For his ability to pour in the points, some freakish athleticism, and (not to mention) some pretty impressive stats for a first year player, Tony Mitchell of the Fort Wayne Mad Ants was named the NBA D-League's 2012-13 Rookie of the Year.
Averaging 21.7 points per game this season, Mitchell was not only the second-leading scorer in the entire league, but also emerged as a steady leader for a surefire playoff squad after the Mad Ants watched NBA veteran Luke Harangody go down with an injury in February, and only return for more game after that the rest of the way.
From there, Mitchell was the one to carry the scoring load, and not to mention, his team as a group. The organization looked to the first-year forward to lead the way, and he answered such a call by pacing his squad on a nightly basis as best he could.
With few else to turn to, Fort Wayne fed Mitchell the ball as the centerpiece of the offense and he was able to rise up as a formidable offensive option. Clearly, by taking on such a role and helping his team achieve success while doing it, Mitchell was, by just about every account, the league's top first-year player.
But things don't necessarily get any answer from here. Out of all eleven past NBADL players to win such an award over the years, only three (Will Bynum, Lou Amundson, and Alonzo Gee) currently still stand tall on NBA rosters today.
There's no doubt Mitchell has talent and potential, and thus, should receive an NBA training camp invite or two this coming fall. Having said that, the forward is, at 23 years of age, still a very raw prospect. Though he can score in bunches, his offensive game isn't as polished as perhaps it should be. He's a volume shooter and scorer. As evidenced by his shooting percentages (42% from the field and 32% from deep), his ability to score was more often highlighted by how many shots he took, rather than the efficient way in which he scored those very points instead.
The tricky thing about Mitchell is figuring out how and where he would fit on an NBA team. What can he contribute to a squad that most other players cannot? He scores with ease and is arguably the most athletic swingman the league saw take its hardwoods all season long. The forward's isn't one to do so many of the "little things," so he'll have to either improve his all-around game, or hope that his offensive scoring prowess is better than that of most of his competition for rosters spots this coming fall.
Giving credit where credit is due, that same scoring prowess Mitchell displayed this season was in fact better than just about all of his NBADL counterparts, rookie or not. He's deserving of such an award.
The ROY nod is the third major honor the swingman earned this season, having previously been named an NBA D-League All-Star and taken taking home the league's Slam-Dunk Contest title.