How would Donovan Mitchell and Bradley Beal fit together on the Wizards?

How would Mitchell and Beal fit together? originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

It’s not often the Washington Wizards are mentioned in rumors involving potential blockbuster trades, at least from reliable and legitimate reporters. Whether they are involved in those sorts of talks often or not, the front office is keen on keeping those conversations behind closed doors. Rarely do they get out.

Sometimes they do, though, like when John Wall was traded for Russell Westbrook. That leaked and about a week later it ultimately was proven true.

The point here is the Wizards’ interest in trading for Jazz star Donovan Mitchell, which was reported by the Athletic on Monday, is a rare occurrence. And whether it is entirely realistic or not given the likely asking price (especially in light of what Utah got for Rudy Gobert), it’s a fun possibility to discuss and dissect.

Among the questions involved is how Mitchell would fit alongside Bradley Beal. Can a Spida share the court with a Panda? Someone call David Attenborough.

Both are three-time All-Stars and elite offensive players, but they also play the same position at shooting guard. The Wizards would have a bit of a non-traditional backcourt with two twos instead of a one and a two.

Let’s look at the offensive end of the floor first. On one hand, there would be some redundancy in that they are both high-usage players. Mitchell was sixth in usage rate last season (32.9%) while Beal would have placed 13th (30.8%) if he played enough games to qualify (per Basketball Reference). For comparison, only one duo featured two teammates in the top-15 in that category last season; Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown of the Celtics. Granted, Boston ended up making the NBA Finals.

A lot of shots would go to two players on the Wizards’ roster and that may not leave much room for whomever the third option would be. That said, offense probably wouldn’t be a problem for Washington because they would have two of the best scoring guards in the league.

Also, Beal has had his best years alongside high-usage players in Wall and Westbrook. On a related note, Beal has had his best seasons playing next to a guard who gets to the rim. Mitchell was 10th among qualified players last season in drives per game (15.2).

In fact, their shot profiles would arguably balance out fairly well. Mitchell is basically an analytics prototype in that he shoots a vast majority of his attempts from three or around the rim. He averaged 9.8 3-point attempts last season, which accounted for 47.5% of his total shots (20.5/g). Mitchell only attempted 14.9% of his shots from 10 feet out to the 3-point line.

Donovan Mitchell’s % of FGA in 2021-22

0-3 ft. – 14%

3-10 ft. – 23.6%

10-16 ft. – 7.7%

16-3PT – 7.2%

3PT – 47.5%

(per Basketball Reference)

Beal also gets to the rim a lot for a guard, as last year he would have placed sixth in drives per game (17.4) if he qualified for leaderboards. But he also shot 27.9 of his attempts from 10 feet to the 3-point line, slightly more than he took from three (27.2%). While one might argue an adjustment could be made there, he and Mitchell wouldn’t necessarily be gunning for the same spots on the floor. The midrange would be there for Beal to attack.

Bradley Beal’s % of FGA in 2021-22

0-3 ft. – 19.7%

3-10 ft. – 25.2%

10-16 ft. – 17.1%

16-3PT – 10.8%

3PT – 27.2%

(per Basketball Reference)

Mitchell generally draws a lot of attention from the defense. Last season, he averaged 25.9 points per game while shooting 44.8% from the field and 35.5% from three. He’s not the passer Wall and Westbrook were, but that’s a level of scoring neither reached when they were in Washington.

Passing, though, would be an obvious question mark. Who runs the offense in this scenario and, given neither guy is necessarily a natural point guard, would it work? Two potential positives would be 1) both Beal and Mitchell are high assists guys for their position, with Beal at 6.6 per game and Mitchell at 5.3 last season, and 2) neither is a major liability in terms of turnovers. 

Yes, Beal tied a career-high with 3.4 turnovers per game last season, but his usage rate is important context. His 13.6% turnover rate was also a career-high but would have been 42nd-highest in the NBA if he played enough games to qualify. Mitchell’s turnover percentage (11.7), meanwhile, was 76th-highest in the league. Those numbers could go up if both players assumed primary ball-handling responsibilities, but it’s not a prohibitive concern.

Now, for the defense. Certainly, it could be an entirely different story than the offensive end. That’s partly because Beal and Mitchell are top-shelf scorers, but also because neither has really been known for their defense. Beal has had some trouble with consistency on that end and, while Mitchell has been part of one of the NBA’s best defenses the last half-decade, he’s had the luxury of playing in front of one of the best defensive players of all time in Gobert.

What stands out right away is the fact they would be an undersized duo with Beal at 6-foot-3 and Mitchell at 6-foot-1. That could pose challenges against many teams in the NBA, as some point guards would tower over both of them. It wouldn’t be ideal, but the Wizards could offset that element with size at other spots.

If Beal and Mitchell are your backcourt, but you have Deni Avdija (6-foot-9) at the three, Kyle Kuzma (6-foot-10) at the four and Kristaps Porzingis (7-foot-3) at the five, your lineup would have plenty of size as a whole. Whether they would keep all of those guys in a trade for Mitchell is not guaranteed, of course, but the point stands.

Beal and Mitchell may have some overlap, but sometimes talent can and should outweigh those concerns. If both are healthy, the Wizards would have two top-20 players, each with the potential to rank higher on that list. Offensively, they might each be top-10 players if everything is clicking correctly.

As a duo, they would likely raise the floor and the ceiling for the Wizards to a substantial degree. After missing the playoffs three out of the last four years, Washington could set themselves up to be perennial playoff contenders with the potential for deep playoff runs, depending on the pieces around them.

There’s another element to such a trade that may be overlooked. The Wizards now have Beal signed for five more years, while Mitchell is under contract for three more years plus a player option in 2025-26. Say you give up a ton of draft picks for Mitchell. Well, if it didn’t work out you could have not one but two players who could fetch a substantial trade return in the event the franchise needed to change course. Stars represent massive insurance plans in the case of a potential rebuild, just look at what the Jazz are doing now.

Making a deal for Mitchell happen would be much easier said than done, but it’s likely he and Beal would be very good together and it would definitely be a lot of fun to watch.

This article was written by WTOP’s news partner, NBC Sports Washington. Sign up for NBC Sports Washington’s free email subscription today.

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