Donovan Mitchell and Jayson Tatum shined in their first NBA season and continue to sport big-time upside for the 2018-19 campaign. Which of these second-year pros should you take first in roto fantasy drafts this season? Our experts debate:
Joe Kaiser: From the moment Mitchell stepped on the court during the preseason as a rookie last season, he didn't just look like he belonged -- he looked like he could dominate. Six months and 79 regular-season games later, the confident Louisville product finished his first NBA season averaging an impressive 20.5 PPG on 43.7 percent shooting. Excellent numbers that figure to only improve as enters his second season.
It's easy to think about Mitchell as mostly just a scorer, but he was so much more than that. He was a shooter, making 2.4 3-pointers per game on 34 percent shooting. Given the green light to let it fly, he attempted 7.0 3PG. He also proved to be active on the defensive end, tying for 21st in the league with 1.5 SPG. The 6-foot-3 shooting guard is a much bigger factor in both these categories than Tatum, and keep in mind that Tatum will have to share the ball more in his second season as Gordon Hayward returns to the Celtics' lineup.
Mitchell also proved to be more than capable as a rebounder (3.7 RPG) and distributor (3.7 APG) while draining 80.5 percent of his free throws. While Tatum holds an edge as a rebounder and shoots at a higher percentage -- neither of which are a surprise, considering that Tatum is a forward -- Mitchell is essentially at the same level at the free throw line and holds a distinct advantage in 3s, assists and steals -- three tougher categories to account for during the course of a season.
To me, Mitchell is a late second-rounder or early third-rounder, while Tatum is more of a fifth-round type of talent in 2018-19.
André Snellings: Last season, Mitchell finished second in the Rookie of the Year vote, but Tatum was third. Mitchell started 71 of his 79 games, averaging 33.4 minutes per game. Tatum started all 80 of his games, averaging 30.5 minutes per game. Here were their "per 100 possessions" numbers for their rookie seasons:
Mitchell: 30.7 PP100 (43.7 FG%, 80.5 FT%), 3.6 3P100 (34.0 3P%), 5.6 RP100, 5.5 AP100, 2.2 SP100, 0.5 BP100, 4.1 TO/100 possessions
Tatum: 22.8 PP100 (47.5 FG%, 82.6 FT%), 2.2 3P100 (43.4 3P%), 8.2 RP100, 2.6 AP100, 1.7 SP100, 1.2 BP100, 2.3 TO/100 possessions
While Mitchell was an "older" rookie at a physically mature 21 years old and went to an offensively reloading Utah Jazz team, Tatum was a youngster as a 19-year old one-and-done prospect who wasn't necessarily expected to crack the starting lineup for a Boston Celtics team that was in win-now mode.
Nevertheless, Tatum started the first game of the season at power forward. Then, five minutes into the season, Hayward went down for the season with a gruesome leg injury which gave Tatum more responsibility. The season continued, and Tatum continued to prove himself a solid option, even as a rookie, and then right before the playoffs Kyrie Irving went down for the season with knee issues.
Suddenly, the win-now Celtics were a young, inexperienced squad with no veteran leadership. Enter "Playoffs Tatum". After getting a few games under his belt, Tatum stepped up as the go-to scorer on the team over his last 16 playoff games as a rookie with averages of 19.6 PPG (48.4 FG%, 85.6 FT%), 1.3 3PG, 3.8 RPG, 2.8 APG, 1.3 3PG, 1.0 SPG, 0.4 BPG and 2.2 TO/G
Coming into this season, Mitchell clearly projects as the higher volume player. He's going to get as many shots as he wants and is a primary ball-handler for his team, so he will likely put up big numbers in points, assists and 3-pointers made. In points-based leagues, that's enough for Mitchell to be the higher-ranked player. But in roto leagues?
Tatum is clearly the better shooter than Mitchell from every distance. Tatum showed the ability to finish at high efficiency and moderate volume all season, then in the playoffs, he showed that he could actually increase his efficiency while moving up to high volume.
Tatum also projects as the starting power forward for the Celtics again this season, so the elevated rebounds and blocks evident in the per-100 numbers are likely to run true this season. Tatum also has the ability to average at least one 3-pointer, steal and blocked shot per game, a combination that is uniquely valuable in roto leagues. And for those playing nine-category roto, Tatum is able to make his contributions with about half as many turnovers as Mitchell.
All told, Tatum is a very well-rounded roto prospect without any real weakness. His scoring and assist volume will fall behind Mitchell, as Tatum will be out there with a bunch of offensively talented teammates. The flip side, though, is that Tatum will help your percentages and likely has more strong categories and unique abilities to contribute than Mitchell does, which makes him the more valuable roto prospect this season.