Why popular podcast says Cavaliers’ Mitchell is not best shooting guard
Reason No. 1 Devin Booker was ranked ahead of Mitchell
The first reason that Nate Duncan and Danny Leroux gave for ranking Devin Booker at the top of the shooting guard rankings is that Booker is a more malleable player than Donovan Mitchell; he can fit on more teams and in more lineups than Mitchell.
Donovan Mitchell is just 6’1″ tall, four inches shorter than Booker. The Suns’ guard has more size and more strength than Mitchell, allowing him to competently defend 2s and even some 3s in certain lineups. Mitchell has been a defensive liability to this point in his career, although he has been at his best this season.
On offense, both are gifted on-ball scorers, and both have the shooting to be off-ball. Booker’s size makes him an easy fit alongside another point guard; Mitchell’s playmaking (like Booker’s) isn’t strong enough to be the full-time point guard, as Duncan pointed out, so you ideally want to pair him with another point guard; Mike Conley and Darius Garland being the last two such options. That locks Mitchell’s team into a small backcourt and puts a lot of pressure on the rest of the lineup to be stocked with defenders.
Is this a fair critique? On the one hand, it’s dealing with facts; Booker is taller and heavier than Mitchell, giving him a natural advantage. Yet at the same time, Booker’s defensive metrics have not been stellar; he has had a negative Defensive Box Plus-Minus (DBPM) in every season of his career but one. Booker is not a good defender.
Yet his size does help, and is a point in his favor. Mitchell’s length offers upside on defense, but it hasn’t manifested with any level of consistency for Mitchell thus far in his career. No NBA team with a backcourt as small as the Cavaliers’ has won the NBA title in the modern era; Cleveland could certainly buck that trend, but Mitchell’s size is an impediment to how you build a team around him.