Continuing the series that I decided to do after having so much fun with Jake Layman yesterday, we move on to another freshman Terrapin in Charles Mitchell. Mitchell was another highly-touted recruit coming out of high school that wasn’t on as many people’s radar, particularly because he was out of shape entering college. The Maryland Terrapins whipped him into form, and in doing so gave fans a player who they can look forward to being a big-time player in the future.
His play can be characterized by his desire whenever he is on the court. Charles Mitchell has the unique trait of wanting to grab every available rebound, on offense or defense, and his numbers reflect that. Excellent at positioning himself to grab boards regardless of who he is playing, Mitchell was tops in the ACC in a number of rebounding categories. He was first in total offensive rebounds, for example, and the majority of his points and rebounds actually come as a result of that. It’s what makes a player like him special. But how good can he be and who does he compare to in the long run?
Charles Mitchell is easier to typecast on an NBA court than Jake Layman, because while he is still a bit of a tweener power forward/center, he is definitively a post player. At 6’8, 260 lbs, Mitchell does the entirety of his damage down low, and there are a lot of guys who are comparable to him in both size, weight, and their one special talent: rebounding. Unfortunately, there are so many players that are like Charles Mitchell that it’s more difficult to condense the pick down to one player.
I decided to set as many parameters as possible to limit the number of results I would get by just asking for 6’8 guys who averaged 5 and 5. I wanted players of his size, weight, comparable statistics, and played in the ACC over the last fifteen years. Now interestingly enough, there is one player who always comes to my mind when I see Charles Mitchell, and that’s Lonny Baxter. Guess whose name popped up? Lonny Baxter. The two were both primarily post players on the heftier end of things, they both played below the rim and did work without major athleticism on their side. Sizes match up, weight matches up, we’re good to go for a comparison.
Only we’re not yet, because Richard Howell showed up and gave me pause. I had a feeling he might appear when I ran the database, and my gut was correct. Howell matches because he is such a great offensive rebounder, undersized, and basically used to be out of shape before he started taking his conditioning seriously. The match is too perfect not to merit consideration, and so I think out of duty to Mitchell I have to add him in.
Charles Mitchell Yr. 1: 15.8 MP, 5.5 PPG, 51% FG, 54% FT, 5.4 Reb (2 Offensive, 3.4 Defensive),0.4 AST, 1.5 TOs
Lonny Baxter Yr 1: 14.5 MP, 6.8 PPG, 60% FG, 57% FT, 3.6 Reb, 0.6 AST
Richard Howell Yr 1: 13.6 MP, 4.9 PPG, 46% FG, 57% FT, 4.6 Reb (1.4 Offensive, 3.2 Defensive), 0.6 AST, 1.1 TOs
Right off the bat, it jumps out at me that Lonny Baxter just isn’t an accurate comparison for their first year. Lonny is definitively a better, more efficient scorer than Charles Mitchell at this age, with his shooting percentage blowing Mitchell’s out of the water. I checked some more advanced comparisons, and Baxter was just a much more effective scorer per possession. Over 40 minutes, he averaged 18 points per game compared to Mitchell’s 13.3. Then there’s the rebounding disparity, with Mitchell being so much better than Baxter statistically that the two aren’t even close (Mitchell is almost ten percent better than Baxter in most every rebounding category).
Richard Howell, on the other hand, is damn near identical to Charles Mitchell on (internet) paper. As you can see by the statistics, they both were within a point of one another in scoring, within two minutes of one another in playing time, and within one rebound of one another on both the offensive and defensive glass. Their assist to turnover margin is almost exactly the same as well; that is to say, they both stunk.
The two are such mirror images of one another that it’s scary. Their offensive ratings are identical (93.7 for Mitchell, 93.4 for Howell), their true shooting percentage is almost the same as well, with Mitchell having the slight advantage 51.7 to 49.1. All of their stats match up well because of one thing they do well: rebound. Points are generated that way, and post moves be damned when you can haul in balls at an alarmingly high rate.
