5. Dillon Mitchell is the X-factor
Dillon Mitchell tested the NBA Draft process this offseason. While it was not explicitly stated why he returned to school, we can confidently infer he did not receive the grade he would have liked due to his lack of offensive versatility on display as a freshman.
Mitchell was in a tough spot last season. Sure, the five-star Montverde Academy product started all 38 games, but he rarely closed games and averaged just the eighth most minutes per game on the team.
On a veteran-laden team with National Title aspirations, Mitchell was pigeonholed into the role of a high-energy, rim-running power forward. All credit to him; he was perfect in his role. But this role was not one that “wow’ed” NBA scouts.
Mitchell came back to Texas to prove that he could pair his elite abilities of running the floor and catching lobs with more of a half-court offensive game. This season, he has taken his increased role and run with it.
Mitchell is averaging 11 points and 9.3 rebounds per game this season, up from 4.3 points and 3.9 boards last year. Sure, he is getting more touches, but he is making the most of every touch he gets.
The sophomore forward has developed a solid mid-range game that defenses have to respect up to 18 feet. He can get to his spot off the dribble, around a screen, and even has a cheeky turnaround 12-footer.
Mitchell has also turned into an elite rebounder who will not be denied when he goes up for the ball.
Standing at 6’8” with a 6’10” wingspan and incredible athleticism certainly helps, but Mitchell’s tenacity and extra effort have helped turn him into one of the best rebounders in the sport. He currently ranks 74th nationally in individual defensive rebound rate at 24 percent, which puts him on pace to finish the season with the fourth-highest defensive rebounding percentage in the program since 2010.
Mitchell is clearly a much different player than he was a season ago. He must continue his upward trajectory if Texas is to compete for a Big 12 title.