Toronto native Nathaniel Mitchell is back home, re-joining the Toronto Raptors organization as an assistant coach for the 2021-22 NBA season.
After his hiring became official on Aug. 2, Mitchell made his way to Las Vegas to begin working with the Raptors Summer League squad, a team that features No. 4 overall pick Scottie Barnes, newly-acquired Precious Achiuwa and 2020 first-round pick Malachi Flynn.
While in Las Vegas, Mitchell took some time out to talk with NBA.com on the Raptors Podtable Podcast to discuss a range of topics.
From early Summer League impressions to coaching ideologies and the outlook for the present and future state of basketball in Canada, Mitchell provided plenty of insight from a unique vantage point.
Mitchell returns to the organization after working with the Charlotte Hornets for the last three seasons. Prior to his stint with the Hornets, Mitchell was an assistant with Raptors 905 from 2015-18, a span that saw him work with the likes of Norman Powell, Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and Delon Wright, among others.
With that in mind, Mitchell is a coach who is familiar with what it takes for younger players to become established in the league. So far, he's impressed by what he's seen from this year's Summer League team.
"I'm seeing a lot of energy," Mitchell told NBA.com. "I see a bunch of guys that are trying to get better, trying to be a sponge, trying to learn as much as they can. They're doing a great job - all the coaches are really putting their foot forward and Coach Mutombo as well, leading the Summer League team, doing as much as they can with the players."
"And those young guys that are coming along - obviously our rookie, Scottie Barnes, Malachi Flynn, a second-year guy - they're doing a great job and you know, for their first game, their first Summer League, too, because they didn't get a chance to play Summer League last year, so it's great, it's a great time for them to play for them to develop, and it's been awesome being involved so far.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 NBA Draft was held in November of 2020, meaning last year's draft class was unable to get their first NBA reps in the Summer League. Specific to this roster, both Achiuwa and Flynn have the opportunity to get meaningful development time and.
For newcomers like Achiuwa and Barnes, the Summer also presents an opportunity to learn the principles and values of Toronto's system to seamlessly transition to the regular season. Mitchell touched on how important it is to instil such principles during the summer.
"I think it's very important. Player development is at the top of the list, especially in the summer," Mitchell continued "And a part of that is making sure that the concepts, defensively and offensively are instilled into them, so going through those drills, holding them accountable within games, hold them accountable within practices, is always going to be important.
"So, we do our best to try and do that as a staff with these young players and that's how it's kind of been in most of the Summer Leagues I've been involved in. So we try to do that as a staff as much as possible. Hold them accountable, continue to get them better, with the top of the priority, obviously winning."
While wins and losses in the summer are mostly inconsequential, Mitchell explained that within the Raptors organization, winning can aid in the development of talent.
"(Winning) is a part of player development. How to win - winning plays, things of that nature are what we try to instill in them and for some cases, there are some guys that really have that in them. And I think that's one of the reasons why our front office brings those types of players into our organization."
In addition to Summer League impressions, Mitchell touched on a number of topics relevant to the short- and long-term future of the Raptors organization as well as the future of Canada Basketball, an organization he has spent the last several years working with.
You can hear the complete conversation in the player above.
Follow Coach Mitchell on Twitter at @MitchNathaniel and find the Raptors Podtable Podcast on iTunes, Spotify and Google Play.
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