Like Mitchell, Howell was behind a few players to start the year (for Howell it was Tracy Smith; for Mitchell it was Len, Cleare, and Padgett), but eventually got significant minutes by his hustle. They both came into college out of shape, and both scored primarily off using their body positioning down low to get the ball into their hands off missed shots to score on putbacks.
To get a better idea of whether or not Mitchell really was a young Howell, I decided to calculate what their adjusted stats would be when stretched out over 40 minutes. Anytime you do that, it gives you a good idea of the numbers a player might average as a starter on a team, and is typically indicative of future statistics for players when given more minutes.
First, here are Richard Howell’s actual statistics for his career:
From DraftExpress.com http://www.draftexpress.com#ixzz2QB9qgS5t
Here are Howell’s stats, pace adjusted, per 40 minutes:
Now, here’s Charles Mitchell’s statistics, pace adjusted, per 40 minutes:
Things that stand out? Howell’s rookie per 40 minute stats actually align fairly accurately with what he averaged when finally given lots of minutes as a senior. He scored about two fewer points and grabbed roughly two fewer rebounds, but that’s because he only played on average 30 minutes per game; these are adjusted for 40 minutes. Still, it’s likely to occur that, if he continued to play for ten more minutes, he would achieved at or around those statistics night in, night out.
Logically, with more experience, Howell improved his passing numbers from downright terrible to respectable, and managed to shoot better from the free throw line. Those are all examples of hard work and in-game repetition allowing you to become a more polished player. Four years of college will do that for a kid.
One thing that did remain constant with Howell, throughout his career, was his rebounding numbers. It’s something that doesn’t just go away all of the sudden. If you’re a great rebounder, you’re a great rebounder no matter who you play against. That’s what makes guys like him so invaluable; they understand angles well and it’s fundamentally in their nature to be in the right spots to grab rebounds.
Back to Charles Mitchell, whose pace adjusted statistics match up almost to a T with Howell’s rookie year pace adjusted numbers. He fouls a lot, but his rebounding numbers are almost exact. What stands out is his offensive rebounding statistics are crazy good per 40 minutes. Most players are lucky to grab one or two a game; Mitchell reigns in five a game. That’s Dennis Rodman his rookie year in the NBA if you pace adjust it. It’s hard to monetize a trait like that.
Now, given how accurately Howell developed into what his long-term projections suggested, can we expect the same thing from Charles Mitchell? I’d say yes. Mitchell has the desire to get better, as evidenced by his offseason workout wherein he came into college in far better shape than before. At this stage in his development, Mitchell is already better than where Howell was his freshman campaign. He’s a bit better of a rebounder, and he is a slightly more effective scorer, but by and large they are equals.
One thing Mitchell does have on his hands is a more refined post game. I remember Howell as a rookie; N.C. State could not run a post play for him to save their life. He would miss everything they designed for him from baby hook to simple lay-in. With Mitchell, he isn’t amazing at it, but he has shown more signs of promise in his post game than Howell. His footwork is sound, and he has enough touch to develop some post moves in the future.
What Mitchell also has going for him is his aggressiveness. Mitchell is a way more aggressive player than Howell ever was. If you give Chuck the ball, he’s going to, well, chuck it, one way or another. He wants the ball on every possession, and initiates contact in the paint like it’s nobody’s business. Players like that get more minutes and score a lot more than previously thought, and I fully expect that from Mitchell.
That being said, it took Howell until late in his junior year to his senior season to develop a jump shot. Doing that is what took him to the next level, and if we’re being honest Mitchell has not shown an ability to do that. Mitchell needs to expand his game further out than four feet, or his numbers will always suffer. His touch isn’t too bad, so there is realistically no reason why he can’t, through hard work, develop a shot from further out. Still, that’s about effort and is really hard to predict.
So do I think Mitchell can be Richard Howell? I actually think he can be better, given how much further along his development is than Howell. It’s all up to Charles though. Athletically, he’ll be fine. Physically he can be a menace, but it comes down to heart. He’ll always be able to rebound, but will he ever be able to score like Baxter?