After losing Montrezl Harrell and Terry Rozier to the NBA and Wayne Blackshear to graduation, this was going to be a transition year for Louisville. Their top two scorers (Damion Lee and Tyler Lewis) are graduate transfers who will only be with the program one season so they needed to build some depth across the board in order to be in a position to compete in the ACC going forward. Even despite (or maybe because of?) the recruiting scandal that has surrounded the program, they have definitely managed to so. Louisville is a good team this season and they have a chance to be a great one next season.
Donovan Mitchell looks like a star
It's hard to watch a Louisville game and not come out talking about Mitchell. He literally jumps off the screen. Watch what he does to Justin Jackson - he's beating a 6'8+ NBA-caliber athlete in one step and turning him inside out with the dribble. As they say in football, this is a guy who can create space in a phone booth.
You have to love the confidence it requires to try and throw it down on the head of an elite leaper like Brice Johnson. That's just rude.
At 6'3 210, Mitchell is an 18-year old with an NBA body whose just an absolutely ridiculous athlete. Here's another one of his highlight reel dunk attempts:
His athleticism translates to every part of the game. He's a guard who rebounds like a big man (7.7 boards per-40 minutes). Watch how high he gets up for this one and how he snatches it out of the air:
The questions about Mitchell are the skill aspects of the game. He's only shooting 23.4% from 3 (on 2.1 3PA's) as a freshman and that number will need to improve drastically if he wants to be a big-time NBA player. He does have a pretty good looking shot and apparently people around the program think that will come with time. That's something to track very closely with Mitchell:
If he can consistently dribble into jumpers, there's going to be no way to guard him:
The other question is whether he can run point full-time or whether he's more of a combo guard. It's hard to say at the moment considering how many other ball-dominant players he's playing with on the perimeter at Louisville, but his assist-to-turnover ratio (1.8 assists on 0.9 turnovers) is encouraging and he has at least shown the ability to set up his teammates:
Even if he doesn't refine his game, his athleticism alone means he's going to be a big-time NCAA player. If Rick Pitino can polish his skills, there's no telling how good he can become. Mitchell was only a 4-star recruit coming out of high school, but there aren't many 5-stars from this class who I'd take over him.
Anas Mahmoud is a super interesting 7'0
Mahmoud is very frail (7'0 200) and he doesn't get a ton of playing time (13 minutes a game) so his stats are nothing to write home about. Nevertheless, he shows a lot of interesting flashes. A 7'0 is not supposed to be able to pull of moves like this. A lot like with Mitchell, you have to appreciate the swag it requires to even attempt plays like going behind-the-back pass in transition when you are playing for a hard-ass coach like Pitino:
Mahmoud has good defensive instincts and his length surprises people. He averages 3.9 blocks per-40 minutes and you can see it in plays like this:
On the offensive end of the floor, Mahmoud has good hands and good touch around the basket and he can be very dangerous as a roll man:
He's also very skilled with his back to the basket. Establishing post position is difficult given how slight his frame is, but if the opposing big man doesn't push him out of the paint, he has the length and the touch to finish over the top of them pretty easily:
He can also take slower big men out on the perimeter, face them up and attack the basket:
Mahmoud is not a jump shooter and he's so slight that he's probably going to need to add that to his game, but given how much he has improved between his freshman and sophomore seasons and how comfortable he is with the ball in his hands, I'm not putting it past him. He will probably stay all 4 seasons at Louisville and I will be very interested to see what type of player he is as a senior.
Louisville will have most of the pieces necessary to contend next season
PG - Quentin Snider (6'1 180) - He doesn't have the size or speed to be a big-time NBA prospect but he will be a very experienced junior PG who can set up his teammates and knock down 3's. He's exactly the type of heady four-year floor general that any program can use.
SG - Mitchell
SF - Deng Adele (6'7 190) - A four-star recruit with an interesting combination of size and athleticism. He hasn't taken a lot of 3's as a freshman (2-9) and that's going to be a huge storyline because three-point shooting is the major question for Louisville next season. Will they be able to space the floor enough for Mitchell and their big men?
PF - Mahmoud
C - Chinanu Onuaku (6'10 230 with a 7'2 wingspan) - Onuaku is considered a 2nd-round prospect (No. 39 on the DX mock) at the moment so whether or not he returns for his junior season is an open question. He's a great athlete who lacks ideal size for the 5 position so you think he would want to come back and continue to refine his skills and work his way into the first round. Probably the most notable thing about him is his free-throw form:
Louisville has three more big men coming back (freshman Raymond Spalding, sophomore Jaylen Johnson and junior Mathiok Mathiang) so they should be covered if Onuaku ends up leaving. The question is their perimeter depth and whether they can find 2 more three-point shooters. They have a four-star 6'7 wing (VJ King) coming in so he should help but they might still need to find one more wing either on the transfer market or from internal improvement within the program.
Either way, with Pitino at the helm and two underclassmen with big-time upside, Louisville will be a very interesting team to watch next season.