The biggest beneficiary has been Stan Albeck, who replaced Fitch last summer as the Cavaliers' coach. "I was absolutely amazed when I got here," Albeck says. "When you see the kid on a day-to-day basis, you begin to understand how valuable he is. If you told the other 21 teams in the league they could have any player they wanted from us, the first guy they would take is Mitchell."
Although he played nothing but zones in college, Mitchell's defense is steadily improving. And though he is second only to Dave Robisch among the Cavaliers in rebounds, with an average of 6.6 a game, he does not yet pound the offensive boards well enough or often enough to put him in the kind of company he hopes to keep. "I keep reminding him that he's going up against the best forwards in the game every night," says Albeck, "and every time one of them beats him, it's as if that guy were stealing the food right out of his family's mouth. I tell him he can play with Dr. J and Jamaal Wilkes, but that as long as they're making that much more money than he is, they're just picking his pocket. He really responds to that."
Right now, nobody knows who Mike Mitchell is. Right now. But when the time comes, Mitchell will become a star. "I'm more than ready." he says. "I'm willing." And able.