college career came with a litany of awards. Among them are three All-Big West selections—including first-team honors last year and this year—as well as the Big West Player of the Year and championship MVP trophies last season.

Strengths

Mitchell is an aggressive bucket-getter who does most of his work inside the arc. The 6’5” lefty gets to the rim through an array of ball screens, spin moves and crossovers, taking advantage of driving lanes by remaining patient and poised and changing his pace on a dime. He also scores from either elbow and baseline with floaters and midrange stepbacks, and does a nice job of creating space in the process. Mitchell is just as good at shooting off the catch, keeping opponents honest from the perimeter. He also draws free-throws at an impressive rate, attempting 6.3 of them per game.

Aside from scoring, Mitchell is a great passer, boasting an assist rate of 28%. He makes solid reads to teammates standing near or cutting to the basket, and connects well in pick-and-roll scenarios, often orchestrating them on the fly in half-court and succeeding every time. It’s worth noting that, as a sophomore, Mitchell led the Big West in total assists (179) and assists per game (5.1).

Conversely, Mitchell is very active on defense, getting stops on his man and effectively rotating on the help side. His awareness and 6’6” wingspan aid him well on that end of the floor. Sports Business Classroom’s Elias Eldridge praised Mitchell’s work ethic and decision-making as a defender:

He always boxes out, plays bigger than his frame suggests when needing to defend the post, and never takes a play off. Given that he is one of the most utilized offensive players in Division-1 basketball, this shows how much care he puts into winning rather than individual performance and this is a massive green flag for him as a prospect.”

Weaknesses

As great as Mitchell is on both ends of the floor, there are reasonable concerns about his game and how it will translate to the next level. For starters, he is not the most athletic prospect, posting a max vertical of 33.5 inches. That lack of explosiveness could hinder his effectiveness on both ends, as he may struggle to get past and defend NBA-level guards. And while he did make 39% of his threes—improving mightily from 26% a season ago—that production came on a relatively low volume. He made 33 triples out of 84 attempts (1.1 of 2.9 per game). Mitchell improving his jumper will be vital towards increasing his draft stock.

Mitchell also has to limit his fouls and turnovers. He committed 74 of each this past season (2.6 per game), and landed himself in the top-ten for turnovers a second straight year. For someone tasked with leading an offense, Mitchell must be able to remain on the floor and avoid making mistakes that could affect both him and his team.

NBA Comparison

Mitchell’s playing style has shades of Knicks star Jalen Brunson. Both are smart and crafty left-handed players whose lack of athleticism is made up in intelligence and aggression. Mitchell, like Brunson, is capable of scoring and dishing the rock at a high rate. However, Jalen is clearly a better three-point shooter—doing a lot of damage from the perimeter dating back to his days at Villanova. Another comparison is Pacers guard Andrew Nembhard, Indy’s 6’5” floor general who has burst onto the scene with his offensive output and postseason heroics.

2024 NBA Draft Projection

Early second-round pick.

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